As you all well know, Claire, the most wonderful, fantastic food wizard behind ROTW, has stepped away for a moment or two, and someone has to keep this ship sailing, so, at least for now, that's going to be me. Hi, everybody!
For one, I know Claire; we went to a Noel Fielding show together and are friends IRL. So I know how much y’all like her, because I like her a whole bunch, too. She can sous vide the pants off me, and that’s how it should be. I think.
Two, I love to cook and eat and read about cooking and eating, and I like to cook when the going gets tough, or when the going has a deadline (I procrastinate by cooking). Cooking is my way to clear the air, win friends and influence people, start a conversation, cure a hangover and heal a broken heart. I’m a pretty emotional eater. too, which is a problem because…
I’m diabetic (three). So breaking up with carbs a few years ago was really hard. It didn’t last. We are back together, but with the help of insulin and a lot of running. So I understand the pains of having eating restrictions, and if you have allergies or are gluten-free, or if you’re diabetic like me, we’re gonna get along really good. I’m super-open to trying all your recipes, especially new ideas on vegan and vegetarian dishes, because I need to be schooled on that stuff.
So let’s get started!
To kick things off, I chose the second thing I ever learned to cook in my life (a fried egg was first), and it doubles as a great comfort food for politically crap times and is relatively cheap. I’ve been making grilled cheese for about 31 years, and my mainstay is the real diner deal: wheat bread slathered in margarine, one slice of American cheese, grilled to a golden brown. I didn’t think that was special enough to start, so I’m trying three iterations: a bacon grilled Colby cheese, the mayo grilled cheese, and a grilled mozz with pesto. Each one I’m just doing single-serving, because I live with just my boyfriend and my dog, and she can’t eat any of this, so it’s up to two people to have three delicious sandwiches (OH THE PAIN).
BACON GRILLED COLBY CHEESE
You will need:
- 3 slices bacon (or bacon substitute)
- 2 slices French bread (normally I would recommend a loaf called "peasant bread" or a country bread – maybe even a sourdough — but unfortunately, my grocery store’s bread selection is very commercial and the fact that they have loaves of French bread is astounding)
- butter at room temp
- 2 slices Colby jack cheese
Fry bacon to your liking in a pan you will use to also cook your sandwich. Some people like a softer bacon, I prefer a cracker-crisp bacon. Blot completely when done. If there is an excess of bacon grease, do with it what you do with your grease (save it, toss it), but leave a little in the pan to grill this cheese.
Butter up the fry-side of your bread and construct the sandwich quickly, bread side down, cheese, bacon. Throw on another slice of cheese over the bacon if you’re feeling hedonistic. Then put on the other bread and grill it up. Check after about 3 minutes since your pan has already had a moment to heat up fully.
VERDICT: This is a solid classic for those who love salty cheesy sandwiches on cold days, watching Jeopardy (i.e. me).
MAYO GRILLED CHEESE
I was reading that Blood, Bones & Butter author Gabrielle Hamilton fries up her grilled cheese sans butter and uses mayonnaise instead, and more than a few friends have recommended this method. Gonna be honest: I’ve thought it was madness, but let’s go for it. I have nothing to lose (plus Hamilton reportedly serves it during the holidays alongside some chilled Champagne, which is pretty much the definition of “best dinner ever”).
- about 2 tbsp. mayo (to spread on outside of bread)
- 2 slices medium cheddar
Quick and simple: Replace your butter or margarine smear with a mayo smear and fry it like that. Fry until melty and golden brown like that Stranglers’ song.
VERDICT: This was not the best grilled cheese. While it made a beautiful color, the taste was a little too bland. Probably needs to be counterbalanced with a salty or flavorful cheese — even a pepper jack could switch it up.
MOZZARELLA GRILLED CHEESUS
I’m getting a little experimental, and this may turn out just straight up like garlic bread.
Add a little pat of butter to your pan and chop up a clove of garlic, let it steep and sizzle for a few minutes. Slather butter on the outsides of your bread slices for grilling, then construct with 2 slices mozzarella and a nice even layer of pesto. If you are a big pesto fan, I would suggest going bread – pesto – cheese – pesto – bread. Fry 'til golden, serve.
VERDICT: Holy macaroni, this is decadent! Everything about this is delicious. Probably a side of marinara would make sense here (replace the traditional tomato soup). My taste-tester deemed this one the clear winner of our grilled cheesus experimental evening.
Now that we’ve substantially increased our melted cheese quotient, I’d like to know, what is your favorite comfort food? Comment me, people of the internet, I’d love to make whatever you use in times of trouble.