The Ultimate Grilled Cheese Redux

Sometimes, what might seem like a brilliant blog idea can lose momentum and fade away if we don’t just sit down and write it. Looking through many photos of our cooking we’re amazed at how many missed opportunities have gotten away from us – great ideas unwritten and unpublished. So to make amends we’re finally getting around to writing and publishing a blog that we started several months ago. We figure since the guy that predicted the rapture was wrong–twice, we have time to prepare for the next BIG party.

Back in May, the day before the “first” rapture was supposed to happen, Jason was in our kitchen making a big batch of grilled cheese sandwiches for an Artist Opening at Zannah Noe‘s Velcrow Studio. Making the sandwiches took hours, and as the time went by Jason thought about the type of food one would serve at a rapture party. We’re Gleeks (we’ve seen all the Glee episodes multiple times) and it seemed obvious to Jason that Grilled Cheesus would not only be the ultimate rapture food, but it would coincide with the season finale of Glee–assuming we were all still here. Alas, the season ended, the world didn’t, summer rolled over us like a truck and here we are, approaching Halloween, and this darned grilled cheese post is just now seeing the light of day.

All the fixings for the ultimate grilled cheese.

So now we’re in our kitchen prepping more sandwiches again, for Zannah Noe’s Open Studio on Saturday, October 29, TODAY! We will be at her studio with our panini maker, bread, and lots of cheese. The Ultimate Grilled Cheese is a Ruth Reichl recipe that we fell in love with after seeing it on the PBS holiday special, A Moveable Feast, which featured several cooking show hosts preparing their favorite holiday food. Ruth’s grilled cheese sandwiches are wonderful and adaptable to any, and all, cheese. The point is to experiment.

With All Hallows Eve only a couple days away, and the holidays fast approaching, if you need a quick and easy appetizer that everyone will love, try the ultimate grilled cheese sandwich. They are so good that if the rapture does happen these sandwiches will be your ticket to Heaven.

The Ultimate Grilled Cheese

1/3  pound Swiss cheese, shredded
1/3 pound Irish cheddar cheese, shredded
1/3 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons onion, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
freshly ground pepper
6-8 slices No-Knead bread or good quality bread

Mix the shredded cheeses with the onion, shallot, garlic, and ground pepper. Place between two slices of bread using a panini maker to grill the sandwiches, or butter both sides of the sandwich and lightly grill in a skillet over medium low heat.

Tartine — The Sandwich

We are involved in an ongoing love affair with Tartine Bakery in San Francisco’s Mission District. We’ve stood in the bakery line more times than we can count and never once regretted the time spent contemplating the scrumptious treats awaiting us inside. We couldn’t find a croissant in Paris to best the flaky wonders on offer at Tartine. The pastries, cakes and cookies are irresistible, but the signature tartines, or open-faced sandwiches, truly inspire.

The open-faced croque monsieur is a favorite and increasingly popular at home. Preparation requires some thought as to ingredient combinations, but the basics are simple – savory ham and/or seasonal veggies, a thick sauce béchamel and good, flavorful cheese. The bread base of a Tartine Bakery croque monsieur consists of a generous slice of the house plain country loaf. At home, we use our own “no knead” bread and whatever fixings we have on hand. Once assembled, the sandwiches go under the broiler until the sauce and cheese are bubbly and starting to brown. To finish the meal, pair the croque with a simple green salad and a nice glass of wine – a dry Provencal rose or pink sparkling cava does it for us!

    Proscuitto and broccoli rabe tartine on the left, and a mushroom tartine on the right.


The “Recipe”

Sauce Béchamel

1 ½ cups whole milk

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 tbsp unsalted butter

2 tbsp unbleached all purpose flour

6 whole black peppercorns

1 bay leaf

1 sprig of fresh thyme

Warm milk, peppercorns, bay leaf and thyme. In a separate sauce pan, melt butter and add flour, cooking over medium heat until flour has toasted but before it browns. While whisking, strain milk into flour mixture and continue whisking until it begins to thicken. Remove from heat, add grated Parmesan cheese and season with salt to taste.

Assembling the Tartine

On 2 thick slices of country bread, spread a thin layer of the béchamel, top with ham or your choice of veggies (best if their separately cooked/roasted before going onto the sandwich), then finish with another layer of béchamel and top with grated gruyere or cheddar. Place under the broiler and toast until golden and bubbly.