There is nothing as perfect as a grilled cheese sandwich.
Just think about it: A layer of warm cheese slowly melting in between two pieces of bread as the whole deck gets toasted in fragrant butter.
What’s more, it’s inexpensive while incorporating the three most necessary food groups: carbs, fat and dairy.
Grilled cheese ranks among America’s favorite comfort foods, so it is no wonder a whole month is dedicated to celebrating the grilled cheese sandwich.
Iconic foods like the grilled cheese carry a lot of personal traditions and sentiments.
You might smirk, but for some people, making a good grilled cheese is a serious art.
In fact, there are people who make a profession out of it.
Take Eric Greenspan, chef of The Foundry on Melrose, who has won awards for a sandwich he made with fruity taleggio cheese on raisin bread with apricot-caper puree.
There’s also the Grilled Cheese food truck which serves an obscenely good Mac and Cheese melt.
Like art, the grilled cheese is open to interpretation as long as you have the basic components down. All you need is bread, cheese and butter.
But this is where things get complicated. What kind of bread? How much cheese and butter?
In honor of National Grilled Cheese Month, we answer some of those burning questions about grilled cheese sandwiches.
If you are a traditionalist, you can’t go wrong with white sandwich bread.
But consider trying something new. Nothing too dense or too limp, as you want something that holds well to the cheese without drowning out its flavor.
A good rule of thumb is for each slice to be no thicker than half an inch.
A nutty bread like a multi-grain loaf or a flax-walnut loaf brings a lovely crunch, while a cheddar jalapeño bread can accentuate the cheesiness while tingling the tongue with a hint of capsicum heat.
Anything with a slightly sweet characteristic, like cranberry bread or a brioche, can bring out a sharp sweet versus savory contrast.
Just make sure it doesn’t have too many complex flavors or spices, as you don’t want to overwhelm the flavor profile.
What is a grilled cheese sandwich without proper cheese?
Forget vegan nut cheese (even Daiya) or fat-free cheese. If you want to be happy, stick to the real deal.
The more cheese, the better; aim for at least two ounces. To get the cheese melting evenly, try finely grating or shaving it first, as this contributes to the gooey, melty factor.
America’s favorite cheese has always been Kraft singles. There is nothing wrong with the classic, orange, American cheese; with a side of Campbell’s tomato soup, a grilled cheese sandwich hits the spot.
But why limit yourself? There are more than 500 varieties of cheese according to the International Dairy Federation, and practically any of them can fit into a sandwich.
You can also use whatever leftover cheese you have in the fridge, like cream cheese and provolone. As a general rule, anything that melts, works.
There is simply no adequate substitute for pure, full-fat butter. It’s not just to crisp up the bread — it also infuse a creamy flavor and adds a hint of nuttiness.
There is a reason why the best restaurants use butter for their grilled sandwiches. Take a deep inhale of the rich, milky aroma as you cook your sandwich in bubbling fat, and you’ll be convinced: Butter is the way to go.
For the best result, use salted butter that has been softened slightly to room temperature. It enables even distribution of perfect crispness to the exterior of the bread, while soaking up the interior with its full richness.
After getting the bread, cheese and butter down, the rest is up to you.
Experiment with bonus ingredients to make the sandwich more interesting and personal. There are endless possibilities for customizing your sandwich, from exotic ingredients like kimchi to preserves like grape jelly or apricot preserves.
For inspiration, visit Clementine, located near Santa Monica Boulevard. This bakery-café annually creates a new grilled cheese sandwich every day in April.
Even Denny’s has fun with the grilled cheese concept with its wacky fried cheese melt: deep-fried mozzarella cheese sticks stuffed into a grilled cheese sandwich.
Crazy? Maybe. Fun? Absolutely. Delicious? That’s for you to judge.