….the cheat meal of dreams!!!!!
People who don’t know me in real life will possibly eye roll at the notion that I am about to devote an entire blog post to “a cheese sandwich”. Those of us who go back a little further, will remember days when my entire diet was based around chicken, mushrooms, rashers, tins of Campbell’s soup and my beloved cheese. Halfway decent cooking skills came later – but my love affair with cheese is rooted deep in my childhood and melted cheese would definitely make it on to my desert island wish-list.
But grilled cheese – proper grilled cheese – wasn’t something we in Ireland ever really mastered. You see our raw materials were all wrong. Firstly there was an overreliance on the Easy Single, not the best possible start. This, in the 80s and 90s, was coupled with a bizarre turning our backs on our dairy-farming ancestry, to embrace the abomination that is “spreadable butter”. Finally, the Irish Mammy’s instinct to be a little sparing with the cheese, meant that when it was all combined, we were left with a just about passable cheese toasty. All the while, across the Atlantic, American kids had proper grilled cheese – the epitome of comfort food! The two entities were entire worlds apart.
So for a long time I wondered how we were getting it so wrong….. I mean it is after all only cheese, butter and bread… surely it can’t be that hard to master. And then years later, aided by the magic of the internet and the wisdom of Jamie Oliver, I figured it out. A life changing lightbulb moment – those bloody Americans had lied to us for years. Blatant, bare-faced lies!!! And lies about cheese are a whole new low people, a whole new low!
Because you don’t grill it at all – you FRY it. Now they didn’t tell us that, did they????? No… this, along with the recipe for perfect Mac ‘n’ Cheese and Grape Jelly for bagels, were things they tried to keep all to themselves. A little selfish methinks.
But jump back if you will to 2017 and the cat is well and truly out of the bag. And those of us happy to sacrifice a few years of our life expectancy for gooey, melty cheese on crisp white toast, can recreate the ultimate grilled cheese from the comfort of our own kitchens, while dreaming of visits to retro New York diners.
Here’s what to do….and more importantly what not to do!
- Take two slices of white bloomer or batch loaf. Not too thick or the heat won’t get to the cheese without burning the bread, but not too thin either. This is not a healthy meal so please don’t even consider anything wholegrain or with added chia seeds….wrong recipe, wrong tone!!!
- Grate the cheese – now seriously you will see recipes where they mention “posh” cheeses like Gouda!!!! No, no, no. Not for this recipe. Remember, we are channelling our inner Rudy Huxtable from The Cosby Show, so no fancy cheese required – we are aiming for food to cheer up a five year old who lost their teddy bear. Keep it simple and make sure it melts well. I go for a mixture of strong red cheddar and mozzarella. And always grate, never slice. This is non-negotiable if you want to get this right!!!!
- Next butter the bread with proper salted butter. Preferably the brand with Kerry on the label. Some recipes say to butter both sides…but at this point my heart is crying out for mercy, so I leave it at one side.
- Now we need to assemble the sandwich on a frying pan, heated between low and medium. Here’s how it goes. Place one slice of bread, butter side down (so it melts and browns on the outside). Then add lots of cheese. Then pop on the other slice of bread, butter side out. Nothing else required.
- When the sandwich is assembled, weight it down. I put a small plate on top and then pop the olive oil bottle on top of that. Anything will do. Cook until it is brown on the bottom and you can see the cheese melting at the side. Then turn and repeat. It takes about 3 minutes on each side.
- Then for the best bit. Take it out of the pan for a second and sprinkle a layer of grated cheese directly onto the frying pan. Then put the sandwich back down for a minute to allow the cheese to kind of crisp and set on to the outside of the sandwich. Repeat this process for the other side. Yep, we have soft melted cheese on the inside and crisp melted cheese on the outside. A North Londoner might well exclaim, “Oh my days”. In Americanese, “awesome” was surely invented for moments such as these. While at home in Kerry it would be labeled “grand”, because we are still a little frugal when it comes to praise – and nobody wants to see a cheese sandwich with “notions”!!!
- Pop it on a plate, allow to cool slightly, slice and eat your cuddle on a plate. Preferably when a fire is crackling, the rain is hitting the window and you are in comfy clothes. Ladies, this is just not a meal you eat while still wearing your heels or indeed your bra!!!!! Just saying…
Finally for today, on a completely unrelated note, I just found out that Champagne in a Teacup has made its all the way to the final stage of the V for Very Blog Awards Ireland in the very, very competitive Lifestyle Category. Now blogging is a complete hobby and definitely not award or numbers driven for me. It hasn’t yielded me as much as a free block of cheese…. Kilmeaden surely owe me something at this stage. But none of that is what motivates me. This page, for me, has always been simply about the words – a creative space to write and just have a little fun. It has given me a lot of joy, and I previously posted about the hows and whys of it all here. All that said, the fact that people who know blogging and love blogs have critiqued my little corner of cyber space and found more positives than negatives is really touching. I love that people read my random ramblings, I love that they are occasionally enjoyed and I am tickled pink by the virtual praise encompassed in the badge below. Thank you. xo