Monday, April 25, 2011

The Grilled Cheese Quest: First, a Control

I've mentioned a couple of times here that one of my projects is to discover the ultimate grilled cheese sandwich, and it occurred to me that the quest should begin, like any good experimental program, with a control: a plain ol' grilled cheese, with storebought white bread and American cheese.

So tonight I made myself just such a beast for dinner. The artisanal breads, fancy cheeses, and architectural innovations can come later. BTW, let me just make clear at the outset that by "grilled cheese sandwich," I mean Grilled.Cheese.Sandwich! Bread and cheese cooked in a hot pan (or a griddle or something very similar). A grilled ham-and-cheese sandwich, though very tasty, doesn't count. Nor does a grilled Reuben, nor a tuna melt. Bread, cheese, some sort of edible lubricant, heat, and (outside of seasonings) nothing else. Think of it as my own personal GCS version of the Reinheitsgebot. I've been enjoying America's Next Great Restaurant, and originally had high hopes for Meltworks, but Bobby Flay was right: Those were really more like paninis than like classic GCSs. But I digress....

I used sliced white bread from the local supermarket (a little firmer than Wonder® bread, but not philosophically different), Kraft yellow American cheese (I did spring for the Deli Deluxe, which is at least "processed cheese," rather than "processed cheese food" or "processed cheese product"), Hellman's mayo (using mayo to grill bread is new to me, but once I stumbled over this practice, I learned it was sufficiently plain ol' for my purposes), and a tiny drizzle of generic corn oil, in the following procedure:

Just slick the surface of a stainless steel skillet with corn oil¹, and heat over high heat. Coat one surface each of two slices of bread with a thin layer of mayo, being sure not to miss any spots. When the pan is hot, put both pieces of bread in it (mayo side down, of course!), immediately cover each with a slice of cheese, and turn the heat down to a medium to medium high (6 on the dial, on my stovetop). I like to quickly push the sandwich halves around a little, just to make sure they don't stick. When you see the cheese first begin to sag or melt, carefully flip one half onto the other, then cook to desired done-ness, turning frequently. As you can see from the photo, I like mine a little on the well-done side; YMMV. Also, I like to cut my sandwiches on the diagonal, but not through the corners, making the two halves (roughly) right-angle trapezoids... everyone needs a little quirk, no?

So there it is: The InternationalDauphin Standard Baseline Grilled Cheese Sandwich, against which all claimants for higher honors must be measured. It's a high bar, though, because, as simple as it is, it's damn tasty!

¹ If you use a nonstick skillet or well-seasoned cast iron, the corn oil is probably not necessary, but I don't have the latter (yet) and The Lovely Bride™ won't have nonsticks in the house.

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