My Best Grilled Cheese

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This post is sponsored by Wisconsin Cheese which is hosting The 2013 Grilled Cheese Academy Recipe Showdown where you can win a $4,000 Gourmet Kitchenware Package. What really got me excited to participate was the opportunity for me to come up with the best grilled cheese I know how to make. And while I’ve made gourmet grilled cheese on my Gourmet Grilled Cheese night, I’ve never mastered the straightforward all-American grilled cheese. Until now.

Let’s start with the bread. I put a lot of thought into the bread. Sourdough seemed too fancy; I wanted something that harkened back to the kind of grilled cheese we ate as children but slightly elevated. Good white bread would be a good choice but an even better choice occurred to me when I remembered that Nancy Silverton uses brioche to make bread crumbs because of the “butter content.” Brioche would make a killer grilled cheese.

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My grocery store doesn’t sell brioche, but they sold something called “butter bread” which, when I read the ingredients, seemed to mimic what goes into brioche. I sliced it somewhat thinly, on an angle, not wanting the grilled cheese to be too bready.

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As for the cheese itself, I had a two-pronged strategy: 1. Sharp grated cheddar (Wisconsin cheese would be a good choice here); and 2. (And this, I hope, is a stroke of genius) Pimento cheese.

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The first would signal that this is a good old-fashioned grilled cheese (yielding the right color); the 2nd would add a mysterious punch from the peppers and the creamy, artery-clogging mayonnaise. I shmeared the pimento on the bread and piled the cheddar on the other side.

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At Craig’s request, I added sliced tomato with a little bit of salt.

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A generous dollop of butter went into a hot non-stick skillet:

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When the foam subsided, and the butter was hot, I employed a curious technique: I added the sandwich, rubbed it in the melted butter and immediately flipped it. The idea was to coat one side with some of the butter and to coat the other side with the rest of the butter. If I’d just fried that one side, by the time I flipped it, there wouldn’t be any butter left in the pan and I’d have to add more. I have to say, this technique worked really well.

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See how the bread’s coated in butter on top, but it’s the other side that’s frying in butter? That way, when I flipped it again, that top side would get a good fry too. Which is exactly what happened.

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My only mistake was keeping the heat too high. I should’ve lowered it after the first flip so the cheese had time to melt. I solved that problem by covering the pan with the lid but I had to act quickly before the bread burned. Still, things came out pretty great.

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There’s a considerable ooze factor. And I freshened things up by serving a cucumber/onion salad on the side (just sliced cucumber, yellow onion, salt, pepper, a pinch of sugar, red wine vinegar, olive oil). It was a good acidic foil to the buttery, fatty grilled cheese.

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But what a grilled cheese it was! I said to Craig, who got his own version of this, that this was one of the best grilled cheeses I’ve had. The bread really made it sing (challah would work nicely too) and the pimento cheese took it over the edge.

Now it’s your turn! Head over to the Grilled Cheese Academy and submit your most creative and unique grilled cheese recipe and win big prizes. Since I sent you, I hope you’ll split your winnings with me. It’s only fair.

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