I enjoy watching Good Eats on Food Network — it’s a cooking show hosted by Alton Brown. Each episode, he goes over recipes around a common theme along with the science behind why things cook the way they do (not to worry, this isn’t a science show).
Just last night, I saw the episode “For Whom the Cheese Melts”. The episode was about melting cheese and, ostensibly, fondue. I had a small hope that maybe he’d sneak in a Metallica reference during the show, but he didn’t go for that. And, for the most part, the fondue recipes didn’t interest me much since I have no plans to make fondue on my own.
However, the episode did conclude with what Alton calls “the best grilled cheese sandwich you have ever had”. Well, I looked forward to that segment since I not only enjoy grilled cheese, but I expected that the recipe wouldn’t be terribly difficult either.
The full recipe is below, but these are the key points:
- Grate the cheese first, as it apparently melts more evenly [I didn’t know this.]
- In addition to the cheese, Alton also adds a spoonful of Dijon mustard and fresh ground pepper to the sandwich [Sounds good to me!]
- Use a spritzing of olive oil on the outside, instead of butter [I suppose it makes sense that olive oil may impart a more delicate flavor to the sandwich.]
- Use two heated skillets, stacked, to cook the sandwich from both sides [This hadn’t occurred to me either.]
And, here’s the recipe itself:
Big Cheese Squeeze
- 2 slices of bread, cut thin (as far as bread selection goes, all I’ll say is the bigger the loaf the bigger the sandwich)
- 1 teaspoon (or more) smooth Dijon mustard
- 1 cup Grated cheese (This is the soul of the thing, so use the good stuff. We like a semi-hard, semi-soft combo like smoked gouda and Gruyere or Fontina with a young Asiago. If you’re a purist, go for the Cheddar, but make it sharp and aged if possible.)
- Good quality olive oil for spritzing.
Find 2 heavy skillets that will nest together. Two (10-inch) cast iron skillets are ideal. Heat them over high heat.
Meanwhile, spread mustard on one slice of bread. Distribute the cheese evenly over the mustard, season with fresh black pepper and top with second piece of bread.
Spritz the bread surface that’s staring up at you with olive oil using either a Misto or a pump sprayer. A light coat will do, don’t soak.
When the pans are hot enough to vigorously sizzle a drop of water, remove them from the heat and place the sandwich, top-side down in the middle of one pan. (if your pans are a different size, this would be the smaller one.) Spritz the slice now facing you, as well as the bottom of the other skillet. Lay the skillet right on top of the sandwich. If the top pan isn't cast iron, weigh it down with a brick, can, or something of similar heft.
Wait patiently, crack a beer. When you hear the first bit of cheese run out and sizzle on the pan, it’s done. This will take anywhere from 3 to 5 minutes.
Carefully remove the top skillet, (you may need to coax it off with a spatula, but I doubt it). Just look at it. It’s perfect…better than mom’s. (no reason to tell her)
Remove to a plate, count to 10 and slice it in half. Take a bite. Take another. So they lost… there’s always next year.
I look forward to trying one of these sandwiches. I prefer other mustards to Dijon, so perhaps I’ll substitute another mustard. And, since all my skillets are aluminum (or some other non-iron metal), I’ll have to find a heavy object to place on top of the skillets.