The Best Grilled Cheese

grilled cheese with comte, thyme & shallots

Grilled cheese, like pancakes, has always troubled me in the kitchen. Without fail, the bread burns before the cheese melts. Various techniques employed over the years have improved the final product slightly, but not so much as to leave me satisfied. So when I read the r.s.v.p. section of the September Bon Appetit, which supplied a recipe for a gruyère grilled cheese from L.A.’s Lucques, I couldn’t wait to get in the kitchen.

The recipe calls for crisping country white bread slices in a skillet on one side before topping them with cheese and sautéed shallots. The open-faced halves finish cooking in the oven before being pressed together into a traditional sandwich.

It almost pains me that such a simple technique produces such a brilliant result: perfectly golden bread flanking perfectly melty cheese. Why could I have not figured this technique out on my own? Like 10 years ago? Such a find would have prevented years of shame and embarrassment and the inevitable self-questioning after every failed grilled cheese attempt: Who doesn’t know how to make a grilled cheese sandwich?

Ahhh. This discovery made my week. I can finally check “learn how to make a grilled cheese sandwich” off my bucket list and focus on other pressing matters, like “learn how to make pancakes” … if only Lucques served brunch.

One final note: This technique would work very well for making grilled cheese for a crowd. All of the bread slices could be browned ahead of time (which would be the only time-consuming step), and the open-faced sandwiches, which cook in 8 minutes, could all be assembled on a sheet pan until game time. Lucques serves this grilled cheese with an apple and arugula salad, the perfect complement to a perfect fall meal. Perfect.

grilled cheese with comte, thyme & shallots

ingredients

ingredients

Sautéed in butter with fresh thyme, these shallots might just be the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten:
sautéed shallots with thyme

bread toasting in cast iron

butter-toasted bread slices

bread, cheese, shallots

Grilled Cheese with Apple Salad
Source: Bon Appétit
Makes 2 sandwiches

Notes: I did not make the apple salad, though next time I make this grilled cheese, I definitely will — it sounds like the perfect complement for such a sandwich. Also, I went with about 2 oz. of cheese per sandwich, though I can’t imagine 4 oz being so bad. Finally, I cooked the shallots on medium to medium-low heat, which allowed me not to have to stir constantly.

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
3/4 cup 1/4-inch-thick sliced shallots
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 1/2-inch-thick slices country-style white bread
8 ounces Gruyère, (I used Comté) sliced 1/8-inch thick

2 cups arugula
1/2 apple (such as Pink Lady or Fuji), cut into 1/4-inch slices
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 400°. Heat 2 Tbsp. butter in a small saucepan over high heat. (Note: I cooked my shallots over medium to medium-low heat.) When butter begins to foam, add shallots and thyme; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring continuously (or, if the heat is on a lower temperature, stir every so often) with a wooden spoon or spatula, until shallots begin to soften and caramelize, 4–5 minutes; remove from heat and set aside. (Note: Try hard to refrain from spooning all of the shallots into your mouth. They are incredibly delicious, but especially delicious atop melted cheese.)

2. Heat a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Working in 2 batches, add 1 Tbsp. butter and swirl in pan to melt butter and coat bottom of pan. Add 2 slices of bread to pan and cook until golden brown and crisp on the bottom, 2–3 minutes. Transfer bread, toasted side down, to a rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with remaining butter and bread slices. Divide cheese evenly among bread slices; top cheese with reserved shallots.

3. Place baking sheet in oven and bake until cheese is melted, 7–8 minutes.

4. Combine arugula, apple slices, lemon juice, and oil in a large bowl; toss to coat and evenly distribute. Season salad to taste with salt and pepper.

5. Press 2 pieces of bread together, melted cheese sides in; halve sandwich on a diagonal and place on a plate. Repeat with remaining bread slices. Divide salad between plates.

melted cheese


11. September 2012 by Alexandra Stafford
Categories: Entrees, Fall, Lunch, Vegetarian | 31 comments


Comments (31)

  1. This looks absolutely delicious! I can’t wait to try it out!

  2. The real question here is…is an open faced grilled cheese better than closed? Open should win. It feels like you’re enjoying double the fun.

    • TheDuo — I do love an open-faced sandwich, especially one in this genre. We used to spread English muffins with yellow mustard (French’s), top it with diced raw onions, top it with grated cheese and fresh cracked pepper. Broiled until melted, these open-faced sandwiches were the best!

