If you want to know who your real friends are, ask everybody you know what they want for lunch on a snow day. You know, when you’re snowed in and either don’t have to go to work or school, or literally can’t get there. What’s your fave snow day lunch that can be made from stuff you have around the house?
I’ve asked this seemingly innocuous question of many people over the years and a clear preference has emerged for… A Grilled Cheese Sandwich!
Yes, the humble Grilled Cheese, Toasted Cheese, Cheese Melt or whatever you want to call it always seems to rule the snow day menu. It was interesting to learn, as I did during research for this post, how many global cuisines embrace their own version of the Melted Cheese and Toasted Bread confection. And how this classic combo fits into the Greater Sandwich Community…
The official definition…
Wikipedia defines this dish thusly: ‘A grilled cheese is often heated by placing the buttered slices of bread, with the cheese between the slices, on a frying pan or griddle. Another variation of a grilled cheese is to melt and fry cheese on the outside of the bread, as well as melt the cheese in the middle of the bread. When this is done, it produces a crunchy fried cheese exterior to the sandwich.”
But the Grilled Cheese family is much more diverse and exotic than that.
Yes! There’s more!
Much, MUCH more! Wikipedia, in fact, lists no fewer than a dozen ‘signature’ Grilled Cheese variants from countries in every hemisphere; from Bruschetta to Welsh Rarebit.
What qualifies as ‘Grilled Cheese’ in Mexico, you ask, thinking you’ve got me? The Quesadilla. How about the East European state of Georgia? The Khahachapuri. Greece? Fried Halloumi Cheese on Toast. The list is endlessly, delightfully surprising.
The perfect Grilled Cheese?
We all have our own preferences in a Grilled Cheese Sandwich. Like legions of North Americans, my acquaintance with the treat began when I was just a little tyke, with a simple lunch consisting of Grilled Cheese and bowl of Classic Tomato Soup. The world began to open up when I first tried the famed French version, the Croque Monsieur (pictured top of page). From there, it was just a few bites before I was ‘going freestyle’ with my own Grilled Cheese Sammy concoctions…
The Classic Rules…
But there are some hard-and-fast rules for making the Classic Grilled Cheese Sandwich.
- Butter the outside of the bread slices.
- Second, heat the pan to medium before placing the Sandwich in it.
- Use a good Melting Cheese. Cheddar, Jack, Gouda, Fontina and many others can fill the bill, but purists insist on one or two slices of good old orange American (Processed) Cheese.
- Fry/grill the Sandwich just until golden on both sides and the Cheese inside has melted, gently pressing the sandwich onto the pan (or grill plate or Pannini press, or whatever) to get the right crispy finish on the bread.
- Serve only with plain Ketchup for dipping or a bowl of Tomato Soup.
No matter how you make it…
…There’s nothing like a Grilled Cheese Sandwich on a snowy day. And the happy childhood memories come at no extra charge!
~ Maggie J.