Saturday, February 5, 2011

Quest for the Perfect Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Something so simple- cheese, bread, butter, maybe a slice of meat or tomato- yet the combination is magical. Grilled cheese is one of the most basic piece of american food culture, yet universally recognized as a great comfort food. It's simplicity opens up worlds of possibilities for variations, and ideas to elevate it beyond the basic "sliced white bread from a bag, plastic wrapped cheese, etc" (and even in it's most basic and crude forms, it is still sublime and comforting in it's own special way. I am on a mission to explore the possibilities, and see if there is such a thing as a perfect grilled cheese...

Home-made bread made with a little rosemary and sage
White American Cheese
Mild Provolone
Unsalted Butter

The home-made bread, I feel, elevates this sandwich- the denser texture and the great crunch it deveops when grilled makes each bite a real sensory experience- wonderful mouth feel.

The bread is a basic french bread recipe with a few dried herbs added, made in a bread machine so it makes nice oversized slices. I butter the slices on one side, then lay them butter side down onto a flat-top grill pan over medium heat. As the bread starts to grill, I layer on my cheese- a slice of provolone on each side, then a slice of white american. Don't move or fuss with the bread- watch the top slice of cheese- when it melts and begins to lose form, the bread should have a perfect crunchy golden-brown color. Take peek underneath- if the color looks good, you're done, assemble the sandwich and enjoy. If not, it should be very close to done by the time cheese melts, and you shouldn't need more than an extra minute depending on how hot your flat-top is and/or the moisture content of your bread.

As you bite down, you'll feel that great crunchy texture first, then the softer (but still slightly firm) inner crumb of the bread, followed by the creaminess of the cheese. Store-bought "bagged" bread just doesn't hold up- it will get good color, but the layer of crunch is thin- the inner portion of bagged bread usually is too soft to stand up well to the grilling and the butter and usually ends up mushy. The cheese is always just right though- and is even better if you purchase quality cheeses and/or use an interesting combination of cheeses. Just upscaling the bread alone brings out worlds of texture in this simple, classic comfort food.

No comments:

Post a Comment