How to make Opulent Grilled Cheese with Kelsey Youngman | Food & Wine Cooks

Inspired by Margaret Eby's love of Zabar's in New York City, the combination of creamy, silky Taleggio and nutty aged Gruyère cheeses in these small but decadent sandwiches results in the perfect melt, with plenty of flavor.

Video Transcript


KELSEY YOUNGMAN: Now grilled cheese is normally a delicious, homey, comfort food made with simple ingredients. And those are wonderful sandwiches. But today we're going to do something a little special. We have a collection of ingredients from a lovely, local market, Zabar's. And we're going to do the most flavorful, most delicious, cheese board in a sandwich, opulent grilled cheese.


OK. So we have our beautiful ingredients here. But before we even dive into those, right behind me I have a cast iron pan getting nice and hot. It's just on a medium flame, nothing too high. Cast iron is a wonderful material for cooking because it retains heat really well. But it takes a while to get there.

So to start off, I'm going to prepare my cheeses. And I have a blend here of two. We have really nutty, sweet, delicious Gruyere. We're going to shred this. And it's going to get melty, but it's going to retain some sharpness and flavor. Just using the large side of a box grater here, I like these larger shreds. They definitely melt while the sandwich is cooking. But they retain a little shape and texture.

And now my Taleggio. This is what's called a soft-rind cheese. So it literally has this, like, soft, stinky, slightly sticky rind. I'm going to cut off the rind and just leave myself with this really creamy, delicious cheese, cut it into planks so I can divide it between my sandwiches. Now I'm going to prepare our strawberry jelly mixture-- strawberry jam mixture-- excuse me.

Now you might think this is a little strange for a grilled cheese. But think back to that cheese board we were talking about. This is the fruity, acidic, sweet mixture that's going to balance the richness of the cheese. And it's going to be helped along by some capers. We're just going to take a few teaspoons and mash them into our jam. This keeps it from being too sweet and buttery and rich with the strawberries and the cheese, adds a little sharp acid, a little bit of salt.

Now think of this as, like, the pickle in your cheese board. It's that salty bite that lets you keep eating cheese because it's a little palate refresher. Now my bread. I'm using this beautiful, seeded, rye sour dough. And you notice they're kind of smaller slices. So it's a lot of rich flavor. And we just need a slightly smaller sandwich.

I'm going to take some butter. And I'm going to spread one side of each piece of bread. This will get me that beautiful, even, golden brown crust when I cook these. You don't need too much butter, but just the exterior side of each slice. My bread is buttered, ready to spread my toppings. So first I'm going to divide my creamy Taleggio between my two sandwiches and then my beautiful jam mixture.

This is not only adding a ton of flavor, but it helps the shreds of Gruyere stick to the sandwich. It's a little sandwich construction glue. I'll just use my spoon to spread it out evenly. And then I will do my shreds of Gruyere, divided between each sandwich. This is so good. You could almost eat it without grilling it. But who doesn't want melted cheese?

And then top and smoosh, top and smoosh. So I'm over at my stove with my nicely preheated cast iron pan. It's been on medium heat, so it's pretty warm but not scorching.


Do you hear that? That's the butter hitting the hot pan. The moisture in the butter is evaporating, causing that sizzle-- so good. Oh my gosh, I can smell the melted butter! OK. I'm going to push down the sandwiches, good contact with the pan. We get that golden crust. Smell the delicious butter and cheese melting. All right. They're ready to flip. They're getting nice and golden brown on one side.

Look at that beautiful color. That's from that delicious spread of butter. Yum. Ooh, some of the delicious jam melted through, got a little caramelized. I'm going to squish them down again-- felt that ooey-gooey cheese spread evenly everywhere. Just another three minutes and they'll be ready.

So at "Food and Wine" in the office or the virtual office, we talk a lot about food and our favorite places to buy it, which often are local groceries. One around New York is Zabar's, which is an Upper West Side community staple. And Margaret Eby, who wrote a beautiful ode to that particular market, she and I wanted to collaborate on this really special sandwich.

Ooh, we're getting, like, delicious pools of cheese melting into the pan, getting nice and crispy. So I have decided to dress up a little today. I don't normally cook in a dress and pearls. But an opulent sandwich calls for a little opulence in the kitchen.

I think these are perfect. I'm going to slide them out of the pan onto my cutting board. So all I can smell right now is melted butter and cheese. And I just want to eat all of these. [LAUGHS]


You hear that crispy crunch, that ooey-gooey cheese. Oh, it's, like, pouring out of the sandwich in a way that is so enticing. So you have the flecks of strawberries and capers, a ton of melted Taleggio and Gruyere, and a super but not greasy-- just super buttery-- crispy bread. So the only thing I really need with this delicious, decadent, opulent sandwich is a glass of champagne. I have rose champagne here. It's going to match the fruitiness, the sweetness, the buttery-briochey flavors really well.


Beautiful. OK. Now most importantly, I'm going to go right for the center, for the ooeyest-gooeyest cheese.


Mm. It's creamy and cheesy and a little salty and briny from the capers. The sweetness of the strawberries comes through. But the caraway seeds in the bread get nice and toasty in the pan. It really blooms their flavor-- so good and little crispy bits of cheese along the edge.

I think this is the perfect cheese board in a sandwich. Feel free to embrace the opulence of this grilled cheese. And cook and dine in your formal wear. Or cook in your sweats, and make one of these. But be sure to pour a little bubbly on the side. Cheers.