Grilled cheese1

Originally published in March 2016.

Grilled cheese. It’s a childhood classic, an adult’s guilty pleasure and a vegan’s nemesis. I say this only because of the few vegans I know, they all have a cheese void that can’t be filled. Simply put, there’s no substitution for cheese. Cheese can get a bad reputation: it can smell funny; it can have overpowering flavour; it’s high in fat; and most diets advise against it.

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In my humble opinion, it is one of the greatest foods. Its ooey, gooey goodness graces the tops of pizza, brings the comfort factor to macaroni and cheese and creates the crisp top to Chicken Parmesan. I might also add that it takes any hot sandwich to the next level. Needless to say, it’s the main ingredient in many of my favourite recipes.

When one thinks of grilled cheese, the first mental image is that of orange cheddar cheese oozing out from between two pieces of white bread grilled to a perfect golden brown and with a squirt of Heinz ketchup on the side.

Grilled cheese avocado

While this will always be the classic combination, there are so many other renditions that deserve some attention.

Cheese has a wonderful quality – it can be paired to be savoury, or sweet. Ricotta and feta have a saltier flavour that contrast beautifully with something sweet like honey, maple syrup or candied fruit. Brie and Camembert have edible rinds that enclose their soft and creamy insides. These cheeses are divine with sun-dried tomatoes that enhance the cheese’s richness. Havarti, Fontina and Monterey Jack have a rich, buttery flavour that pairs wonderfully with cooked fruit, or roasted mushrooms. Knowing all these flavour profiles helps to create the perfect grilled cheese. The other important constituent is the bread that is used. Thicker slices hold the crisp of the buttered outside, while maintaining a soft and chewy texture of fresh bread. The type of bread doesn’t matter as much, have fun playing with a variety of types.

Need some inspiration for your grilled cheese night? Some of my favourite combinations include:

– jalepeno havarti, avocado and sautéed mushrooms

– applewood smoked cheddar, tomato and avocado

– ricotta, strawberries and cinnamon

– brie, sun-dried tomatoes and fresh basil

– bacon, tomato and cheddar cheese (aka the BTC – who needs lettuce?!)

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