Valerie Harrison with her take on what might just be the comfort food of all comfort foods.
Text And Photo By Valerie Harrison
What is your favourite comfort food? For me it would be a toss up between my homemade macaroni and cheese from the Beechers recipe or my quest for the ooey, gooey ribbons of delectable melted cheese of the perfect grilled cheese sandwich. The latter I would make most often since it is the satisfying, back-up meal that anyone can throw together with zero time and a practically empty refrigerator. In my humble opinion the grilled cheese sandwich is the epitome of comfort foods and simplicity in cooking. It’s astounding to see what can be done with the basic staples of bread and cheese.
Crisp and crunchy on the outside, gooey and warm on the inside I don’t think there is anything more satisfying than a perfectly grilled cheese sandwich!. The key lies in the quality of the ingredients. Never has this held so true if you want to go beyond processed cheese slices and stale bread. A good grilled cheese sandwich has three very important components… bread… cheese…and butter.
The bread is the Holy Grail for the success of your sandwich. White bread has the best butter-soaking abilities of any bread I have tested, although you can substitute it for a healthier alternatives if you feel inclined. Whatever you choose it must be of the best quality that you can find. The same goes for butter; nothing beats the taste of good-quality buttery toast, but if you’re trying to keep a healthier diet, buttery spreads can often rival in taste.
The next component is the cheese. Most often I use a good quality Canadian Cheddar cheese but for an outstanding substitute why not try a Canadian Oka. This is the perfect melting cheese and will create the ooey, gooey goodness that we demand from a grilled cheese sandwich.
If any cheese is native to Canada, it’s Oka. Oka is a type of Port Salut cheese, first made in Brittany, France by the Trappist monks. To supplement their income and make the monastary self sustaining they started producing cheese in Canada. History finds that monks created some of the best cheese and wines. They are backed up by years of experience to perfect their technique! A semi-soft cow’s milk cheese that’s creamy, nutty and fruity was made by the monks in Oka, Quebec a small village situated on the north shore of the Lake of the Two Mountains, just southwest of Montréal. Oka is traditionally covered with an orange rind that’s washed in brine and aged on cypress wood planks. In 1974, Agropur, Canada’s largest cheese cooperative bought the rights to produce Oka from the monks. Their cheese is made just down the street from the original Trappist Monk’s monastery.
You haven’t lived until you’ve added this cheese to your cheese fondue for a silky texture or tried it in a grilled cheese sandwich. The Beechers Macaroni and Cheese has spoiled me for life and no other recipe will grace my home kitchen. The secret to their dynamite “mac” is a small amount of chipotle pepper in the sauce. Why not sprinkle a little of this secret ingredient on your grilled cheese sandwich made with nutty Oka cheese for an added taste dimension. Add a garlic dill pickle on the side and you have a match made in heaven.
- Good quality bread
- Oka cheese slices
- Sprinkle of chipotle pepper
- Dill pickles
- Butter both sides of slices of bread; add a slice of your favourite cheese. I like to sprinkle the cheese with a small amount of chipotle pepper. Top with a second slice of bread.
- On a medium heat let the pan heat up for about 15 seconds then glide the sandwich into the pan.
- Next, cover the pan with a lid. Doing this helps evenly distribute the heat to the sandwich for optimum melting. Grilling the first side of your grilled cheese should only take about six minutes, but keep an eye on it depending on the heat of your stove top. No one wants a burned grilled cheese sandwich!
- When the underside of the sandwich is golden brown and the cheese is melting out the sides, turn over the sandwich and brown the other side over medium heat. The second side grills much faster than the first, 1 – 2 minutes. So stand guard! Once the second side is crisp and golden, remove it from the pan, slice your sandwich and serve with some garlic dill pickles. The combination can't be beat!!!
Valerie is the author of More Than Burnt Toast living in British Columbia, Canada. Join Valerie as she explores the worlds cuisine using local and sustainable ingredients found in the Pacific Northwest. Every day we should be inspired and excited about what we are eating even if it just means making use of a wonderful find at our local farmers market.