2000s Recipes + Menus

Behind the Recipe: Grilled Cheese

One of our cooks describes the thinking behind her insanely delicious February cover recipe—Taleggio, onion jam, and escarole on sourdough.

We were brainstorming for the February issue, and someone said, why not a grilled cheese sandwich? I love anything with hot, oozy cheese, so I was on board. My original idea was to do a spin on the classic pairing of cheese and fruit, but the heat from the grilling could make actual fruit go watery, which I don’t like in a sandwich.

So first I tried grilled cheese with fig jam, but some of us found it a little too sweet. I moved on to onion jam; the result was balanced, and the vegetal flavor of the onions worked better with the cheese than the fruit jam had. On the first try I used a lot of onion jam, which was a mistake. The jam is much more powerful than you think, and a little goes a long way.

To balance the sweetness of the onions, I had chosen a strong, flavor-forward cheese: Taleggio, a soft Italian variety that’s assertive and a bit nutty. In the first round, the Taleggio wasn’t really ripe enough; you want a slightly gooey cheese, the consistency of a soft Brie. For the bread I went with sourdough, because I like its tanginess, especially with cheese. And finally, I wanted to add a green that could stand up to all the other bold flavors, so I chose escarole, which has a slight bitterness, and also provides some texture; it wilts as the sandwich cooks, and gets a nice char where the leaves poke out.

I just used a large heavy skillet, but you can cook it in absolutely any pan. If you have a sandwich press, that would work well too. The thing is, this is comfort food—you don’t want to get too fussy about how you make it. It’s hard to get it wrong. In the test kitchen, the samples would always disappear in two seconds. That’s the funny thing—we’re cooking all these fancy dishes, but as soon as something like this comes out, it’s gone in an instant.

Like the sound of that? Try the recipe for yourself.

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