To me the most beautiful part about the grilled cheese sandwich isn’t centered around perfectly melted cheese or the crisp buttery bread that make these sandwiches so tantalizing, but rather on the endless possibilities and countless creations that are possible within this transformative yet classic American sandwich. And don’t get me wrong, the aforementioned components are imperative to the overall taste and feel of your creation, but to create something that stands out, I believe the most important part is about utilizing your creative forces so that your sandwich is not only delicious and unexpected but also completely original.
When I got my most recent cheese delivery, a box stuffed full of random Wisconsin cheeses, I was told to have fun with my mystery package and to come up with a recipe concept to help amp up the Grilled Cheese Academy’s 2015 Grilled Cheese Recipe Showdown… and so I did. As I was unloading my package, examining and smelling each beautifully wrapped chunk of Wisconsin’s finest, a million ideas flashed through my head like the lights and sounds of an old school pinball machine. I started to ask myself what makes a grilled cheese a great grilled cheese? And the answer, although quite lengthy and unapologetically philosophical in my head, is quite simple. It’s all about following a few easy ideas that can help inspire and spark our culinary creativity so that we can make the best and most fun sandwiches possible And maybe even win the 15k that will be given out to some lucky contestant.
Here’s some of the ideas that I recommend keeping in mind while building your own creation for the contest:
1. Work with what you have
Sometimes the best grilled cheese creations aren’t thought out, preplanned masterpieces, but instead are sandwiches made on the fly. Take my recipe for this year’s Cinco De Mayo grilled cheese for example. I had a big beautiful spread of vibrant and colorful Mexican delights (eh hem leftovers) at my disposal so when I was developing this concept; I started thinking about awesome tacos. Which tacos had I devoured in the past that still stuck with me today and how could I replicate them based on what was in my fridge? And since I already knew that most taco ingredients taste amazing with cheese, I was able to reason that a taco-ish grilled cheese would taste and look delicious even before I actually made it.
2. Butter it up
Don’t succumb to regular old unsalted butter! Get fun with it! Try chopping up fresh herbs or adding a spice blend to room temperature butter to create a fragrant blast of crisping flavor. There’s also other types of grilled cheese lube that should not be forgotten. Try using unconventional fats like bacon grease, mayonnaise or the-dare-i-say-it-ingredient also known as foie gras. Crazy, right? I know.
3. Melt your cheese correctly
As you probably know, different cheeses melt differently so think about it while you’re making your sandwich. For example, brie melts way faster than aged cheddar, so if you’re making a sandwich that uses brie, it’s probably best to cook the sandwich over a higher heat at a shorter length of time so that the cheese has less time in the heat zone and won’t ooze out of the sandwich before you even get a chance to eat it. And If you’re working with a harder, more aged cheese, try grating it super fine and then waiting until it becomes room temperature before putting it on the sandwich. With harder cheeses, I also always recommend cooking them at a lower heat, sometimes with a lid on if needed, so the sandwiches stay hotter longer which in turn helps those hard-to-melt-cheeses turn into beautifully drip-able globs of cheesy goodness.
4. Think about flavor and color combinations
Have a favorite dish that uses cheese as one of the ingredients? Well there’s a pretty good chance that by putting those ingredients between two buttered pieces of bread and some melted cheese, you will create something amazing. Also, think about how nice it is to eat something that’s colorful. Not only does it look beautiful but by varying your foods color palette, you’ll be getting a more diverse flavor profile while also receiving a dose of vital nutrients and minerals that you wouldn’t necessarily get with your standard plain grilled cheese sandwich.
5. Don’t skimp!
Having a heavy hand in the kitchen can be a beautiful thing. Think about this for a second – if you’ve ever had a boring grilled cheese, it probably wasn’t because the cheese itself was boring, but rather because there wasn’t enough cheese on the sandwich! Every sandwich you make should be oozing with melted cheese because let’s be real, at the end of the day, one thing is constant – the more cheese, the better.
As I was holding a big block of Wisconsin farmer’s cheese, I started thinking how perfectly this cheese would pair with last night’s leftovers – a vibrant and colorful spread of Mexican delights. And since Cinco De Mayo is tomorrow, I figured I should probably go with my initial instinct and make a fiesta style grilled cheese creation.
- 2 slices of Texas Toast
- 1 ear of roasted corn, shaved off the cob
- 3 oz Wisconsin Farmers Cheese, grated
- 1 tbsp roasted tomato salsa
- a few sprigs of cilantro
- 3 tbsp Red Cabbage Slaw
- 3 tbsp red cabbage
- 1 pinch sugar
- 1 pinch salt
- the juice from 2 lime wedges
- 1.5 tbsp mayonnaise
- 1 pinch smoked paprika
- Begin by making the red cabbage slaw. Massage 1 pinch of salt and 1 pinch of sugar into 3 tbsp finely chopped red cabbage and then add the juice of a few lime wedges. Stir and set aside. Next, in a separate bowl whip your mayo and your smoked paprika together. Let both of these components sit as you build your sandwich
- Next, assemble your grilled cheese. Begin with a layer of texas toast, then add half the cheese, the red cabbage slaw, avocado, roasted corn, salsa verde, cilantro, and the last piece of bread. Gently brush your smoked paprika mayonnaise over the entire sandwich and set aside.
- In a medium sized pan, add your sandwich in and turn the heat to medium. Let the sandwich cook for a few minutes on each side until all of the cheese has melted and the bread is crisp and golden. Serve immediately.
OH OH OH! Also, be on the look out on my Facebook Page for a super aweomse giveaway! All you have to do is comment [HERE] to be entered!