Monthly Archives: February 2011

Taking Grilled Cheese To A Whole New Level

If you think you know all there is to know about the storied grilled cheese sandwich, think again. You don’t.

Grilled Cheese, Please

Everyone’s childhood has a grilled cheese memory or two floating deliciously around in it. If you don’t, you have my sympathies. You have surely missed a part of growing up that is hard to replace.

Grilled cheese sandwiches never used to come in the variety of shapes, sizes and tastes that they do today. Used to be, you had white bread (Wonder probably), you had two or three slices of American cheese (insert your favorite brand here) and a little butter. Those were the ingredients, period.

You heated a skillet, placed the sandwich in and flipped it a couple of times until it was golden brown. Then, instead of waiting for your masterpiece to cool to a tolerable temperature, you bit into it, burning either your upper lip, tongue, roof of your mouth or all three. That was the amazingly fantastic grilled cheese experience of my youth.

Suffice it to say, things are different today.The world of the once humble grilled cheese has been expanded to included some delicious creations. These are cheesy, gooey concoctions that back thirty years ago you could never have conceived of.

Here’s a brief example. My son (who is grown now) has grilled cheese memories different from my own. When he was young and still impressionable, I used to make him this grilled cheese sandwich we called mozzarella grilled cheese. That’s not the official name, just ours. It was a recipe by Mario Batali and included dipping the bread into an Italian style seasoned egg mixture before adding mozzarella and frying it in a skillet. In reality, it was almost more like a Monte Cristo than anything else. But, it was delicious. If you ask him about HIS grilled cheese memory, I would bet he would relate to you the wonders of the mozzarella grilled cheese.

James Beard award winning author and cheese expert Laura Werlin, has complied a cookbook that puts a new spin on an old classic. The fifty recipes that she has included in her latest work, Grilled Cheese, Please, are not only great dishes in their own right, but, in fact, childhood memories in the making for a whole new generation.

Of course, I had to give one of them a whirl (it’s my job). All of the recipes included were more than worthy of a test drive. But, one in particular captured my interest. The Camembert and Comte with Mushrooms sounded to mouthwatering to pass on.

This sandwich was easy to put together and had ingredients that were at my disposal.

Grated Comte Cheese

I used REAL French Comte in my version. For a hard cheese, it was super light and airy once it was grated.

Baby Bella Mushrooms

Baby bella mushrooms were the perfect texture and flavor for this dish. I think white mushrooms would have been lost in the nutty flavor of the cheese.

Mushrooms Cooked

WOW, they look pretty good after sautéing with some shallots, garlic and thyme. I can’t tell you how tempting it was to just eat all of the filling before constructing the sandwich.

Sandwich Before Cooking

Before it hits the heat.

Camambert and Comte with Mushrooms

My finished masterpiece in all of it’s runny, melty, cheesy glory. It was hard to wait the required five minutes before diving into this. I thought the timer was running in place a couple of times. Leaving the room made it easier. Laura may want to include that tip in the next printing.

Here’s How To Do It

Ingredients
4 Tbsp., butter, at room temperature
1 shallot, small, chopped fine (about 2 Tbsp.)
1 clove garlic, minced
8 oz., white or brown mushrooms, stems removed, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 tsp., sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
2 tsp., fresh thyme, chopped fine
1 baguette, cut crosswise into 4 (6 inch wide) pieces
6 oz., Camembert cheese, sliced 1/4 inch thick
8 oz., Comte cheese, grated coarsely (or Gruyere, Swiss or fontina)
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Method
Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallot and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook for about a minute more. Be careful the garlic doesn’t burn. Add the mushrooms and cook until they are soft, 3-5 minutes more. Turn the heat up to high and add the sherry vinegar. Cook until most of the vinegar has boiled away and mushrooms start to caramelize, 1-2 minutes. Add the fresh thyme, salt and pepper. Stir through and remove from heat. Transfer the cooked mushroom mixture to a plate. Wipe out skillet with a paper towel. Don’t wash it.

Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in the microwave or a small pan. Cut each baguette piece in half lengthwise. Take out a small amount of the soft center of the bottom pieces of bread to make a well. Place baguette pieces crust side up on a work surface. Spread with some of the melted butter. A pastry brush worked great for this. Turn the bottom pieces over, now the crust side is down. Divide up the mushroom mixture between the four baguette bottoms and spread on bottom halves of baguette. Next, place the Camembert slices on top of the mushrooms. Finally, top the whole thing with the grated Comte. Place the top half of the baguette on the sandwich.

Heat the same skillet you used for the mushrooms over a medium-low heat for a couple of minutes. Place the sandwich in the skillet. I did mine bottom side first. Cover and cook for 5-6 minutes. Check a couple of times to make sure that they are getting golden brown and not burning. Turn the sandwiches over and press each one firmly with a spatula. Cover and cook 3-4 minutes more until they are golden brown and the cheese has melted. Turn one more time, use the spatula to compress the filling again. Cook for one additional minute or until cheese has completely melted. Remove from heat. Wait 5 minutes. Cut in half and serve.

You really need to watch these after the first flip. I had to dial down my heat a little to keep them from burning before the cheese melted all the way. That’s just common sense cooking though. Nobody’s going to just walk away from a skillet of cooking sandwiches, right?

You can also use a sandwich maker for these. Just follow the directions that come with your particular model.

Makes 4 sandwiches

Recipe: Camembert and Comte with Mushrooms, Laura Werlin, Grilled Cheese, Please. Andrews McMeel Publishing.

Camambert and Comte with Mushrooms

The Bottom Line

This book is fun! There are so many great recipes in this little treasure that you’ll want to make them all. The photographs taken by Maren Caruso are fantastic too. They really add to the spirit and feel of a great cookbook. The recipes are easy to make and for the most part the ingredients are readily accessible. It’s the kind of book that will have you making brand new, grilled cheese memories for your entire family!

