When Rose Murray and I agreed to do two cooking demonstrations at the International Ploughing Match (IBM) that took place recently in Mitchell, Ont., we were asked to showcase recipes using corn for one, and for the second, dairy products - both important agricultural products of Perth County, host county to the IPM.
Rose picked corn, and I, dairy products. And, given I had grown up in Stratford in Perth County, I knew that for the dairy demo, it would be about cheese including Perth County Cheddar. Why not make it one of my favourite dishes – grilled cheese sandwiches!
I decided to start with the classic grilled cheese, using real cheese and good bread, like the ones I remembered from my childhood before cheese slices and squishy bread became the grilled cheese standard. It was a bright sunny, and a little chilly opening day for the IPM, but there was a good crowd in the Lifestyle Tent, sadly missing the leaders of Ontario Liberal, PC and NDP parties who must have been too busy on the other side of the IPM learning how to plough a straight furrow to enjoy a good grilled cheese.
A Really Good Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Serve with a chili sauce, salsa, or if you must, ketchup. Add potato chips if you dare.
- 4 slices whole-grain, country white or rye bread
- 2 tsp. (10 ml) Dijon or honey mustard
- 2 to 4 oz. (60 to 125 g) old Cheddar cheese or aged Gouda, thinly sliced
- 2 tsp. (10 ml) butter softened, and divided
Set bread out on a cutting board. Spread the mustard over 2 slices. Cover mustard with cheese, opting for higher amount if you’re yearning for a full grilled cheese experience, and cover each with other slice of bread. Press lightly; butter top of each sandwich with half of butter.
Place sandwich, buttered-side down on a griddle or skillet heated over medium-high heat. Butter what’s now top of sandwich with remaining butter, using an offset spatula if you have one. Cook, turning once, until bread is crusty brown, top and bottom, and cheese is oozing seductively out sides, about 6 minutes.
- Make the Really Good Grilled Cheese Sandwich, but build it up with the addition of ingredients like sliced dills, cornichons, bread-and-butter-pickles, or a scatter of diced jalapenos, pickled or fresh. Just one of these additions per sandwich, please! Or for fresh, just add quartered grape tomatoes and/or thinly sliced onion.
- Go mild and unctuous with good sourdough or egg bread, sliced Brie and cranberry sauce or a fruity chutney like peach, pear, apricot or mango are good.
- Try a pizza panini with panini buns spread with basil pesto or sun-dried tomato pesto and layered with roasted peppers, provolone cheese and salami with a few fresh basil leaves, if available. Or, go traditional with pizza sauce, pepperoni, diced green bell pepper and mozzarella.
- Layer rye bread with cream cheese, smoked salmon, very thinly sliced red onion, and capers for the full effect.
- With a little pre-cooking, enjoy a grilled cheese on focaccia featuring sauteed mushrooms (see recipe below) and sliced mild blue cheese
- Caramelized onions (see recipe below) on sourdough with sliced Oka and prosciutto or ham.
- Make any of the variations using tortillas instead of bread or buns. Quesadillas.
- For a change, choose different cheeses - for a big flavour hello, try smoked Cheddar or Gouda, or some of the cheeses flavoured with jalapeno or pepper. Or, go mild with havarti or Muenster
This makes enough for 4 sandwiches.
- 2 Tbsp. (30 ml) butter
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
- 3 cups (750 ml) sliced mushrooms (8 oz./250 g)
- Generous pinch each of salt, pepper and dried crumbled thyme
In a skillet over medium-high heat, melt butter. Add onion, garlic, mushrooms, salt, pepper and thyme. Fry, stirring constantly, until liquid that mushrooms exude has evaporated and mushrooms have softened, reduced in volume and develop a deep woodsy aroma, about 20 minutes.
This recipe also makes enough for 4 sandwiches. The onions store for up to a week in the fridge so you can enjoy a special grilled cheese more than once.
- 2 Tbsp. (30 ml) butter
- 2 large onions, halved lengthwise and very thinly sliced
- Generous pinch each granulated sugar, salt, pepper and dried crumbled basil
In a skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onions, salt, pepper and basil. Fry, stirring often, until the onions have softened, reduced in volume and become golden, about 20 minutes.