Ah, the grilled cheese sandwich.
It's been a staple of the U.S. diet for decades, and is usually one of the first dishes most American children learn to make.
With only three main ingredients (bread, cheese, shortening), it's also one of the most simple and delicious culinary fares our blessed country has to offer.
We recently caught up with Matt Fish, the head chef of Cleveland's own Melt Bar and Grilled, to learn the secrets of making the perfect grilled cheese sandwich.
We can promise you this: We'll never make our grilled cheese the same way again.
Step 1: Choose Your Bread and Your Butter
The bread is where any good grilled cheese begins. Matt Fish recommends using a homemade artisan loaf, that's a mix between French and Italian to get the perfect combination of crunchy exterior and velvety interior. Cut your bread into one inch slices, and smear a thin layer of vegan margarine (or regular butter) on both sides, from edge to edge.
Step 2: Brown Your Bread, Low and Slow
Place the buttered bread onto a low-to-medium heated surface- a commercial flat top grill works just as well as your at-home fry pan. Fish says it's important to brown the bread low and slow, so the outside becomes a crunchy, golden brown, while the inside starts to cook again, releasing a nutty flavor. This is the point where most people commit their first grilled cheese sandwich making error, Fish says. If you initially put the bread on too hot a surface, it'll burn and you'll have to start over. Remember, low and slow does the trick.
As you're browning the bread, pay attention to the color and consistency of your shortening. When you notice it's yellow and melty-looking, the bread is finished on one side. If the butter is still white, leave it be for another minute or so.
Step 4: Flip the Bread
That's right, Fish browns his bread on both sides before putting on the cheese. Betcha didn't think of doing that.
Fish says a double-sided toasting makes the bread more stable for the cheese and other toppings. This is a major game changer here.
Step 5: Remove from Heat
Once the bread is golden brown on both sides, remove it from the heat, and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.
Step 6: Cheese It
This is the step you've been waiting for (we know).
Using your cheese of choice (Fish uses American), place two one-ounce slices on each piece of bread.
Should you decide to include other toppings (i.e. bacon, tomatoes, really whatever you want) this is when you'd load 'em up.
Step 7 : Bake It
Place the cheesed-up bread open-faced into a 350-400 degree oven.
The middle rack works well. Leave it in for about 3 minutes or until your cheese melts. If you're using a shredded cheese, Fish says, it'll melt more quickly.
Here's what it should look like when the cheese has melted:
Step 8: Fold the Bread
After the cheese melts, remove it from the oven and fold the bread on top of itself.
Step 8: Cut, Plate, and Enjoy!
Cut your sandwich in half.
Serve with a pickle spear and hand-cut fries, and enjoy! You've just made the perfect grilled cheese sandwich.
You can find this particular sandwich on the menu
at Melt Bar and Grilled. It's called The Kindergarten.