Grilled Cheese, Please

buythisbookpurpleJPG

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Author: Laura Werlin
Pages: 184
ISBN: 1449401651

 

Just in case you missed it, here are some other cookbook reviews we recently posted:

Steaks and Texas Go Great Together
How To Make Red Beans and Rice
A Monday Dish That’s Great Any Day
RV Cooking: The Possibilities of an Endless Road


Ideas In Food: Food+Science=Delicious

There seems to be a fine line between really enjoying the deliciousness of cheese and feeling guilty about it.

Ideas in Food

Here’s a little quiz to get things started. What do David Chang, Michael Ruhlman and Michael Anthony all have in common? Answer please. If you guessed that they all have great things to say about Aki Kamozawa and Alex Talbot’s new book, Ideas in Food, then give yourself a gold star or a pat on the back. Your choice.

This little gem is packed with all of the food science any budding culinary chemist could dream of. We’re talking REAL explanations to some of the kitchen’s most intriguing questions.

The first part of the book is written with the amateur cook (like me) in mind. Part two, focuses on topics that food professionals will find useful. I mean, I would love to attempt a recipe that has Methocel 50 or kappa carrageenan in it, but, I’m not sure if either of those things are legal in the state where I reside.

That being said, I decided to turn my attention to something a little more pedestrian.

The section on dairy was intriguing. Maybe I could make something from this part of the book. I like cheese. Hey, homemade mozzarella. That could be cool. But, wouldn’t you know it, I had just run out of rennet. Damn it! A few more pages, then, out jumped something with some real potential, macaroni and cheese.

Mac and cheese is one of the headliners of the comfort food category. Is shares a prominent spot right up there with meatloaf and apple pie. I figured if something that is already great could be improved with a little food science, then this book would be a winner.

My adventure into the science of mac and cheese was about to begin. All of the necessary components were procured and ready to roll.

The first thing that was unconventional about this recipe versus the standard M & C recipe was that it called for soaking the dry pasta for an hour rather that adding pasta that had been previously cooked by boiling it. So, one pound of dry pasta.

Uncooked macaroni

There are three, count ‘em, three, different types of cheeses in this version.

Shredded Pepper Jack Cheese

Pepper Jack.

Shredded Parmigiano Cheese

Parmigiano.

And, sharp cheddar. When cooked together these three offer a nice balance of cheese flavors.

The directions were right on the money. Assembly was a snap. Here’s a picture of the casserole before it went under the broiler.

Uncooked Mac and Cheese CasseroleFinished Lemon Chess Pie

Now, look closely at the two images above. The one on the left is my yet to be broiled mac and cheese. The one of the right is a Lemon Chess Pie that I baked a few weeks ago. There is definitely a certain similarity there…

Anyway, under the broiler, five minutes. Actually mine didn’t make it the full five. I had to take it out about 3 minutes in to it. It did brown up really nice though.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Now that is a handsome batch of mac and cheese! It looks great and all, but, the real proof is in the taste.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

What? Did you think that it wouldn’t end up being killer? Please…

The recipe has some cayenne pepper in it. It really brings up the flavor in the whole dish. A real adult mac and cheese. That’s not to say that your kids won’t like it, but, it will make you sit up and take notice.

Here’s how to do it:

Ingredients
1 lb., dry pasta
2 1/2 quarts, water
8 Tbsps., unsalted butter (plus some additional to butter the casserole dish)
12 oz., evaporated milk
3/4 tsp., sea salt, fine
1/2 tsp., cayenne pepper
10 oz., Cheddar cheese, grated (they suggested sharp)
10 oz., pepper Jack cheese, grated
2/3 cup, fresh bread crumbs, coarse ground
1/2 cup, Parmigiano cheese, grated
3 Tbsps., unsalted butter (for melting)

Method
In a large bowl soak pasta in water for about an hour. Stir every so often (I stirred every fifteen minutes). Drain after one hour. Pre-heat broiler on low. Butter a 3 quart baking dish.

In a 3 quart pot, over medium heat, add butter (8 tbsps.), evaporated milk, salt and cayenne. When the butter melts and the milk just starts to steam, start adding the Cheddar and Jack cheeses. Do this just a handful at a time so the cheese has a chance to melt and incorporate evenly. I had my cheese warmed up to room temperature before adding.

When all the cheese has been added and the sauce is nice and evenly melted, add the soaked pasta and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes. Stir. The mixture will start to thicken as it heats through.

Transfer the mixture to the buttered baking dish and spread it out evenly. In a small bowl mix the Parmigiano and the bread crumbs together. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the top of the macaroni. Drizzle with melted butter.

Place on middle oven rack, center under the broiler. Broil for 5 minutes. Really keep your eye on this when it goes in. Once it starts to brown, it goes quickly. When the topping is brown remove from oven and cool 5 minutes.

Serves 4 as an entrée or 8 as an appetizer or side dish.

Recipe: Macaroni and Cheese, Aki Kamozawa and H Alexander Talbot, Ideas in Food, Clarkson Potter Publishers

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

The Bottom Line:

Aki and Alex have written a fantastic book. it’s obvious when you read through it that great attention has been paid to every detail. It’s cookbook/textbook, which makes for an excellent read. The recipes are well constructed as you would expect, but, more importantly they’re not  crazy difficult to execute. This marriage of detail and simplicity makes for a super delicious combination. I’m dying to try something from the Liquid Nitrogen section. I think that may still be a little ways off for me.

infbookcoverJPG

buythisbookpurpleJPG

Publisher: Clarkson Potter
Author: Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot
Pages: 320
ISBN: 0307717402