What could be more comforting—and more American—than the good-old grilled cheese sandwich? For nearly a century, grilled cheese has been a mainstay of schoolchildren and those in need of an ooey, gooey haven in which to disappear. Often teamed up with a bowl of tomato soup, the grilled cheese has been elevated to a spot near the top of the comfort food chart. Yet grilled cheese has also suffered disrespect from those in the gourmet community. Too mushy. Greasy. Too fattening. Flaccid bread, and flavorless cheese. And oh, if you cook it wrong, if you don’t have the timing involved, it becomes a charred, ruined mess at the bottom of your skillet.
True, a perfectly turned-out grilled cheese sandwich requires a quick wrist and savvy timing in order to coincide perfectly melted-all-the-way-through cheese, and golden, not black, toast. But recently, grilled cheese has grown up. It’s shunned the need for its tomato soup sidekick and emboldened itself.
The Woodstock Farmers’ Market in Vermont offers a version of grilled cheese that has been hailed by some as the as the best grilled cheese sandwich in New England.
Called the “Quechee Gorge,” it is comprised of fresh ingredients found at the market, which combines a store and restaurant. Here are the ingredients for assembling this amazing three-cheese sandwich, named for the river gorge located 10 miles east of Woodstock.
Quechee Gorge Grilled Cheese
- 2 slices parrano cheese
- 2 slices Italian provolone
- 2 slices Vermont cheddar, or any sharp cheddar
- 1 Tb. coarse grain mustard (preferably with honey)
- 2 slices hothouse tomatoes (room temperature)
- 2 slices focaccia
- 3 Tb. butter (not margarine)
Assemble sandwich first by spreading both slices of focaccia with the mustard. Place one slice of tomato on the inside of the bread slice. Place cheese slices on bread, alternating between kinds of cheese, finishing up with last slice of tomato. Top with remaining focaccia slice.
Heat a skillet, preferably cast iron, and add butter. Do not let butter burn. Maintain steady heat and make sure skillet is properly coated with melted butter. Place sandwich in pan, and press down with spatula to fry bread. Keep the skillet hot but not at burning point. Continue to apply pressure with spatula until bottom layers of cheese begin to melt. Flip sandwich over and repeat until all cheese has melted. Be sure to not let focaccia burn, but make sure it has a nice, golden toastiness. Serve immediately.
“Our kitchen staff takes loving care of that sandwich, ” Woodstock Market proprietor Patrick Crowl says. “The secret is enough time on the grill—and plenty of butter.”
For those in search of a more traditional version of the good-old American grilled cheese, Pickle Packers International in Washington, D.C. shared a recipe that doesn’t stray far from the familiar—yet it includes their condiment of choice: pickles. They recommend cutting the sandwiches into triangles to up the “fun” factor.
Dilled Grilled Cheese Sandwich
- 8 slices whole wheat bread
- 8 slices low-fat American cheese product
- 12 sliced-lengthwise sandwich pickles
Using four slices of bread, layer each with a slice of cheese, three long pickle slices, and another slice of cheese. Top each with remaining bread slices. Cook over medium heat in non-stick skillet or griddle 1 to 2 minutes until bread is toasted on both sides and cheese is melted. Serves 4.