Talking Grilled Cheese

14 Apr

A grilled sandwich of melting cheese, on a white plate.  Wholewheat bread.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my mom is an amazing and adventurous cook, which meant I was exposed to interesting foods and different cultural dishes from a young age. As much as I always enjoyed trying new things, I also loved the same foods all kids love – like grilled cheese.

April is Grilled Cheese Month, and it’s fitting that a classic sandwich that’s popular with kids, university students and adults alike should be the subject of a month-long celebration. In recognition of the grilled cheese’s universal appeal, we asked some of our favourite chefs, cheese experts and food personalities to share their thoughts on the sandwich.

Michael Simpson Leslieville Cheese Market

Photo courtesy of CheeseLover.ca

Michael Simpson
Michael is owner of Toronto’s Leslieville Cheese Market East and West (one of our favorite places in the city if we’re in the hunt for a good grilled cheese!), and co-owner of Leslieville Cheese Market North in Flesherton.

What’s your favorite place in Toronto to get a grilled cheese?
Aside from our own grilled cheese, of course! The grilled cubano sandwich at Delux Restaurant on Ossington is fantastic, with a few kinds of ham and a few kinds of cheese.

Describe your most memorable grilled cheese experience (a memory from your childhood, or a grilled cheese you had somewhere, or something you created yourself).
My mum used to make what we called mousetraps – a slice of white bread with a slice of processed  cheese, baked in the oven. Bacon or tomato made it extra special. We used to watch it grill until the cheese turned dark brown on top. Ketchup on the side, of course. These days we would have to dress up the name and call them “open-faced grilled cheese mousetraps.”

If you were to make yourself a grilled cheese today, what would be on it? (kinds of cheese, other ingredients, if any)
Actually, I’ve been into sweet grilled cheeses lately. I had a tip from a friend who recommended cream cheese mixed with strawberry jam, then grilled with Nutella. It’s fantastic. We tried it at the Cheese Market. People were intrigued, but still ordered the tried and true savoury options, so, sadly we gave up on the Nutella grilled cheese.

Anthony Rose Drake Hotel

Anthony Rose
Anthony is chef at The Drake Hotel, which regular readers of Communal Table will know is one of our top picks in Toronto for great food, drinks and live entertainment.

What’s your favourite place in Toronto to get a grilled cheese?
The pressed cubano at Delux on Ossington.  Cubano yes, grilled cheese deluxe absolutely!

Describe your most memorable grilled cheese experience.
My chef de cuisine’s Aunt Dot used Kraft singles, white bread and covered the sandwich in Campbell’s cream of celery soup. It’s amazing.

If you were to make yourself a grilled cheese today, what would be on it?
Heirloom tomatoes, really old cheddar and bacon, with ketchup on the side.

Stephen Gouzopoulos L'Unita

Stephen Gouzopoulos
Stephen is head chef at the popular Toronto Italian restaurant L’Unita.

What’s your favourite place in Toronto to get a grilled cheese?
My mother’s house.

Describe your most memorable grilled cheese experience.
My mother’s grilled cheese is without a doubt the most memorable. Simple and clean: buttered whole wheat bread and aged cheddar cheese. Often accompanied by a bowl of her fantastic home made tomato soup. Reminds me of summers off in grade school. Too bad that doesn’t happen anymore. I would love a summer off!

If you were to make yourself a grilled cheese today, what would be on it?
Sourdough bread, aged white cheddar, Berkshire bacon and red onion, with a cold Duggan’s #9 IPA.

Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs
Georgs, a journalist with a passion for cheese, runs the blog CheeseLover.ca and is founder and director of the Great Canadian Cheese Festival, which will make its debut at the Crystal Palace in Prince Edward County, Ontario on June 4-5, 2011.

What’s your favorite place in Toronto to get a grilled cheese?
Leslieville Cheese Market makes a grilled cheese worth driving into Toronto for. (I live out in the boonies.)

