When Handsome and I had just started dating, he clued me into the miracle that is Tillamook cheddar cheese. Tillamook, which comes in medium, sharp, and extra sharp varieties, melts well over nachos, tastes great on its own, and happens to make the best grilled cheese ever. This cheese is not expensive, and over the past several years I have seen it show up in more grocery stores. My local HEB grocery store carries it for about $5 a pound, give or take, and it keeps well in a ziploc bag in the fridge.
Our hometown grocery store has a “Good and Grainy” variety of bread that also makes the perfect grilled cheese, and I always forget to stock up when I go home. Alas, I have not been able to find a sufficient approximation in my current locale, but the nine grain bread made by my local grocery store does the trick just fine.
I also have a trick for keeping my bread fresh, as I don’t eat bread that often. I keep my bread in the freezer, properly sealed, all the time. The bread melts on the skillet, and the thawing bread also gives your cheese more time to melt.
I understand the appeal of a good ole Wonderbread and Kraft singles sandwich. It hearkens back to childhood memories of grilled cheese and tomato soup, and it has its place (particularly when the eater is about eleven years old). I’m an adult now, and my grilled cheese has grown up as well.
Growing up is hard, though. I frequently get overexcited and set the burner to a higher heat than is appropriate for my grown-up grilled cheese, resulting in either burned bread or cheese that hasn’t melted. No fun. But when I do it right, this grilled cheese stands up well to dunking in tomato soup or serving alongside a simple snack. It also makes a quick and easy snack.
A word about the bread: A grainy bread adds a nice nuttiness to the sandwich, but will completely overpower milder cheeses. If you get ambitious and decide to do a caprese salad-style sandwich, for example, you will want to change the bread you use as mozzarella will disappear behind a flavorful bread. Trust me, I’ve tried.
If you are counting calories, too, you can easily substitute olive oil for butter, or use half the butter and a drizzle of oil. Tastes great!
Grown-Up Grilled Cheese
You will need:
2 slices whole-grain bread per sandwich
1 pat of butter per sandwich
Several slices of cheese, to taste
Heat a small skillet on medium heat. Place the butter in the skillet to melt it; when melted (you can let it brown– browned butter is delicious!), swirl it around in the pan.
Meanwhile, slice the cheese. I use the sides of my box grater, but a knife would work fine. Cover one slice of bread with the cheese, place the bread (bread side down!) on the skillet, and top with the other slice of bread.
Use a spatula to press down on the sandwich, allowing the bread to soak up all that delicious butter. Then, leave it alone for a few minutes. You want the skillet to be no hotter than medium, even though it takes longer, so the cheese melts properly; this will take 3-5 minutes per side. When the first side is done (all crispy and brown), flip the sandwich over and do the other side.
When done, cut the sandwich into triangles and consume. Triangles, people. Triangles.
If you must cut the sandwich into something other than triangles, I will allow you to cut it into small squares, to serve as croutons in a bowl of tomato soup. You must seek my written permission first, however.