Grilled cheese sandwiches are classic American fare. Many of us associate this archetypal melty sandwich with childhood and/or with camping trips. I recall one particularly memorable camping trip when, after a hard day of canoeing, we finally reached our camp site. Situated on a beautiful Maine lake, the spot was picturesque and well-poised for swimming. We were hungry when we arrived but absolutely famished by the time we got camp set up. First thing on the agenda? Dinner. We made grilled cheese and tomato soup and, boy, did it taste like the best thing ever! That was the day when I became a firm believer in the saying, “hunger is the best sauce.” However, our enjoyment was also, undoubtedly, due to the inherent deliciousness of grilled cheese itself and the classic pairing with tomato soup.
Here at the shop, we don’t do grilled cheese every day but when we do, it seems as though we can’t make enough. Some of you may have encountered Adam or Eric out in front of the shop doing grilled cheeses on the days preceding Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. They were offering our two classic grilled cheese options, chosen by Food & Wine as among the top ten in the United States: one is made with Comté and the other is made with the Cellars at Jasper Hill’s Cabot Clothbound Cheddar. We vary the condiments a little bit but the favorite go-to for the Comté grilled cheese is Raphaël’s Confit d’Oignons (onion confit) or Fieschi’s Confettura di Cipolline Borretane, another onion spread. The go-to for the Cabot Clothbound Cheddar is Wood’s Apple Cider Jelly.
Embarking on this post, I was curious to see if my colleagues had any particular personal grilled cheese preferences and took a moment to stroll around the shop, conducting a very impromptu staff survey. In addition to getting very hungry in the process, I got some wonderfully specific, passionate and well-considered responses:
Tyler told me that his favorite grilled cheese was inspired by a Comté and cipollini onion combo prepared by Tripp. However, instead of Comté, he uses Spring Brook Tarentaise for its salty-pepperiness and balsamic caramelized shallots, riffing on the cipollini. Alyssa and Emily both raved about using “lots of ketchup” on their grilled cheeses, specifying Comté as the cheese of choice. Emily also evinced a preference for caramelized onions and rye bread. In the bakery, Hanako told me that her favorite grilled cheese was made with fresh crushed garlic and mustard. Last summer, she worked on a farm and was harvesting garlic – one set of cloves went straight “from soil to sandwich” and the results were apparently amazing. I have to say, that’s one I am keen to try!
In the office, Erin and I discovered a common affinity for mustard on our grilled cheese – she added that a little bacon also did not go amiss but wondered whether that variation pushed the sandwich out from under the grilled cheese umbrella. I don’t think it does.
On the register side, Serena, Nikki and I shared our fondness for tomatoes. Nikki also mentioned she likes to add some pickles to her (preferably cheddar) grilled cheese. Back on the cheese counter, Tripp and Gemma were in sync over their choice of cheese: Landaff, hands down. Tripp prefers his Landaff unadorned in the grilling process but likes a little Piri Piri sauce or cider vinegar on hand for dipping. Gemma told me that she likes her Landaff combined with a touch of a sharp cheddar (like Keen’s) on a sesame bagel with slices of tomato and a sprinkling of cracked pepper and salt. As for a pairing? Gemma is partial to some really crunchy olive oil potato chips.
Do you have a favorite grilled cheese combo? If so, we’d love to hear about your variation and how you came up with it!
If you’re interested in a little grilled cheese experimenting, here’s a recap of some of our favorites for a bit of mixing-and-matching.
Cheeses: Comté, Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, Keen’s Cheddar, Landaff, Spring Brook Tarentaise Reserve
Condiments: Mustard, Wood’s Apple Cider Jelly, Raphaël Confit d’Oignons, Fieschi Confettura di Cipolline Borretane, Ketchup
Other Additions: Bacon, Tomatoes, Pickles, Fresh Garlic, Balsamic Caramelized Shallots
For Dipping: Tomato Soup, Piri Piri Sauce, Cider Vinegar