The Perfect Grilled Cheese
January 29, 2012 |
One of the most basic, but oh-so-scrumptious, dishes I am “known” for is my perfect grilled cheese. I believe a grilled cheese sandwich can either be really, really good, or really, really bad – there is no in between. Really good usually consists of evenly and sufficiently buttered bread cooked to a beautiful golden brown color, the right amount of hot ooey gooey cheese and bread that is still a bit fluffy on the inside. The really bad ones usually don’t have enough butter (or way too much), are under or over cooked, not enough cheese, and the sandwich is made in some kind of a press, smashing the living bejesus out of the poor thing.
If you are looking for supreme results from my method, you must use regular bread, cheese and butter; none of this “light” crap is permitted unless you want inferior results (if that is the case, you might as well stop reading now). The grilled cheese is no place for cutting calorie corners; after all, folks, it gets grilled in butter!
Start with your bread. This method works with just about all kinds. For the cheese, if you prefer the ooey gooey goodness like I do, be liberal with the cheese, throw on a generous amount – maybe half of a centimeter high or so. And it’s important to bring the cheese to the edges. For the ultimate “diner-style” grilled cheese, use regular white bread and good old fashioned American cheese slices, making sure the cheese makes a layer two slices thick all over. For something slightly fancier, try fresh sourdough bread and a medium or sharp cheddar cheese. For the butter, use regular salted butter.
Now there is a vital trick to the ultimate grilled cheese: low and slow… and leave it alone! Start by putting your pan on the stove on medium heat (yes, only medium). Take approximately 1 tablespoon of butter and slap it in the pan, spreading it around in an even layer in the pan as it melts (do not butter the outside sides of the bread before cooking). When it is all melted, put your sandwich in the middle of the pan. This first side of the sandwich will take quite a few minutes to cook to the perfect golden brown as the pan is still heating up itself, and that is fine; I believe this helps aid in even melting of the cheese. If you find after about 5-6 minutes there is no real change in the color of the bread pan-side-down, and you don’t hear a slight (and I mean slight!) sizzle, you may want to turn up the temperature slightly. While this first side is cooking, KEEP YOUR SPATULA AWAY! Do not press it down; just leave it alone in the pan. When it does get to the desired doneness, remove it from the pan onto a plate momentarily. Put another tablespoon of butter in the pan and again, swirl it around into an even layer as it melts in the pan. When it is melted, put the sandwich back in the pan with the uncooked side facing down. This side will take considerably less time to cook as the pan is now fully heated, so don’t stray too far. Again, do not press it down with your spatula! When it is done, and you remove it from the pan, my final advice to you is to flip it back over so the “hot” side is facing up on the plate, this will help the steam escape from the top, hotter side and not the underside (which causes condensation and a soggy bottom).
So there you have it. It’s that simple.
And get creative with it! Try other fillings with it, like some tuna for a tuna melt. Or some ham. This method works for the Reuben too! On that note of the Reuben, sometimes I make the aforementioned sourdough grilled cheese with cheddar and dip the sandwich halves in Thousand Island dressing as I eat it.