The best grilled cheese sandwich. Period.
FoodDon't forget the mayo

The best grilled cheese sandwich. Period.

"I’s not exactly health food, but sometimes a splurge is warranted."

Grilled cheese (Photo by Keri White)
Grilled cheese (Photo by Keri White)

The grilled cheese sandwich is an undisputed classic. Melted cheese on buttery toasted bread really can’t miss.

Whether it is offered as an old-school white bread with American cheese version or a fancy combo of imported cheese, artisanal bread and specialty condiments, this sandwich is pretty wonderful. OK, OK, it’s not exactly health food, but sometimes a splurge is warranted and, as far as indulgences go, this one is quite delicious.

When it is paired with a simple salad like the one below and chased with a dessert of fresh fruit, sorbet or mint tea, the richness of the grilled cheese sandwich balances out.

Over the last month, we ate a lot of dinners in front of the television supporting our beloved Philadelphia teams, and sandwiches lend themselves well to this type of eating.

This particular version took advantage of the last of the late-season tomatoes and also incorporated a dash of spice. Coating the outside of the bread with mayonnaise is an unorthodox approach, but trust me, it enhances the crispiness of the bread, adds a subtle tang of flavor and, although this is not much of a consideration under the circumstances, slightly reduces the fat content in the sandwich by using a bit less butter.

As for the bread, I opted for a hearty whole grain loaf, but any good quality sturdy bread works — try a plowman’s loaf, table bread, boule, sourdough et cetera. Different bakers have different names but you are looking for something firm and kind of chewy, not anything delicate or flimsy.
Using grated cheese ensures even melting and a transcendent texture. The amounts below are estimates; depending on the size of the bread, more or less of each ingredient may be needed.

Makes 1 sandwich

2 slices best quality, sturdy bread
4 thin slices of tomato, cut to fit the bread
½ cup grated cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon mayonnaise (enough to barely coat the outside of the bread)
¼-½ teaspoon your favorite bottled hot sauce or very finely chopped chili peppers (optional)
1 tablespoon butter

Lightly coat one side of each bread slice with mayonnaise. Melt half of the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat.

While the butter melts, assemble the sandwich. Place half of the cheese on the non-mayonnaise side of the bread. Place the tomatoes on the cheese, then add the hot sauce if using, and top it with the remaining cheese. Cover it with the remaining slice of bread, and place it in the skillet. Slowly cook the sandwich to a golden brown on the bottom, carefully flip and add the remaining butter to the skillet.

Lift the sandwich and tilt the pan to allow the butter underneath. Cook the other side of the sandwich to a golden brown, remove it from the pan, and prepare for raptures.

If this flavor profile does not tickle your fancy, consider the following grilled cheese variations:

Rye bread, Swiss cheese, caramelized onion, grainy mustard
Italian bread, mozzarella cheese, pesto, sun-dried tomatoes
Italian bread, provolone cheese, roasted peppers
Pumpernickel bread, Muenster cheese, thinly sliced dill pickles, mustard
Sourdough bread, feta cheese, olive tapenade
Challah, goat cheese, apples, honey
Rye bread, smoked Gouda, Russian dressing, sauerkraut
Boule, Monterey jack, salsa
Baguette sliced on the diagonal, brie, walnuts, fig jam

Autumnal salad
Serves 2

This simple salad offers a light counterpoint to the richness of the grilled cheese and nicely showcases seasonal produce.

For the salad:
1 small head lettuce, bibb, red leaf, romaine, et cetera, torn
1 beet, peeled and sliced with a vegetable peeler
1 granny smith apple, chopped

For the dressing:
1 pinch salt
1 generous sprinkle of black pepper
1 scant sprinkle garlic powder
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Toss the salad ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Sprinkle the dressing ingredients over the salad and toss well. Serve immediately. PJC

Keri White writes for the Jewish Exponent, an affiliated publication where this first appeared.

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