As a kid, learning to cook a fried egg and bologna sandwich is like teaching me how to load a gun without establishing any safety guidelines. While the combination of griddled bread, egg yolk, mayonnaise, seared bologna, and American cheese is white trash foie gras, perfecting the fried bologna without having made a grilled cheese, well, it is Picasso without a Blue Period, Miles Davis having composed no song book before Bitches Brew. There is no reference and no history, a drifting ship with no anchor. At the time, I didn’t understand the damage done by using the cliff notes without ever reaching for the novel.
But here we are, in that time of year when we think about grilled cheese. It is the age old discussion, as if we forgot the combination to the safe and it needs to be cracked again, of how to cheat a grilled cheese. As if the answers locked away are new kinds of offerings; in a waffle maker, with an iron, use mayonnaise instead of butter, or turn a toaster on its side.
So I am just going to say it, I am tired of hucksters and cheats. It pains me to be over sold or even worse, blatantly lied too. I am not putting myself on a pedestal, far be it from me to cast stones, I am no practicing perfectionist and neither am I an Elmer Gantry. I have my faults and I try to be honest about them. Even so, when I witness an egregious wrong I can’t keep my mouth shut. After all, I can’t have my children wondering around this world thinking they will be able to succeed without ever learning the fundamentals. It happens everywhere and now, of all arenas, the kitchen is under attack.
Why can’t we just learn to cook a god damned grilled cheese? What are we afraid of, actually learning how to cook? There are so many basics to be learned by placing a sauté pan onto the stove to griddle two pieces of bread with cheese stuck in between and yet at all costs we try to avoid it. I don’t care what kind of cheese is put between the slices of bread, I don’t even care what kind of bread you use but I do care that you know how the different kinds of bread are going to react to the heat, that types of bread with more sugars and fats are going to brown faster then lean breads made with nothing more then water, flour, and yeast. Or that certain kinds of cheese are so stringy when you go to take the first bite every bit of the cheese is going to come along with it.
Cheats and shortcuts are wonderful but only after you know how to cook the original dish in the tried and true fashion, only after you have mastered the grilled cheese is it okay to riff on it. If you ignore, or fail to recognize, the subtle nuances of cooking you can follow a recipe to the T and still have it fail. It is because there are so many variables that can lead you down the path to disappointment that it becomes imperative to learn how to cook, which is wildly different from simply following a recipe.
Grilled Cheese Sandwich (makes 2 sandwiches)
4 slices Pullman bread
1 1/2 cups gruyere cheese, grated
1 1/2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon green onion, minced
a splash of heavy cream
fresh ground black pepper
unsalted butter, softened
1. Combine the grated gruyere, horseradish, green onions, and a splash cream in a medium sized bowl. Add a grind or two of fresh ground black pepper. Mix everything with a spoon to combine.
2. Place a 12-inch sauté pan over medium heat. Liberally butter one side of each of the pieces of bread making sure to cover the whole surface. Place the bread, buttered side down into the pan. Top each piece with one quarter of the cheese mixture. Turn the heat to medium low.
3. Once the cheese begins to compress and soften check the bottom of the bread. If it is browning to fast turn the heat down. Once the bread is browned and the cheese melted put the sandwiches together. Cut the sandwiches into 4 crusty cheese sticks and serve.
7 thoughts on “Cheats, Lies, and Hucksters (How to Cook a God Damned Grilled Cheese Sandwich)”
Let’s get back to the fried bologna…now I have fond, fond memories of my grandma frying up thick ring bologna in a cast iron pan in a bit of butter, she’d slit the sides so it wouldn’t curl …. when the meat was browned, she’d assemble a sandwich with good bread and Cooper Sharp Cheese and grill in the same pan! I tell you there is nothing like it! A well seasoned Cast Iron Skillet was the key I think!
Oooh lala, that is one gussied up GC. I myself have had three this week with some butternut squash soup – Kat
white trash foie gras … hahahaa. Prune (the NYC resto) has an interesting approach to the grilled cheese – spreading mayo on the outside slices of bread, to really get a nice brown grill. Will def give your method a try 🙂
My daughter has finally figured out that grated cheese from a block makes a WAY better grilled cheese than the pre-shredded cellulose cheese in a bag she insists I buy for her “for convenience” and that the cast iron skillet cooks one way better than the ceramic-lined skillet or pannini teflon press we have. We live and learn, right?
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Alright.. I’ll do it. Love the gruyere, horseradish and green onion mixture.
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That’s a seriously next level cheesie… wow!
That’s fancy grown up grilled cheese!
Skip the butter next time & try mayonnaise ….