  3. THis is not a recipe I can resist. I think I will try it with some Canadian Oka since it melts so well.

  4. Looking this recipe over, it came to me…..why not slice and dice some of the apple and sauté it in the pan with the shallots? I think I’m going to give it a try!

  5. This looks fantastic! Early on in the relationship, my bf impressed me with quite a few grilled cheese sandwiches. His technique was to brown the bread, set up the sandwich, and melt the cheese by placing it all in the oven. Always turned out great!

    We now sometimes make one with slices of pear in it, an idea we got from a local restaurant. So good!

  6. My new favorite version came from a Food52er who adapted it from a truck somewhere in Connecticut — it features sticking a sage leaf into the butter on the outside of each side; pan frying and then when both sides are done, sprinkling with a bit of grated parmesan and toasting that for a minute or two repeated on the second side. It is crisp, cheesy and the sage is fabulous. Done on relatively low heat, the cheese melts just fine…I’ve used goat gouda, comte, cheddar with equal melting success. (I’m partial to the comte…) I’ve been eating these for a couple of weeks with homemade roasted tomato soup. Perfection…

    Love the idea of the shallots! Will be trying this soon!

  7. I never thought about browning the bread first and then baking it in the oven to melt the cheese… what a genius idea. It would really work for any sort of warm toasty sandwich. I’m excited to try it!

  8. Wow. I wouldn’t have figured this technique out on my own either. Thanks for sharing! Agree it would be great with Oka (and hope you can find it down there), but I will try it with the Comte first.
    And good luck with the pancakes :)
    (I gave up on them and just make waffles all the time instead, hehe.)

  9. I love this post and I love all the amazing ideas in the comments; apples & shallots, open grilled cheese, sage grilled cheese, double toasted. YUM. It looks like you’ve conquered your fear, time for pancakes!

  10. So I thought that I knew how to make grilled cheese, I mean it seems to work the way I’ve always done it, but you just rocked my world! I love how simple this technique is and especially how it would work for a crowd. Plus, melty gruyère gets me everytime!

  11. I am salivating over your pics. And I just had dinner! This looks so yum.

  12. Gruyère, thyme & shallots = grilled cheese swoon! Must try this ASAP!

    My family’s favorite grilled cheese is my Smoked Gouda on Sourdough. Smoked Gouda doesn’t melt super quickly, so I keep the heat med-low and cover the pan with a lid to lock in as much heat as possible to speed up the melting before the bread has a chance to burn.

  13. I saw this in Bon Appetit and thought it sounded like a winner. You have now showed us that it is!

  14. That is exactly what I want to eat!

  15. Yummmmmy. Just had this sucker for dinner. Delish. I already washed up the pans but I’m tempted to bust them all out again and make a second.

  16. OK just made and consumed a second one. Wow. I think maybe one was the better choice. I don’t regret it though.

    • Bates, are you serious?! You are hilarious. I made them for the Staffords on their last night here. We ate very slowly so we could savor every bite. Aren’t they so good? Something about the thyme and the cheese together, and the bread is just so perfectly crisp.

  17. Thank you for this truly fabulous grilled cheese recipe. My husband and I ate them last week and tonight we will have them again. They make grilled cheese seem so glamorous when paired with a knockout glass of wine and a salad. Thank you for all your inspiring recipes.

  18. This looks utterly amazing… I can’t stop redaing in your blog!

  19. I made the delicious bread, then made a grilled cheese with swiss cheese and sauteed onions and mushrooms. My husband said it was the best grilled cheese he’d ever had, which is huge since he runs a blog all about cheesey thing. Thank you so much for these two recipes! I’m going through the rest of them now :)

    • This makes me so happy! I truly think the method is the best way to make a grilled cheese. I absolutely love it. So, you made the peasant bread? Love the idea of adding sautéed onions and mushrooms. And what’s your husband’s blog? I’d love to check it out. So happy he approves of the grilled cheese.

  20. looks so delicious.. I have a question though.. I know the recipe says thyme but the herbs in the photo look like rosemary to me.. is it thyme or rosemary that goes in the sandwich?

  21. One other easy way to get perfectly crispy bread making grilled cheese the traditional pan fry way……”Butter” your bread with a thin coat of mayonaise instead. It doesn’t alter the flavor at all and its golden brown and crispy every time.

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