Bon Appetit Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Clay and Zach, the dynamic duo of the Bitten Word out of Washington, D.C. came up with the idea to gather a team of kitchen enthusiasts to recreate the recipes from cover to cover of one of their favourite cooking magazines. The response was overwhelming so they created 5 teams baking, cooking, and sautéing their way through all the recipes from 5 magazines... Saveur, Bon Appetit, Food and Wine, The Food Network, Martha Stewart Living, and Everyday Food. I have been assigned to Team Bon Appetit with a simple party recipe to please a crowd. Go team!!!! I am making grilled cheese sandwiches. But not just any grilled cheese sandwiches. Grilled cheese sandwiches with a combination of toppings so your guests can pick and choose their ultimate flavour combinations.
1) Oka cheese, fresh basil, tomato pesto, tomato, pickled onions
2) sliced pears, oka cheese, cambazola, honey mustard
3) cheddar cheese, pickled onions, crispy bacon, arrabbiata pesto
Comfort food IS the grilled cheese sandwich since nothing is more satisfying than the ooey, gooey ribbons of delectable melted cheese of the perfect grilled cheese sandwich. It is the comforting back-up meal that anyone can throw together with zero time and a practically empty refrigerator. In my humble opinion the grilled cheese sandwich is the epitome of comfort foods and simplicity in cooking. It's astounding to see what can be done with the basic staples of bread and cheese.
Crisp and crunchy on the outside, gooey and warm on the inside I don't think there is anything more satisfying. The key lies in the quality of the ingredients. Never has this held so true if you want to go beyond processed cheese slices and stale bread. A good grilled cheese sandwich has three very important components... bread... cheese...and butter.
The bread is the Holy Grail for the success of your sandwich. White bread has the best butter-soaking abilities of any bread I have tested, although you can substitute it for a healthier alternatives if you feel so inclined. For this recipe I used a cibatta with rosemary which complimented the other ingredients well. Whatever you choose it must be of the best quality that you can find. The same goes for butter; nothing beats the taste of good-quality buttery toast, but if you’re trying to keep a healthier diet, buttery spreads can often rival in taste.
The next component is the cheese. Most often I use a good quality Canadian Cheddar cheese but for an outstanding substitute why not try a Canadian Oka. This is the perfect melting cheese and will create the ooey, gooey goodness that we demand from a grilled cheese sandwich.
If any cheese is native to Canada, it’s Oka. Oka is a type of Port Salut cheese, first made in Brittany, France by the Trappist monks. To supplement their income and make the monastary self sustaining they started producing cheese in Canada. History finds that monks created some of the best cheese and wines. They are backed up by years of experience to perfect their technique! A semi-soft cow's milk cheese that's creamy, nutty and fruity was made by the monks in Oka, Quebec a small village situated on the north shore of the Lake of the Two Mountains, just southwest of Montréal. Oka is traditionally covered with an orange rind that’s washed in brine and aged on cypress wood planks. In 1974, Agropur, Canada’s largest cheese cooperative bought the rights to produce Oka from the monks. Their cheese is made just down the street from the original Trappist Monk's monastery.You haven't lived until you've added this cheese to your cheese fondue for a silky texture or tried it in a grilled cheese sandwich.
The secret to making grilled cheese for a crowd you ask? Turn on the oven. Encourage your guests to customize their sandwiches by offering a combination of cheeses, breads, and fixings and you have a cheesy, gooey party happening in your own kitchen. Then simply pop them on a baking sheet to cook, slap them together and voila.
Without really planning on it my grilled cheese sandwiches became very Canadian with premium Cheddar cheese, Oka and a local Cambozola. Add some crispy bacon slices, very thinly sliced Okanagan Bosch pears, a combination of pestos and mustards, some flash pickled onions and the scene is set. Add a garlic dill pickle on the side and you have a match made in heaven. Bon Appetit!
** Grilled Cheese Sandwich**
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
16 1/4"-thick slices assorted bread ( I used a rosemary ciabatta which went well with all fillings chosen)
Assorted fixings of your choice (grainy mustard (assorted), pickled onions (recipe below), cooked crispy bacon, basil, very thinly sliced Bosch pears, sun dried tomato pesto, basil pesto, tomato)
1 1/2 pounds assorted cheeses, coarsely grated (Oka, Cheddar, cambazola)
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
Arrange racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 350°. Set a wire rack inside each of 2 foil-lined rimmed baking sheets. Butter 1 side of each bread slice with about 1/2 tablespoon butter.
Heat a medium skillet over medium heat until very hot, at least 2 minutes. Melt 1/2 tablespoon butter in skillet. Add 2 slices of bread, buttered side down; cook, pressing down often with a spatula to ensure even toasting and rotating pan frequently, until bread is evenly golden brown, 3–4 minutes. (Do not rush or increase heat, or your bread will burn before it can evenly toast.)
Transfer bread slices, toasted side down, to prepared wire racks (this will help keep bread crunchy). Repeat with remaining bread and butter, wiping out skillet between batches. (If all of the bread doesn't fit on the racks, you may need to bake sandwiches in two batches.) DO AHEAD Bread can be toasted 1 hour ahead; let stand at room temperature.
Garnish untoasted side of each slice of bread with fixings, then top each slice with a small handful of cheese (about 1 1/2 oz.), scattering evenly. Season with salt and pepper (do not skip this step; it really elevates the flavours in the sandwich).
Bake bread slices, rotating baking sheets halfway through, until cheese is thoroughly melted, 10–12 minutes (begin checking after 8 minutes; some cheeses melt faster than others). Working in batches, firmly press 2 cheese-topped sides of sandwiches together. Let rest for 1–2 minutes. Slice in half or into quarters. Serve hot or warm.
1/2 cup Spanish or brown onion, very thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon best-quality olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
In a small bowl, mix together the onion, salt, pepper, olive oil and vinegar. Cover and let sit for at least 1 hour.
Drain the excess liquid from the marinated onions and scatter them evenly over the cheese-topped slices.
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