Filling in on Kate’s food blog is a little intimidating, but I suppose there is some value in the culinary opinion of a non-cook who also happens to be a picky eater to give toddlers a run for their money.
Come to think of it, I have actually had a number of food service jobs. Among them were dishwashing in a kitchen where an angry chef blew his nose into the scrambled eggs ordered by his ex-girlfriend, lasting only one day waiting tables at Friendly’s before giving them a “moving to Canada to avoid the draftâ€ excuse for quitting, cooking breakfast on the graveyard shift in an all-night diner where I once locked myself in the kitchen as a post-bar crowd trashed the place, and a turn as head “cookâ€ at a poolside snack bar at an upscale condo complex in Connecticut peopled by folks who had water-proof wallets full of soggy hundreds.
It was on a slow rainy day at the snack bar, with the bosses away for the week that Adam Grintser and I discovered “Bubble Gum Juiceâ€ and the “Sweet Grilled Cheese.â€ This is what happens when you leave two 17 year-old boys alone with food and nothing else to do: they experiment. Today I’ll tell you about the Sandwich and if you’re good, next time I write, I’ll give you the recipe for the Juice.
What began as a couple of grilled cheese sandwiches for ourselves turned into a study of how to make the “Sweet Grilled Cheese.â€ As defined by Adam and I that day, the “Sweet Grilled Cheeseâ€ is the sandwich that meets the following criteria listed in order of importance:
1. Smooth, unblemished, golden brown exterior — No “pockâ€ marks, cheese burns, or unevenness allowed
2. NO cheese leakage
3. Can be bitten into with the roof of the mouth and the tongue, requiring no teeth
By the time we had perfected the technique, we had made no less than 4 dozen sandwiches most of which were thrown away as we would not deign to eat the “unsweetâ€ rejects.
Here is the step-by-step process to “Sweetnessâ€, described as Adam and I might have done back in the day:
The Sweet Grilled Cheese
2 slices white sandwich bread (medium thickness)
3 slices of deli cut American Cheese (medium thickness)
1 Swipe of Salted Butter
A. First, you must use a griddle over medium-low heat as the curvature of a normal frying pan ruins the even finish you are going for. Also, medium heat takes longer, but is the only way to the perfect coating. Cook it slowly!
B. Once the griddle is hot, coat it with a swipe of salted butter. After it melts (but before it burns), wipe the butter away with a flat stack of paper towels. This is the trick. Everyone thinks that you should butter the bread or leave lots of melted butter in the pan, but unless you can spread butter perfectly evenly, direct contact between butter and bread will sully the finish. Why? The bread browns most where there is direct butter, so for that “sweetâ€ finish, you must wipe the butter away. Having done so, you will still get the taste of the butter and a slightly greasy sheen to the griddle for easy flipping.
C. Place one slice of bread onto the griddle. Place the first piece of cheese on the left side of the bread. Place the second piece of cheese on the right side, overlapping the first piece at the middle. Fold the third piece in half, rip it in two, and place one half over each single cheese layer at the outsides edges of the bread. This will give you a double cheese layer over the whole bread. This ratio must be right to ensure no cheese leakage.
D. Place the second piece of bread on top of the cheese and let sit for around 4 minutes. If it cooks quicker, your heat is too high. Do not press the bread down as it squeezes out the cheese causing leakage as well as overburdening the underside bread, harming its finish. As you close in on four minutes, feel free to use a non-greasy plastic spatula to lift the sandwich and observe the “sweetâ€ finish on the underside. If it is not ready, let it go for 30 more seconds and check again. The expert “sweet grilled cheeseâ€ cook just knows when it’s time to flip.
E. Flip the sandwich by sliding the spatula underneath with your free hand placed lightly on the top bread. Greasy fingers will mar the finish as will pressing too hard, so be careful. Use the hand to help guide a nice light flip, ensuring no sliding of the un-grilled bread to one side on the partially melted cheese.
F. The second side will take a little less time, about 3 minutes, so be ready! Remove your sandwich from the grill when the second side looks “sweet.â€ If your sandwich has an even, perfectly unblemished finish on both sides, has no cheese leakage, and melts between the roof of your mouth and your tongue when eaten, you have made a “Sweet Grilled Cheeseâ€ and can shout out, “SWEEEEEETâ€ without shame.
Please note that this approach will not yield a “gourmetâ€ grilled cheese or even a particularly “goodâ€ one. Some people have other ideas about how to make grilled cheese. But, I contend that while theirs may be arguably “betterâ€, it doesn’t earn you passage into an elite club; a club peopled by two bored 17-year olds on a rainy summer day with the keys to the fridge and a penchant for yelling, “SWEEEEET!â€ at the top of their lungs.
Next time—“Bubble Gum Juiceâ€