As Different as Chalk and Cheese: “Many’s the long night I’ve dreamed of cheese – toasted mostly.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

“I make the best grilled cheese sandwiches ever,” Adam mumbled, his mouth stuffed full with an overly generous bite from the one he had just slid onto his plate as he sat down to the dinner table. Chewing with great enthusiasm, he looked over at me, as I slowly nibbled on mine, with a palpable “Well?” on his face. After a big swallow, he prodded, “Don’t you agree?”

“Oh, yes, sweetheart. You make a great grilled cheese,” I replied, adding, “a very good grilled cheese indeed,” as I washed mine down with a sip of Chardonnay. He, of course, wasn’t satisfied with my inferior qualifier. “Darn, skippy I do. I make the besssstttt grilled cheese ever,” he said, again looking at me to drive the point home.

“It is good,” I heartily agreed as I took another bite of my sandwich, followed by another sip of wine, purposefully withholding the superlative to stoke the conversation. He took the bait and set his glass down with loud intention.

“No,” he said authoritatively and went all-in. “I make The Best. Mine have the perfect, precise cheese meltage, which of course takes immense skill to get it to that stage without burning the bread. And I always achieve the perfect sear, too, on the bread…that gorgeous, golden grilled goodness. (Alliterate much?)

“It’s an art form what I do with the Grilled Cheese Sandwich,” he continued in self-perceived triumph, holding up the remaining half of his, thoughtfully flipping it left and right, smiling as he admired his creation.

I just kind of scratched my chin and tried to conceal the smirk that was slowly breaking across my face, hiding behind my glass. This was too much fun. Now, granted Adam makes a terrific sandwich. Awesome in fact. But the best? Well, we would just have to see about that one, Mister Man.

A few days later…in the gourmet cheese store.

Tasting bites
Tasting bites

Me: “So, you really think you make the best grilled cheese…ever,” I asked as I scouted for some Gruyère.

Adam: “Unquestionably.”

Me: “Nope. I don’t think so,” I retorted, with my eye on an aged Vermont cheddar.

Adam: “Pu-leeze. I am the Grilled Cheese Sandwich King.”

Me: “I could take you.”

Adam: “So, what are you saying? You want to have a grilled cheese throwdown?”

Me: “Yep. And. I. Will. Win. I have a secret weapon.”

Adam (chuckles): “Phewt. Please. You’re an amateur. I’ve been making grilled cheese most of my adult life. You could have a dozen ‘secret weapons’ up your sleeve and you would still lose. Trust me on this one.”

In the car, on the way home.

Me: “So? What’s your winning combination, Sandwich King?”

Adam: “Cotswold. And bacon. On French bread. You?”

Me: “Thick sourdough slices, like Texas Toast thick, with Gruyère, Cheddar, Monterey Jack and Parmesan. Mine’s more classic, a little more grown up but still familiar. Yours sounds really good. Really yummy. I adore Cotswold. That onion-chive cheddar thing is so fantast…Ooo!!! Oh!!! Hey, you know what? You should totally maple-roast the bacon to get that sweet/savory thing going!”

Adam, shaking his head slowly up and down as the genius sinks in.

Me: “Dang it! I’m helping you build a better sandwich!”

Adam: “Maple-roasted bacon…yes.”

Me: “Oh! And you know what else?” I said, almost giddy with excitement. “I’d spread a little Dijon on the bread, too. Dang it! I did it again.”

Adam: “The only thing I’m not sure about is how to get all that cheese to melt properly.”

Me, cringing in my seat, looking out the window in silence.

Adam: “Any thoughts?” he asked cautiously.

Not being able to stand it any longer, my innate desire to help someone make anything better trumped the desire to win, so I caved and blurted out my dirty little culinary secret.

Me: “Okay, fine. You have to shred your cheese. Grate it when it’s cold, then let it come to room temperature.”

Back in the kitchen, Adam and I went elbow-to-elbow at the stove. He used a panini press for his; I used my fry pan. We cut our sandwiches into small tasting bites and critiqued each other’s creation. They were both completely exquisite. It was just too difficult to declare a clear winner since each is so unique, different as chalk and cheese. 

