Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Grilled Cheese

It's been a week of uninspired cooking.  That happens sometimes; I mean there's a reason that people buy Stoeffer's lasagna, although I never could figure out why they actually eat it.  My family has been surviving for the last few days on rotisserie chicken, leftovers, and grilled cheese sandwiches.  The grilled cheese sandwich, however, gets a bum rap.   It is highly underrated.  Pair it with a hearty soup and it's transformed into a fully satisfying meal.  But you have to get it right.  This isn't the dish to be fancy or high-falutin.'  Bring out the white bread, butter, and some honest-to goodness highly processed American cheese-bright orange.  I used to whole hog and get Velveeta, but when they moved it out of the refrigerated case and started selling it on a stand in the middle of the store, I got a little grossed out.  It's supposed to be cheese, afterall, but if it can survive for months in a vacuum-sealed sheet of tin-foil, then it's a pretty safe be that Velveeta isn't even food.

The key to a good grilled cheese sandwich is low heat.  Low heat is counter-intuitive because as the quintessential quick and easy food, you want it fast, which means you'll flip the heat to high, and then all is lost.  High heat toasts the bread before the cheese is melted, and half the experience of a good grilled cheese is letting all that molten cheese run out from between the bread slices so that you can later suck it off an index finger that you dragged across your plate.  But don't let you kids see you do that or they will peg you for the hypocrite that you are because you've been telling them since they were 18 months old not to lick their fingers.

  Soft, Delicious, Nutritous? I WONDER.
Now when I say "white bread" I don't mean "Wonder Bread."  Just like Velveeta isn't cheese, Wonder Bread isn't bread.  Wonder bread is white and that's pretty much where the similarity to bread breaks down.  Get a good Italian loaf and either buy it sliced or slice it yourself-thin, 1/4" slices.  If you want that cheese to melt you can't expect the heat to make the all day journey through a one inch slice of Texas toast.  Plus, to get any flavor from the cheese, you'd have to pile on multiple slices and then, getting it to melt-again becomes a challenge.  Nope.  You want thin slices of good Italian bread, into wich you place two-to-three slices of American cheese.  Cheddar works ok too, but then put the heat even lower because a good cheddar takes even longer to melt.  Butter the outside faces of the sandwich and then pop it all on a griddle or pan set to -that's right- LOW HEAT.

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