Describe your most memorable grilled cheese experience.
Significant Other and I were cruising on a chartered trawler yacht in southwest Florida. We dropped the anchor in a pretty cove for lunch one day and she knocked my socks off (Actually, put me in bad need of a nap) with the combination of creamy camembert, sharp cheddar and tangy blue on a light rye with caraway – buttered as if there were no tomorrow.

If you were to make yourself a grilled cheese today, what would be on it?
Unsalted butter is the secret to making the best grilled cheese sandwiches. From the look of what’s in our cheese bin today, I’d go with Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar seasoned with Le Bleu d’Élizabeth on a caraway rye.

Christine Cushing

Christine Cushing
Christine, one of Canada’s best known food personalities, hosts Fearless in the Kitchen on OWN.

What’s your favorite place in Toronto to get a grilled cheese?
If I want a grilled cheese I usually make it myself.

Describe your most memorable grilled cheese experience.
The grilled cheese always takes me back to being a kid and coming home from school. My dad would always make me the simple white bread grilled cheese for lunch and that’s the first thing we cooked together. He would show me how to flip it in the pan without using a spatula, so I have great memories of that.

If you were to make yourself a grilled cheese today, what would be on it?
The best grilled cheese ever is one I made myself and it was on an epsisode of Christine Cushing Live. I was brainstorming with the whole cooking team. The recipe came together with us all just throwing ideas back and forth. It’s not traditional in any way and I only make it when fresh Greek figs are in season. It starts with Italian or French rustic bread, shaved parmigiano reggiano, ultra thin slices of prosciutto di Parma and Greek figs tossed in olive oil and a drizzle of Greek thyme honey. I fry it in olive oil until crisp on the outside. The combination of sweet crunchy figs, salty prosciutto and parmigiano is enough to make me cry. Just saying…

 

Christine was kind enough to share the recipe for her amazing grilled cheese sandwich with us. She says Greek thyme honey (sometimes called Greek amber honey) can be purchased at any Greek specialty store and some Longo’s locations. She adds that any honey can be substituted, though the flavour of course won’t be exactly the same.

4 slices Ciabatta bread, about 3/4-inch thick
4 slices prosciutto di Parma
4 slices soft Italian Asiago cheese
2 slices shaved Grana Padano cheese
4 fresh figs, quartered
2 tbsp. good quality honey
4 tbsp. olive oil

Heat 1 tbsp. oil in a medium nonstick skillet on medium-high heat. Add the figs and sauté about 1 minute or until starting to turn golden in colour. Add honey and toss to coat. Continue sautéing for about 30 seconds or until caramelized.  Set aside to cool.

On 1 slice of the ciabatta layer 1 slice of Asiago, 1 slice of prosciutto, 1 slice of Grana Padano, and half the figs.  Then add 1 more slice of prosciutto and one more slice of Asiago. Top with another slice of ciabatta bread. Brush both sides of the panino with olive oil.  Repeat to make one more panino.

Heat a nonstick skillet on medium heat. Add the panini and cook, pressing lightly with a spatula, for 2 to 3 minutes per side or until golden and the cheese is melted. Serve. Makes 2 grilled cheese sandwiches.

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3 Responses to “Talking Grilled Cheese”

  1. Jacquelyn April 16, 2011 at 12:23 pm #

    I love this post- thanks for the info and recipes! Can’t wait to try them 🙂
    ~Jacquelyn

  2. Rafael July 25, 2013 at 6:32 am #

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Win Passes to the First Great Canadian Cheese Festival! « Communal Table - May 1, 2011

    […] While we’ve always had a wide array of great cheeses, we haven’t had an event focused solely on Canada’s artisan cheesemakers and their products – until now. The first Great Canadian Cheese Festival will take place June 4-5, 2011 in Picton, Ont. The festival is the brainchild of journalist, blogger and cheese lover Georgs Kolesnikovs (whose comments you might remember from our recent post celebrating Grilled Cheese Month). […]

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