I talk a lot about simplicity on this blog. Simple cakes, simple candies that turn out not so simple, simple...cakes. But there are deliciously simple savory ideas out there too, and when it comes time for me to make dinner, this is where I rock. Pan-fried chicken breast in olive oil with asparagus or broccollini? Yes, please, and don't skimp on the salt.
Last week I decided that I would make dinner, since the bf has been cooking a lot lately and I wanted to cut him a break. Okay, maybe I just wanted to control the dish-making for once – don't judge me. Either way, I was struck with a wonderful idea: we had fresh tomato soup in the fridge, and suddenly all I wanted to eat it with was a grilled cheese sandwich.
Let me tell you a quick story. When I was in college, my best friend, Emily, was given a George Foreman grill, and we used to hold regular grilled-cheese parties on our freshman floor. It would start out as four or five of us, and as the smell of toasted white bread and plasticky melted American cheese wafted through the halls we'd gather a bit of a crowd. Soon we would have an assembly line set up: I would butter the bread, someone else would unwrap the cheese slices (oh, good old American over-processing/-packaging, how I miss you), and Emily would man the Foreman. We churned out sandwiches like it was our job.
Those were the best nights. We'd stay up late, stuffing our faces with processed foods and reading each other the more ridiculous lines from our respective homework (Emily) / Cosmo (me). To this day, I can't have a grilled cheese without thinking of that.
But, nostalgia aside, this isn't that kind of grilled cheese. This is the high-falutin', fancy-pants, extra-sharp-cheddar, grown-up grilled cheese. With fancy bread, too. Nothing you can't get at your local grocery store, but not the kind of ingredients that come double-wrapped in plastic. There's real, un-sliced, baked-that-day bread, preferably sourdough if you can get it (I can't, at least not the good stuff I'm used to in SF). And there's cheese. Seriously strong, seriously sharp, aged cheddar cheese.
And of course, there's butter. Lots and lots of butter. Spread right onto the bread – that way you'll get exactly the right amount and it's less likely to burn in the pan.
Now I have a confession to make: this was my first ever truly beautiful grilled cheese. I manned the bread-buttering station in college for a reason. Somehow, my sandwiches always turned out just a wee bit scorched, which I never really minded but it isn't everyone's bag (including the bf). This time, though, I managed to achieve ooey gooey golden nirvana, and I was so proud.
Just add tomato soup! Canned is totally fine, although fresh is better (store-bought fresh is what we used, and it was perfect: chunky and flavorful but still just open-and-pour easy).
Now go make this. And eat the oozy bits of cheese off the edges of the sandwiches while the person you're making them for isn't looking. Because that is the right of the grilled-cheese chef.
Slice up a fresh loaf of good-quality bread, wheat or white, your choice. Make the slices anywhere from 1/2 inch to an inch thick, depending on how wide your mouth opens / how much you like the bread. Ours were about 1/2 inch, and I thought that was perfect.
Slice up some of your favorite cheese. I like a super-sharp cheddar for having with tomato soup, but taleggio would also be amazing, as would a gooey goat cheese or pretty much any cheese you like that holds together relatively well.
Butter the slices of bread on the outsides of your sandwich pairs, and heat a frying pan over a medium burner. When the pan is hot, lay a piece of bread butter-side-down in the center of the pan, then layer your cheese on top of that. Watch the cheese, and when it starts to look soft, set the other piece of bread butter-side-up on top of it. Press the sandwich together with a spatula for a minute, to bind it, then scooch the spatula underneath and flip that sucker. Let it cook on that side for a couple of minutes, until the cheese is fully melted and the bread is golden.
Set the sandwich on a cutting board and cut it in half (or into small, tapas-y pieces, if you want to be fancy). Repeat, as often as you like, until you run out of ingredients or people to feed.
Serve the sandwiches with tomato soup, or by themselves with a side of girly gossip and giggles. Either way is fine by me!