It’s a simple creation. All that’s needed is cheese, bread and heat. Done right, you end up with warm, gooey comfort. Done wrong, you’re left with burnt, unmelted heartbreak. Nailing down the basics of a grilled cheese sandwich is a big accomplishment. But there’s no reason to stop there. Teach your child to elevate his lunchtime favorite with some unconventional ingredients. Marc Melanson, chef and partner of the Boston-based Roxy’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese (www.roxysgrilledcheese.com), a food truck featured on the Food Network’s “Great Food Truck Race,” shows you how to perfect this sandwich:
• A flat iron grill is best for even heat, but a cast iron or non-stick skillet will work just as well. Heat the pan to 350º F. You want medium- to medium-low heat so that the bread browns and cheese melts at the same rate. You may also need to lightly grease the pan.
• Use a sturdy, dense bread, like sourdough, sliced to 5/8 of an inch. Thinner bread works better than thicker. Ultimately, you don’t want the bread to dominate – it’s a cheese – not a bread – sandwich. Encourage your child to experiment with cheeses, such as muenster or sharp cheddar. They look like what she already knows, but they’re a step up from what she’s been eating.
• Spread a thin, even layer of mayonnaise on the outside of each slice. It will brown better than butter. If your child likes Parmesan, finely grate some in with the mayo for a nice crust with a different flavor. If he wants to push it more, add paprika, garlic powder or cayenne pepper to the spread. Whatever he tries, have him go lightly to not take away from the taste of the cheese.
• Put two slices of medium thick cheese (a 5 on the deli chart) between the two slices of prepared bread. Have your child place the sandwich onto the pan and put a plate or pan on top of the sandwich. It will speed up the heating process. Let it sit for 2-3 minutes, flip the sandwich over with a spatula and repeat the process. Don’t have her flip the sandwich more than twice, or it will lose too much heat.
• Experiment with additions. Once the basics are mastered, give your child the option of adding to the sandwich. Diced-up meats, cooked crisp bacon, strawberries, peaches, blueberries, tomatoes or thinly sliced mushrooms (vegetables should be sautéed until about nearly done beforehand). Remember, keep any accompaniment as a supporting player. This sandwich is primarily about the cheese.