Grilled cheese recipes grow tastier with age
The Oklahoman's Food Dude Dave Cathey shares ideas for perfecting the grilled cheese sandwich.
Most of the foods from our formative years fade into memory, but not the grilled cheese.
Trips down the cereal aisle lose their magic. Peanut butter and jelly becomes an occasional sentimental snack; cinnamon toast becomes the catalyst for a trip down memory lane; and food that touches each other on the plate is no longer expelled from consideration for breach of contract.
Grown-up grilled cheese and heat-optional creamy tomato soup
For the grilled cheese
½ pound Emmenthaler or Jarlsberg
½ pound Havarti
½ pound Taleggio
1 loaf Country White bread, preferably from Prairie Thunder Co.
1 stick butter
Flaky salt such as fleur de sel or black salt
Caramelized onions and peppers
1 sweet onion, sliced
2 to 4 sliced serrano peppers, optional
½ teaspoons sugar
Pinch of salt
½ tablespoon butter
For the Tomato Soup
1 (14.5-ounce) can chopped tomatoes or 6 to 8 fresh well-ripened tomatoes, peeled and chopped, juices reserved
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 stalk celery, sliced
1 small carrot, grated
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed
4 chiles de arbol or dried cayenne peppers, stemmed
1 cup chicken broth or stock
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup heavy cream
The grilled cheese sandwich, however, has possibilities most of those childhood foods do not. Like us, the grilled cheese has the potential to grow and mature, adjusting to our ever-evolving palate.
The humble grilled cheese, which came into the vogue in this country in the 1920s as a staple of the neighborhood diner, is so popular that April has been designated National Grilled Cheese Month.
So, I went to work a couple weeks ago fielding responses to my request for favorite grilled cheese combinations.
The take-away from my informal polling was everyone has a favorite combination for a grown-up grilled cheese, and everyone thinks his or her combination is the best.
Folks had ideas for both favorite cheese and all kinds of additions such as fresh fruit, light meats, vegetables, spreads and even nuts. And everyone had a favorite. But I really wanted to highlight the flavors of the cheese.
Chef Marc Dunham, of the KSBI-52 show “Oklahoma Cooks” and the Francis Tuttle Culinary School, suggested tomato soup. Perfect. Any flavor variations could go into the soup.
While I love a little bacon, prosciutto, sun-dried tomato, turkey or sauteed mushrooms on a grilled cheese, I opted to go without adding a protein. Again, cheese is the star. But before rifling through the many melting cheeses, I needed to stage the dish properly. That means bread.
The Country White Loaf from Prairie Thunder Baking Co. was the first kind that came to mind, and after one test, no other bread was considered. The transformation this bread makes when coated in melted butter and lightly fried is a bit of mouth-magic only experience can express.
Then it was time to choose the cheeses. American cheese is the first love of most preschoolers and kindergartners, but there's a reason we retire the Kraft single from our palate by puberty. No judgment, just recognition that richer cheeses await those willing to break from habit. Photo Editor Doug Hoke told me he made it through his early adulthood on a grilled cheese made of raisin bread and American cheese, a reminder that part of the allure of the aforementioned processed cheese encapsulated in a plastic sleeve is price. For the sake of Grilled Cheese Month, I thought it fitting that we break the bank a bit in this celebration.