King of the Grilled Cheese, Jason Sobocinski is the owner and founder of New Haven's innovative cheese-centric gastropub and cheese shop Caseus Fromagerie Bistro. Here are his tips for the perfect Grilled Cheese sandwich.
The crispy and the melty are no more typified than in America's greatest culinary accomplishment, the Grilled Cheese! Who thought up such a wonderful combination, to put bread to butter then heat with cheese till melted? Pure culinary Genius.
The first signs of what we know as the Grilled Cheese sandwich surfaced around the 1940's. Sliced white bread was used often with cheese melted open faced called cheese toasties in England and was a popular dish to make in U.S. Naval galleys. These toasted melted precursors of what we now know where easy to make and super satisfying...did they come from the English Welsh Rarebit or the French Croque Madame? I'm not sure, but I do know that now more than ever this nostalgic sandwich has become increasingly popular and more and more refined. Is it because it's simplicity and comfort evoking qualities? Again, not sure but I know how to make a seriously great GC and here are some of my tips and stellar condiment suggestion to bolster your next crispy melty endeavor!
The pan. I like to use a cast iron skillet, a cast iron griddle will work too, but a properly seasoned cast iron skillet is perfect for GC; one because it heats evenly and slowly so you wont have to many dark spots and two, because it can be put into the oven, now see my next tip!
Skillet fry then bake. Great technique here. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Start the sandwich open faced in your hot cast iron skillet with a nice amount of butter. Press the bread lightly into the pan so that it browns evenly and gets really nicely crisp. Spread equal amounts of cheese onto each slice of bread and allow to cook on the stove top for a few minutes. Now pop the whole skillet into the hot oven and allow the cheese to melt evenly. Now you get your crispy and your melty and it's done evenly.
Shred your cheese. Two reasons, one is meltability, shredded cheese will melt more evenly and faster, second is that you can now combine more than one cheese for the ultimate melt and flavor combination. I love hard strong nutty cheeses like aged Goudas and intense Pecorinos, but they don't melt great....shredded up and combined with great melters like Provolone, Gruyere and young Cheddars gets you the meltability you want equaling in that stretchy-silky-stringiness we all love after the initial crunch into our GC.
Brick it. Take a common brick, wrap it in tin foil and use it as a weight. This is not for open faced grilled cheese sandwiches!!! This is for stove top so if you don’t want to do the bake method this is a great substitute. Just be sure to flip your sandwich halfway through cooking, the brick will press it down and make cooking faster and an intensely crispy crust.
Let it rest! When I make grilled cheese sandwiches I make em big. I use thick bread and I load on the cheese. So when they come out of the oven bubbling hot with molten cheese I simply make the open faced sandwich into a closed traditional one and then like a good steak I put it aside on a plate to rest. You won't burn your mouth on the first bite and all that delicious precious cheese will stay in the sandwich rather than pour out onto the plate. Don't wait to long, a few minutes is perfect so your still in that melted range but not quite mouth blistering molten.
GC Condiments: The Perfect Pairing to Your Perfect GC
You've slaves over the stove to make this all to simple sandwich perfectly crisp and melty. But now you want it to really shine. Here are my 5 favorite simple accompaniments to elevate your perfect Grilled Cheese.
Whole Grain Mustard. This is my go to condiment when it comes to grilled cheese. A nice pile of this alongside a hot melted buttery GC is perfection. The acid in the mustard cuts right through the fatty fried bread and hot cheese for a palate cleansing burst of contrast. The seeds provide a great textural contrast as well and get stuck into the nooks and crannies of the buttery fried bread.
Pickles. My pickle of choice are the little snappy crisp cornichons, also called gherkins for GC. They have a bright acidic bite that works wonders against a perfect hot GC. Because they're small and fun to easily pop into your mouth they make you feel very kid-like, a big plus when eating such a nostalgic dish.
Jam. Yeah, good jam with a GC can be a fun spin on the classic. One of my favorite combinations is a fresh goats milk chevre and Camembert cheeses melted together on buttery brioche bread then dipped or spread with a great strawberry jam. Boom. Once you try this you'll have a hard time going back to your classic GC.
Tomato soup. Its an obvious choice, but don't forget to include a fresh chilled gazpacho during the summer months. A good grilled cheese dipped into tomato soup can cure cancer! I have a recipe for great tomato soup too.
Beer! Maybe not for the underage crowd... but a good brew, especially an astringent mouth puckering floral hoppy IPA, frosty ice cold with a crusty crispy melty GC…..blissful. If you've read this far and your not heading to your stove top to start cooking whilst popping a cold one, please check your pulse!
Make it personal. Everyone has their own ideal grilled cheese. Some go uber fancy with artisan bread and farmstead cheeses, other more traditional with sliced bread and sliver thick slices of orange American cheese, whatever your style is don't just think of Grilled Cheese as a snack or low end basic food. Elevate it, honor it and make it the best you possible can. Strive for the perfect golden browned buttery bread and gorgeous stringy-stretchy-melty cheese, then invite me over for a good critique and a beer.