A Grilled Cheese Primer

Ah, the grilled cheese – there is perhaps no other sandwich in the American culinary canon so universally adored. It is one of those rare culinary gems that is both easy to make and yet unbelievably delicious. Just two pieces of toasted bread encasing a treasure trove of gooey melted cheese, this sandwich is the poster child for quick and easy lunches. In addition to striking a perfect balance between taste and simplicity, the grilled cheese is remarkably flexible, subject to the individual whims of its creator. In order to showcase the incredible range of grilled cheese possibilities, here is a quick rundown of the grilled cheese family tree:

The classic: The key to making the perfect classic grilled cheese is to use the highest quality ingredients. Go for freshly baked bread over the pre-sliced stuff you find on supermarket shelves. When it comes to cheese selection, opt for a block and slice off what you need – the pre-sliced stuff is rarely up to par. Be sure to butter the bread before you throw it on the griddle. Covering the pan while you cook will trap the heat and melt the cheese without burning the bread.

Vive le France: This grilled cheese sandwich is living as an expat in the Marais. Sandwich some caramelized onions and comte cheese between two slices of buttery French bread and grill to perfection. Et voila! – French onion soup you can eat with your hands.

The vulture: This sandwich is so called because it is perhaps the best way to use leftover steak. Reheating steak can be quite the sticky wicket – the trick is to heat it without cooking it any more than it already is. The solution? Plop that leftover meat in between two slabs sharp cheddar cheese and two thick slices of white bread. The bread will protect the meat from overcooking while letting enough heat through to warm everything up. This goes great with a nice horseradish sauce for dipping.

La Caprese: A grilled cheese that will instantly evoke images of summer on the Amalfi Coast, la Caprese takes the traditional ingredients of a Caprese salad and heats them up between two slices of bread. The ingredients are simple – all you need is fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, tomato slices and perhaps a bit of pesto. The key here is to use the best mozzarella you can find. It should come as a solid ball soaking in water. Stay away from the shredded stuff. This sandwich is great with a little drizzle of balsamic reduction.

Once you have exhausted these varieties, put your online culinary school skills to work and invent a grilled cheese of your own!

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