It’s no secret that my family enjoys cheese. I’m not talking about the ooey gooey cheese that you find on restaurant nachos or pizza, although, those aren’t half bad. I’m talking about hard cheese, soft cheese, fresh cheese, stinky cheese, aged cheese, never-pre-grated cheese. You see, we’re kind of cheese snobs. Even our kids can sniff out the difference between processed cheese and the real deal cheeses (proud mama moment).
What makes these grilled cheese sandwiches the best grilled cheese sandwiches isn’t just the cheese, though. Here are the 3 key components to making the best grilled cheese:
1. delicious bread (I prefer sourdough)
2. multiple cheese types combined into the same sandwich
3. crispy, crunchy, salty exterior
The first component is pretty simple: start with good bread. I like to buy the La Brea Sourdough loaf (sliced) from Harris Teeter’s bakery. It’s got a great tang, full flavor, and toasts up beautifully.
The second component has some wiggle room. By that, I mean it doesn’t have to be the same every time you make a sandwich. I usually just combine 2 or 3 different types of cheese based on what is available in the fridge. This is a great way to use up odds and ends of random cheeses you may have from special recipes. Here are a few of my favorite cheese combos:
cheddar • gruyere
cheddar • mont. jack (or pepperjack) • parmesan
parmesan • gruyere
parmesan • gruyere • cheddar
cheddar • mozzarella
mozzarella • parmesan
and my new favorite…
cheddar • parmesan • goat cheese
And the third and final component is the crispy, crunchy, salty exterior. A couple of years ago, I uncovered a recipe for an Heirloom Grilled Cheese Sandwich and Chunky Tomato Bacon Soup from the Food Network’s Rick Massa. The tomato soup is to-die-for. And, while I don’t make my sandwiches exactly the same, it was Rick’s recipe that taught me the secret to making the best grilled cheese sandwich: it’s in the crust. Rather than spreading one side of the bread with plain ol’ butter or dousing a hot pan with oil to grill up your sandwiches, this recipe called for making a flavored butter with which you spread onto the sides of the bread that will meet the pan. And, one of the best parts is that the things you need to make this savory compound butter should be pantry staples, so there are no excuses to ever make grilled cheese sandwiches any other way!
- 3 tbsp. unsalted butter (softened or at room temp)
- 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup finely shredded parmesan (shredded on a microplane, preferrably)
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- Coarse Salt & Pepper
- 8 slices of sourdough bread
- 8+ slices of parmesan (# of slices should be enough to put one layer of each cheese on each sandwich)
- 8-12 slices of cheddar (# of slices should be enough to put one layer of each cheese on each sandwich)
- 3-4 oz. goat cheese (flavored goat cheese is okay!)
- Using a fork, mash together the first 4 ingredients in a ramekin or small bowl.
- Season with salt and pepper
- Evenly divide the butter mixture onto a single side of each of the 8 pieces of bread.
- Place 1 piece of bread, buttered side down into a warm skillet.
- Spread about a tbsp. of goat cheese onto the piece of bread in the pan, trying your best to reach the edges.
- Add a layer of parmesan, then a layer of cheddar.
- Top with a 2nd piece of bread, buttered side up.
- Repeat for the other 3 sandwiches.
- When the bottom side of the sandwich is golden to dark brown, and the cheese has started to melt, carefully flip the sandwich to brown the other side. If your sandwich is browning too much before you see any cheese melting, turn your heat down slightly.
- Remove the sandwiches from the pan and cool slightly on a cooling rack (to prevent them from getting soggy).
- After about 3-4 minutes, slice sandwiches in half and serve.
Our family enjoys these grilled cheese sandwiches pretty much all year. In the winter, we pair them with the tomato soup referenced above. And in the warmer months, add a simple spring green or summer vegetable salad, and you can enjoy this (dare I say) ooey-gooey goodness all year round.