Adam’s Perfect Grilled Cheese Panini with Cotswold, Maple-Roasted Bacon and Mustard

Author: Adam Barnes
Recipe type: Grilled Cheese, Sandwiches, Brunch
Serves: 6
Adam’s Perfect Grilled Cheese Panini with Cotswold, Maple-Roasted Bacon and Mustard
Adam’s Perfect Grilled Cheese Panini with Cotswold, Maple-Roasted Bacon and Mustard

Ingredients

  • 12 slices thick-cut bacon
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • one baguette, cut into 6 pieces
  • coarse grain mustard or Dijon mustard
  • 12 ounces Cotswold cheese, shredded
  • extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place a wire rack inside a large, rimmed baking sheet. Arrange the bacon slices in a single layer on the baking rack. Bake until the bacon begins to brown, about 15 minutes. Carefully remove the pan from the oven and drizzle a little syrup over each slice of bacon. Return to the oven and cook another 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven; transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate.
  2. Split each sliced baguette in half. Spread a little mustard on both sides of the bread; top one slice with 2 pieces of bacon and pile some cheese on top—evenly distributing the cheese over 6 slices; press slightly to compact cheese. Place the second slice on top, mustard side down and drizzle the bread on both sides with a little olive oil. Heat an electric panini press. When it’s hot, grill the sandwiches in batches until the bread is golden and the cheese is melted, about 5 minutes or so. Repeat with remaining sandwiches.

Notes

…from the Picture-Perfect kitchen:

Planning: To make grilled cheese for a crowd, put your oven to use. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Drizzle several glugs of olive oil into a large rimmed baking sheet and place in the hot oven for several minutes. Arrange sandwiches on the hot baking sheet and return to the oven; bake for 4 to 5 minutes; carefully flip sandwiches over with a spatula, return to oven and continue to bake until both sides are golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes more.

Product Purity: Cotswold (sometimes you’ll see it spelled Cotswald), a yummy, creamy, sweet cow’s milk cheese, is also simply known as pub cheese (how very English!) and is flavored with chive and onion. You can find it at larger grocery stores or gourmet cheese shoppes. I love Cabot Sharp Vermont Cheddar cheese for its sharp and tangy flavor.

Presentation: A well-worn cutting board is the perfect serving backdrop for Adam’s manly sandwich. Serve with pickle chips and a nutty ale. For my grilled cheese, I like to go the classic American route and serve it with good, old-fashioned tomato soup and a sparkling mineral water (or a woody Chardonnay).

Cheryl’s Grown Up Grilled Cheese with Gruyère, Monterey Jack, White Cheddar and Parmesan

Author: Cheryl Beverage Barnes
Recipe type: Grilled Cheese, Sandwiches
Serves: 6
Cheryl’s Grown Up Grilled Cheese with Gruyère, Monterey Jack, White Cheddar and Parmesan
Cheryl’s Grown Up Grilled Cheese with Gruyère, Monterey Jack, White Cheddar and Parmesan

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces Gruyère, shredded
  • 4 ounces Monterey Jack, shredded
  • 4 ounces white cheddar, shredded
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • one sourdough loaf, sliced into 12 thick slices
  • unsalted butter, room temperature
  • extra-virgin olive oil, for the pan

Instructions

  1. Place the Gruyère, Monterey Jack, cheddar and Parmesan in a bowl; toss well to thoroughly combine. Lay the bread on a board and spread each generously with some butter. Flip the slices over and evenly pile the cheese mixture on each one, pressing lightly to compact. Cover with the remaining bread slices, buttered side up; press down gently. In a large skillet over medium heat, pour three good glugs of olive oil in; swirl to coat the pan. Place two sandwiches in the pan and cook until the bread is golden and the cheese is melted, flipping once, about 5 minutes.
  2. Repeat with remaining sandwiches.

Notes

…from the Picture-Perfect kitchen:

Planning: To make grilled cheese for a crowd, put your oven to use. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Drizzle several glugs of olive oil into a large rimmed baking sheet and place in the hot oven for several minutes. Arrange sandwiches on the hot baking sheet and return to the oven; bake for 4 to 5 minutes; carefully flip sandwiches over with a spatula, return to oven and continue to bake until both sides are golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes more.

Product Purity: Cotswold (sometimes you’ll see it spelled Cotswald), a yummy, creamy, sweet cow’s milk cheese, is also simply known as pub cheese (how very English!) and is flavored with chive and onion. You can find it at larger grocery stores or gourmet cheese shoppes. I love Cabot Sharp Vermont Cheddar cheese for its sharp and tangy flavor.

Presentation: A well-worn cutting board is the perfect serving backdrop for Adam’s manly sandwich. Serve with pickle chips and a nutty ale. For my grilled cheese, I like to go the classic American route and serve it with good, old-fashioned tomato soup and a sparkling mineral water (or a woody Chardonnay).

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