If you think you know all there is to know about the storied grilled cheese sandwich, think again. You don’t.
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.
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 were the perfect texture and flavor for this dish. I think white mushrooms would have been lost in the nutty flavor of the cheese.
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.
Before it hits the heat.
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
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
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.
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!
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Author: Laura Werlin
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