Prep time 10 mins | Cooking time 10 mins | Serves 1
Take some cheese, bread and a few other essentials and you’ve got a delicious snack ready in minutes.
Whoever thought to grab a slice of cheese, stick it between two slices of bread and toast it was pure genius. You can’t deny that the humble grilled cheese has to be one of the most nostalgic recipes of all time.
There’s no doubt that Americans love their grilled cheese. They even have a whole day dedicated to their beloved sandwich on 12 April each year, and when you have a whole day dedicated to you know you are important. The act of melting cheese over bread may have been around since the days of Ancient Rome, but the grilled cheese rose to popularity in 1920s America during the Great Depression. Inexpensive white sliced bread and “American Cheese”, processed slices which are individually wrapped in plastic, became readily available and the snack we all know and love was born.
You couldn’t think of a dish simpler than a grilled cheese, but that hasn’t sopped chefs from around the world trying to reinvent the classic. The most extravagant and scientific preparation ever attempted has to be that by Michelin-starred chef Heston Blumenthal in his series Heston’s Feasts. Blumenthal had decided he wanted to create the ultimate cheese toastie. With a luxury filling of Comté, Gruyère, softened onions, Extremadura (or Iberian) ham, braised suckling pig belly and sliced black truffles, he had to be extra careful so as not to ruin the delicate flavours of each ingredient. The solution came in the form of a sponge. Packing the bread with the sponge first, then toasting it in a sandwich press, ensured the perfect crispy exterior.
My favourite cheese toastie is bathed in butter on one side and spread with whole grain mustard on the other. A mountain of mature cheddar is grated over the top before being placed under the grill (or salamander as it is called in the US and professional kitchens) until bubbling and golden. Check out the recipe below:
- 2 slices wholemeal sandwich loaf
- 1 tbsp room-temperature butter
- 2 tbsp whole grain mustard
- 25g mature cheddar cheese, grated
- Thyme leaves, tomatoes and/or relishes to serve
Butter the bread. Pre-heat a grill, salamander or oven to 180ºC. Spread each slice of bread with butter on one side. Place onto a baking tray or dish butter-side down. If you are grilling your grilled cheese don’t use baking paper – it can burn easily.
Fill the sandwich. Spread the un-buttered side of each slice of bread with mustard and top with mature grated cheese. Sprinkle with thyme leaves.
Grill the sandwich. Place the baking dish under the preheated grill (or into the oven) and cook for 5-10 mins until the cheese is bubbling and golden. Remove from the oven, allow to cool, then either sandwich the two slices together or enjoy as an open sandwich with fresh tomatoes, relishes, sliced cold-cuts or the chutney of your choosing.
- When cooking your grilled cheese under a grill, do not use baking paper. It will burn!
- Don’t fret if you don’t have a grill, you can easily make this is using a sandwich press, jaffle iron or electric sandwich maker.
- Feel free to add whatever chutney, jams and condiments you like to your grilled cheese. Tomato or zucchini chutney are classic flavour parings with a hard mature cheese, you could also add sliced gherkins. For a sweet twist try cream cheese and strawberry jam. The jam tastes amazing with sliced Brie.
What’s your favourite grilled cheese recipe? Let me know in the comments section below. I love receiving photos of your kitchen creations. Send me your recipes and dishes by tagging #brendonthesmilingchef and #whatsbrendoncooking on Instagram or Tweeting to @bthesmilingchef.
Happy Cooking and Keep Smiling,