Tuesday, December 22, 2015

grilled-cheese debate: redux

Remember that long-ago debate on this blog about what a true grilled-cheese sandwich (or just "a grilled cheese") is? No higher an authority than Serious Eats sides with my definition. Read the article and weep, you narrow-minded purists. For those too damn lazy to click the link, here's the essential part:

A Grilled Cheese Must...

- be a closed sandwich, griddled on both sides.
- have cheese as the primary ingredient. Other ingredients can complement the cheese, but none may overwhelm it.
- be made with sliced bread. Thus a sandwich made with whole, crust-on loaves like a panino or a Cubano do not qualify.
- be served hot all the way through, with the cheese thoroughly melted.
- be cooked on a flat, greased surface until golden brown. In extreme circumstances it may be cooked on an outdoor grill over an open fire. A grilled cheese may never be baked or deep-fried.

So let us have none of this misguided literalist nonsense about how a true grilled-cheese sandwich absolutely must be made on a grill—and none of this hysterical bullshit about how meat or vegetables within the grilled cheese make it cease to be a grilled cheese. Of course, you're perfectly welcome to persist in your delusion, but Serious Eats is yet another data point (of many already-quoted data points) in my favor. Deny reality at your peril.



The Maximum Leader said...

I believe the real key here is the second point. Other ingredients may compliment but not overwhelm the cheese. My contention would be that the addition of other ingredients moves the cheese to a secondary status. Thus making the sandwich a "grilled (something) and cheese sandwich."

For example. I have two slices of bread, two slices of individually wrapped "American" cheese, and two slices of regular bacon. (By regular bacon I mean what Brits and Aussies call "streaky bacon" out of a package the slices of which are about 1/4 inch thick and about 10-12 inches long.) If I were to assemble these ingredients into a sandwich I would most likely break the cooked bacon slices into pieces to evenly distribute them around the sandwich. I then grill the sandwich. I contend that the sandwich I've just created is a "grilled bacon & cheese" sandwich." The salty porcine goodness of the bacon becomes the first flavor you get with each bite. One can argue that the cheese might be the first texture one gets, but the cheese is the secondary player there.

Now one could substitute something like stilton into this example and have a different outcome. The stilton could still be the primary flavor you get in tasting the sandwich. I can't imagine making such a sandwich, but it is possible.

Bratfink said...

OMG! The thing is, a good grilled cheese should contain some char on the SLICED bread.

Now I'm all hungry. :-/

Charles said...

I look at it this way: If I say to a friend, "Hey, you want a grilled cheese sandwich?" and then I fix them a sandwich, they should not be thinking, 'Wait, why is there bacon in my grilled cheese sandwich?' Maybe they keep kosher, or only eat halal. That would kind of suck.

It's not that adding bacon makes it cease to be a grilled cheese sandwich. It's just that calling it a "grilled bacon and cheese" sandwich is more accurate. Rectification of names and all that.

I will agree that the line can be fuzzy (similar to the old problem of when a bunch of grains of sand become a "pile," etc.), but I generally distinguish between two types of grilled cheese. There is the type mentioned by our Maximum Leader above, which is a "grilled (something) and cheese." Then there is the type that I would call "grilled cheese with (something)." The former I would not serve to a friend and tell them that it was simply a grilled cheese, but the latter I might.

(As an example of the latter, there's a cheese shop in NY (Beecher's) that sells grilled cheese sandwiches. They have this one sandwich with sharp cheddar and fig jam that is awesome. This is the sort of thing I might serve to a friend and call "grilled cheese." Honey & mustard is another favorite condiment combination of mine.)

I don't want to speak for everyone here, but as far as I'm concerned, having another dominant element in the sandwich doesn't make it not a grilled cheese, it makes it not just a grilled cheese. Surely we can come to some agreement on this point, no? I mean, we really need to get to work on world peace, so I feel like we have to get this issue out of the way.