July 8, 2013 Comments Off on grilled cheese
L and I have been–obsessively–watching David Chang’s “Mind of a Chef” on Netflix. It’s the best food TV there is–maybe the best TV there is. Chang comes off as a kind of overgrown frat boy, but behind the exhortations to “crush it, dude!” there’s a lot of genuine thought about the food he makes at Momofuku and that he appreciates elsewhere. Which is mostly Japan.
We watched the episode “Simple” last night, and in it one of Japan’s leading yakitori chefs explained that his customers don’t want to be surprised, necessarily. They’ve chosen to have yakitori for dinner, they’ve chosen his place, they know what they want. His job, he felt, was to give them what they wanted, but to make the best possible yakitori–and to maybe rise above it just a little bit.
That kind of rings true with the simple stuff I’ve tried to get my head around. Pizza–making the perfect pizza margherita is impossible, but getting as close as you can and trying some variation here and there is immensely rewarding. Same goes for mac’n’cheese. And then there’s C’s daily lunch. “What do you want for lunch,” I’ll yell up the stairs, knowing full well what the answer is.
“Grilled cheese?” he’ll always ask, his voice rising as if, this one day out of hundreds, that won’t be possible.
J. Lopez Kenji-Alt had a good primer on the ultimate grilled cheese back in April, the gist of which was that you’re insane if you just put a piece of cheese between two slices of white bread, chuck it in a skillet, and hope for the best. The bread insulates the cheese, the center never gets crispy, you’re missing out on the mouthfeel of a totally crisped pair of bread slices. What he recommends is grilling the bread first, then adding the cheese to the toasted sides of the bread, putting the raw sides back into a re-buttered skillet, and grilling until well browned.
Et voila. Does it help that I made a loaf of buttery brioche with the leftover from the turkeyburger buns? Absolutely. This is the best stuff in the world to make grilled cheeses with. The fat in the bread helps it brown up nicely, and if you make it light enough, it has an english-muffin-like propensity to soak up the butter in the pan. I use Organic Valley american cheese slices, which aren’t as salty (i.e., good) as Kraft, but C understands the concession, there. And if you use two of them on top of one another, you get the perfect ratio of bread to cheese goo.
A nice, light crunch on the outside, and a similar crunch on the inside just before your teeth hit the cheese. C is usually a 2/3 sandwich eater, but ever since the double-grilled technique hit the table, there’s never been more than a crust that’s come back to the kitchen.
Simple. Tending toward perfect.