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Grilled Cheese

We are really into Grilled Cheese Sandwiches. They’re unapologetic, unpretentious carb and cheese parties that are wholesome and comforting. They’re as much sandwich as they are delivery mechanisms for soup into your face, and eating them is like having your stomach hugged with bacon and caramelized onions.

Grilled Cheese is one of those things that is less of a recipe and more of a formula, sort of like vinaigrettes. There are basic structural components essential to the form and some steps you can take in the cooking process to ensure it’s perfectly crisp-on-the-outside-gooey-in-the-middle. However, for the most part, you can do whatever the hell you want.

The foundation of a grilled cheese is, shockingly, not the cheese; the right bread is the real key to this perfect sandwich. Commercially prepared sandwich loafs (think pre-sliced and plastic bagged) will certainly facilitate cramming melted cheese into your mouth, but they won’t deliver the best texture or flavor. Part of what makes a grilled cheese SO good is a chemical process called the Malliard Reaction. It’s how fancy bitches say “getting brown and toasty” and is what makes carbohydrates the most delicious stuff on the planet. In the Malliard Reaction, amino acids (which are the building blocks of proteins) sort of… melt when exposed to heat, and this gives them the opportunity to combine in new ways. The byproducts of these changes are malty, sweet, nutty flavors, and the strong aromas we associate with stuff that’s toasty. Because commercially produced breads lack a properly formed gluten (aka: wheat protein) and are often made with inexpensive, over-processed, low-protein starches, they can never get brown, crispy, and toasty like an artisan loaf. So start with something from the bakery section, or a local bakery (Chicago locals: head to Logan Square’s La Boulangerie) and pick a loaf with a well-developed crust. Sourdoughs, French Bread, and Ciabatta, are all great foundations for your sandwich.

As fundamental as bread is to this sandwich, cheese selection is obviously not something to take lightly. The perfect grilled cheese is gooey and stringy, and has plenty of assertive, cheesy tang. We like to use two different cheeses in our Grilled Cheese, because there aren’t many that both melt into pools of goopy wonder and can keep their flavor profiles together while being heated. Try using one soft, squishy cheese (Brie, Chevre, Merkts and Alouette cheese spreads) that makes everything melty and wonderful, and another with an assertive flavor (Cheddar, Blue, Aged Gruyere) that makes it taste more memorable.

Cooking a Grilled Cheese can be hard. Like, seriously, actually hard to do. Bread toasts a lot faster than cheese melts when you’re cooking over a direct heat source; if you cook until your cheese is optimally melted on the stove top, you will, without a doubt, have a burnt crust. So we like to treat our sandwiches like steaks. Sear them quickly (after a good coat in unsalted butter) in a heavy bottomed pan, until nicely browned and transfer to a 375 degree oven, on a cookie sheet, until the cheese is oozy and perfect. You will have a flawlessly crispy, evenly browned, heart-breakingly-melty Grilled Cheese every time, with no sad, sweaty, unmelted slices of cheese in the middle.

With those three central tenants of Grilled Cheese in mind (good bread, two cheeses, cooked like a steak), you can do pretty much whatever you want. We love stuffing them with our favorite flavors (tomatoes, avocados, bacon, ham, the list goes on) being careful to not overload the toppings and preventing the cheeses from fusing the bread together. We’ve got our two all-time favorite formulas for you below and are really excited to hear about what combinations y’all can come up with on your own!  

Grilled Cheddar with Bacon and Tomato Jam

  • 4 1/4in thick slices of Sourdough or Italian Bread, the kind with a nice crust that you have to slice yourself
  • 2 tbsp Unsalted Butter, Softened
  • 4 slices Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • 4 tbsp Cheddar Cheese Spread, like Merkts or Trader Joe’s Pub Cheese
  • 4 slices Thick Cut Bacon, cooked until crisp and well drained
  • 4 tbsp Tomato Jam

Makes 2 Sandwiches

Grilled Gryuere with Goat Cheese, Caramelized Onions, and Dijon

  • 4 1/4in thick slices of Sourdough or Italian Bread, the kind with a nice crust that you have to slice yourself
  • 2 tbsp Unsalted Butter, Softened
  • 2 tbsp Dijon Mustard, we like the grainy stuff
  • 4 oz Gruyere, shredded or in thin slices
  • 4 oz soft, spreadable Goat Cheese
  • 1 Sweet Onion, caramelized

Makes 2 Sandwiches

Notes

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