After wracking my brain and coming up a bit blank, I realized I should interpret this week's grilling theme much more literally. When speaking of cheese in terms of grilling, it only seems obvious to mention grilled cheese. But what about grilled grilled cheese? Today, which cheeses to use, what tricks will ensure a seriously successful sandwich, and why you should make the switch from griddle to grill.
For some reason, a grilled cheese sandwich isn't typically part of the lexicon of grilled foods. Ironic, no? With a few easy tips and ideas to get you started, you might not consider making a grilled cheese any other way.
But first, consider the benefits. Grilled grilled cheese is:
- Easier to make crowds on the grill. Imagine making numerous grilled cheeses to order with one measly skillet on a stovetop. If you assemble first, you can throw as many as will fit onto your grill. Maybe grilled cheeses will override burgers at your next cookout.
- Tastier. A bit of char will heighten the toastiness of your sandwich, and if you're grilled over charcoal, you'll get a deeper overall smokiness, too.
- Good looking. Who doesn't like some grill marks?
Some tips, tricks and (of course) cheese suggestions:
1. Butter burns. Oil the outsides of your bread instead. A quick brush of some nice olive oil on the bread slices facing outwards will add a nice crisp exterior and a tasty crunch.
2. Start with a preheated grill on low. Place your sandwich in the coolest areas of your grill and then cover it. The radiant heat will help melt the cheese inside more quickly. You'll get a finished interior that is timed properly to the toasting of the bread.
3. For great grill marks, rotate your bread 90 degrees after placing on the grill for a few minutes. Let grill until marks appear, and then flip. Grill for a couple of minutes, rotate again 90 degrees, and then place on the indirect hanging rack to finish cooking, if necessary. When trying to obtain grill marks, I often think of starting my food with one direction facing 10 o'clock, and then rotating that point to 2 o'clock, and then repeating on the other side.
4. Grilling your grilled cheese gives you the benefit of including other grilled items to nestle between your slices of cheese. Consider grilling zucchini (with gruyere and basil), onions (with emmenthaler and fig jam), portabellas (with camembert), steak (with cheddar), chicken (with blue cheese), or even fruit. Gorgonzola cheese with grilled bosc pear slices? Yum. Or fontina cheese and grilled peach?
5. Consider the meltability of your cheese. Fresh cheeses like goat cheese or feta don't get gooey and stringy, and so don't make for the best cheeses in this kind of application. But go beyond the basics. While cheddars, swiss-style cheeses, and young goudas make great options for grilled cheese, try going for something different, like raclette, taleggio, smoked mozzarella, truffle-studded cheese like sottocenere, brie-style cheeses, and young pecorinos.
What are some combinations that you might like to try on a grilled grilled cheese?
Nora Singley used to be a cheesemonger and the Director of Education at Murray's Cheese Shop in New York City, where she continues to teach cheese classes for the public. She is currently a TV Chef on The Martha Stewart Show.
Related: Gourmet Grilled Cheese: Tips from Ruth Reichl
(Image: Courtesy of Kathy Strahs ofPanini Happy via Wisconsin Cheese Talk, used with permission)