I was recently perusing the online menus of restaurants near my work, trying to quiet my hunger, when something jumped out at me – “best ever slow-cooked grilled cheese”. Ummm, what? What in the world is a slow cooked grilled cheese, how does it differ from how I normally make grilled cheese, and why had nobody ever told me about this?
According to my research, all that makes it a “slow-cooked” grilled cheese is that it takes 15 minutes to come to the table. Generally when I make grilled cheese at home I take about 10 to 12 minutes, so really no revelation there. They use three cheeses (and a lot of them), including one called “dry jack”. Back to feeling out of the loop. Apparently dry jack was created in the 50’s, before the proliferation of modern refrigeration, as an alternative to monterey jack that could stand to be left out in the summer. It has a texture like parmesan and a sweet flavor.
They also include a seasonal fruit mostarda on the sandwich, which intrigued me. I haven’t ever been one to really love fruit condiments on savory food, but ever since I tried the duck and pork belly sausage from SF Cajun Co. that they serve with fig preserves and whole grain mustard I haven’t been able to get that combo out of the back of my mind.
All of this is just a long winded way of explaining how I got to this delicious grilled cheese sandwich. Using fresh levain bread, we spread some fig butter on one side and whole grain mustard on the other. We’re using syrah-soaked toscano and a gouda/parmesan blend as the cheese here and adding a layer of arugula to the middle, which will wilt as we cook the sandwich. In a cast iron skillet (for even heat distribution) we grill the sandwich over medium-low heat, hopefully getting about 7 minutes per side without burning. Cut it diagonally and you have perfection.
What we end up with isn’t the “best ever” grilled cheese – that’s far too subjective – but I’ll be damned if it isn’t in the top 3. The bread has a perfectly buttery and crunchy exterior. Inside, the cheeses are salty and gooey with a nutty flavor profile which pairs perfectly with the deep flavor of the fig butter and sharpness of the mustard. I preferred mine with an extra dollop of mustard on the side to pick up the flavor a bit more.
- Butter, room temperature
- Good bread, such as pain au levain
- Fig butter or preserves
- Whole grain mustard
- Toscano cheese
- Gouda/parmesan blend cheese, or both separately
- Baby arugula
- Slice your bread and grate the cheese. You want to grate enough to have an even proportion of each type.
- Preheat a heavy cast iron pan over medium heat. We don’t want it too hot since we want to grill the sandwich slowly to get it evenly browned all across.
- Butter the outside of each slice of bread. Then smear a layer of mustard on one of the insides and a layer of fig butter on the other inside.
- Put one slice of bread in the pan, butter side down. Sprinkle half the cheese over the bread, then add a handful of arugula and then sprinkle the other half of the cheese and top with the other slice of bread, butter side up. Cook the sandwich for about 7 minutes, or until golden brown, turning down the heat if it seems to be cooking too fast. Flip and toast the other side until golden brown.
- Feel free to use any combination of cheese that you like. Just be sure that there's one that will melt well to hold it all together.