Recently, I went to a cool lecture on the history of sandwiches, put on by the Masters of Social Gastronomy. The presenters, Sarah Lohman of Four Pound Flour, and Jonathan Soma delved into how the sandwich came to be, what creates the subway smell, and, most importantly, the best way to make a grilled cheese sandwich.
The name "sandwich" was actually coined in 1765 by Earl of Sandwich (who was kind of a scumbag, apparently?). At the lecture, Sarah also talked about the origins of peanut butter and also various recipes for sandwiches (cream cheese & cornflakes!). Sarah even brought in some PB for us to sample, one with chili, one with bacon, and one with sweetened condensed milk.
On to the good stuff...Jonathan went over how to create a perfect grilled cheese. He sampled several different cheeses with several types of bread (sour dough, white, and potato). Potato bread is THE BEST bread to make this sandwich with. The bread also needs some fat (butter, you could use mayo but that could taste weird), and should be toasted open faced (ah-HA, that mystery is solved). He also divulged that it is best to cover the pan, something about retaining heat blah blah blah. He claimed that most cheeses are sub par for the optimal grilled cheese sandwich, all cheeses including my favorite gruyere. Oops. His opinion is that mild cheddar is the best type of cheese to use for this sandwich. And, no joke, he said that Kraft singles also weren't so bad.
Naturally, I wanted to do a taste test of my own. So the next evening I stopped into Beechers & Morton's on my way home from work.
For some sandwich prep, I poured myself a glass of wine.
Some potato bread...I've never used or eaten potato bread, boy was I missing out!
Look at how fluffy and nibbly it looks!
Perfect Grilled Cheese
- 2 slices potato bread
- Enough Mild Cheddar that it is the same height as the bread, shredded (I am gross and used about .3lb of cheese in one sandwich. You can be more or less gross than I was)
- A knife full of toom temp butter so it is spreadable on the bread
Take a pan that has a lid and heat it up over low heat. Shred your cheese. Slather one side of each slice of bread with butter and top with the shredded cheese.
Place each slice, open faced (obviously buttered side facing the pan), in the warmed pan and cover the pan. It is critical that the pan is not too warm or your sandwich will end up being a hot mess, very quickly. Watch the cheese melting - when it starts to look juuuuust melty enough to squish together, take it off the heat. If you wait a second too long, it will become greasy as the fat separates (or some science thing like that). This is likely what happened to my gruyere grilled cheese in Las Vegas.
I devoured mine with a side of brussels sprouts and some episodes of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Yum!
Oh, I also made one to take on my flight to LA the next day. It kept REALLY well. Yes, the cheese was a little hard, but it was semi like eating cold pizza. No sogginess!