Grilled cheese, quite possibly the ultimate comfort food, is largely enjoyed by those who give in to pleasure and sinful indulgence, without pretense or taking themselves too seriously. Those are character traits that can serve us well in another area of life: Research has indicated a lover of grilled cheese tends to enjoy a better sex life.
“The type of people who make, order and love grilled cheese are the same type of person who doesn’t take themselves too seriously. People who don’t take themselves too seriously are often dynamite in the sack. This is a fact because I take nothing seriously and I love grilled cheese,” says Sandwich King Jeff Mauro of Food Network’s The Kitchen. Sounds about right.
If the domain of our sex lives becomes dependent on simply enjoying more of an equally sexy sandwich, we’re all about doing it right.
The secret to a great grilled cheese is heat control, says Mauro. “First, never just plop down butter onto a hot pan, this will cause the butter to burn. Spread your bread evenly with salted butter (crust to crust is must!). Second, heat up a quality, heavy, non-stick pan to only medium heat,” says Mauro. Third, the time-tested diner trick of “domeing” with a metal bowl is also a must, Mauro says. This promotes even heating giving you that perfect blend of gooey centers and golden brown exteriors.
Pay attention to proportions
“One mistake I see a lot in the sandwich world is a lack of consideration when it comes proportions,” says Stephen Cusato, a food stylist and recipe developer formerly of FOODfreaks, a specialty grilled cheese vendor in New York City. This means if your bread is cut too thick, or if you have too much or too little cheese, you run the risk of drowning out all the flavors you’re trying to achieve, says Cusato. “Paying attention to this helps craft a better sandwich, one where all the ingredients don’t instantly fall out of the back upon first bite. Making sure there is the right amount of each ingredient, cut the right way, assembled in a particular order, that to me is what sets a sandwich apart,” says Cusato.
Obviously, all the ingredients, regardless of proportions should be quality. “Even a novice palate can taste the different between a good cheese and a bad cheese, good quality bread versus bad. So by finding the best bread you can, or the bread you like best and going to your favorite cheese shop and getting the a full flavored cheddar or whatever you are looking for, you’re well on you’re way to a good sandwich,” says Cusato.
When enjoying grilled cheese, the cheese is clearly the star of the show. Your sexiest sandwich will likely involve your favorite cheese. “You want to choose a semi-hard cheese, because if the cheese is too soft, it will just ooze out of the sides of the bread when you bite into it,” says Chef Craig Kuhns from Nose Dive, a gastropub in Greenville, SC. This is one of the reasons that cheeses like cheddar and Swiss are so popular for grilled cheese. The ideal bread will complement your chosen cheese. Make sure you don’t pick bread that’s too thick –remember your proportions. You want to have a nice bread/cheese ratio.
Ziggy “Deli Man” Gruber of Kenny & Ziggy’s New York Delicatessen Restaurant in Houston – a third generation deli man from NYC and the central figure in the new national documentary “Deli Man” – loves grilled cheese and has a Build-Your-Own Gourmet Grilled Cheese section on his menu. If he wants to get jiggy with it, Gruber makes a grilled cheese with very thick-cut challah bread, lots of smoked gouda, a generous layer crisp bacon, sliced tomato and some caramelized onions. But he also loves a “simple” grilled cheese with rye and American cheese. He says the rye takes on the butter very well and gets a nice caramelization and has nice salty love to it. The edges give a crispy crunch they you have the molten middle.
There are few do’s and don'ts when it comes to bread, says Gruber. “You want it satisfying so if it feels good, lay it out. Some people like dark bread so they pick up dark pumpernickel. Some people like white so they hit on Challah. Some people like something in between so you see them running around with rye or wheat. Gluten free, that’s a whole ‘nother chapter!” Gruber says.
Jeff Mauro’s Short "Ribbed for her Pleasure” Grilled Cheese
4 English cut bone-in short ribs
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, smashed
2 yellow onions, roughly chopped
1-tablespoon tomato paste
2 cups dry red wine
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
8 slices of buttered Pullman bread
4 cups grated butterkase cheese
Pickled red onions & fresnos
Honey Horseradish Dipping Sauce
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
Liberally sprinkle all sides of the short ribs with salt and pepper. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add the oil. Sear the short ribs on all sides until browned, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Once seared, set aside on a plate. Add the carrots, garlic and onions to the pot with the short rib drippings and season with some salt and pepper. Cook the vegetables until they turn golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Add in the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute more. Add the wine and deglaze the pot, scraping up any developed fond (all the delicious brown bits) from the bottom. Bring the wine to a simmer and season with some salt and pepper. Add the thyme, bay leaf and short ribs and any leftover juices from the plate the short ribs were resting on. Cover the pot and transfer to the oven until the meat is fork tender, 2 to 2 ½ hours. Turn the short ribs one time during the cooking process after about 1 hour of cooking.
Once the short ribs are tender, remove them from the braising liquid and set aside to cool. Skim the fat off the top of the braising liquid. Then strain the liquid through a fine mesh sieve and bring to a simmer until it is reduced by half, about 8 minutes (to yield about 2/3 cup of reduced sauce).
Pull the meat by hand, removing any large chunks of tough fat. Store in cooled, reduced braising liquid.
Heat a griddle or non-stick skillet to medium heat. Build sandwich with layer of butterkase, then layer of braised shortrib, layer of onions and then layer of cheddar. Griddle both buttered sides until golden and melty. If necessary, cover with a metal bowl to help circulate the warm air and melt the interior. Serve with honey horseradish dipping sauce.
Pickled red onions & fresnos:
¾ cup white wine vinegar
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon mustard seed
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 small red onion, sliced thin
1 fresno chile, julienned
Bring vinegar, water, leaf, mustard seed, sugar and salt in a small saucepan to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Pour hot liquid over onions & peppers in a bowl or container. Cool, then refrigerate.
Honey Horseradish Dipping Sauce
½ cup sour cream
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Let is sit for 20 minutes.
By Aly Walansky
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