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I wasn’t sure I wanted to post this at all – not because it didn’t taste good or look good, but because I just didn’t feel like it was enough cooking to count. But that got me thinking about food and food blogging, and I decided that this kind of food is precisely the kind of thing I should be posting… at least once in a while. Why? Because it’s worth remembering that cooking good quality food can sometimes be so simple that it barely feels like cooking at all.
Food blogging seems all-too-often stuck in between two strange parallels. On the one hand, you’ve got the ultra-dedicated-gourmet-foodie bloggers who like to make sous-vide skirt steak and homemade chicharones with a horseradish gastrique and beet microgreens. These blogs are often incredible, but they can be awfully intimidating (if not outright unreasonable for those with very busy lives). On the other hand you’ve got the ultra-encouraging blogs dedicated to keeping things really simple. These blogs can be wonderful, but some of them have a nasty habit of skirting the issue of cooking altogether by combining a bunch of heavily processed ingredients and calling it a recipe. There are plenty of examples of course, but I’m specifically thinking of smores, which are my nuisance-du-jour; I don’t need another Pinterest pin espousing the joys of combining and melting junk food.
I’m not saying any of this to poke fun at anyone – I drool over the high-tech kitchen wizardry, and I love simple food I can slap together at a whim. But there’s a middle ground that’s getting left out of the equation too often. Cooking can be ultra-simple, but still heavily dependent on scratch methods and culinary techniques. This grilled cheese is nothing more than a sandwich built around fairly simple ingredients. There’s nothing fancy about it, but it is carefully considered. The cheese is real and not processed, and the crust on the bread is made a little richer and more golden with mayonnaise, but none of it is ground-breaking. And that’s ok. Great cooking can be nothing more than a few simple and wonderful ingredients placed together with care. I’m not trying to pretend that this sandwich is going to get me a Michelin star (they give those out for blogs, right?) but it’s delicious and it’s real food.
Now I am admittedly prone to getting a little bit hardcore with my food. If I can do it myself, I probably want to try, and I have shelves full of home-preserved foods to prove it. But the nice thing about cooking like this is that you can go as easy or as hardcore as you want. Thanks to great educational resources and the increased availability of first-class food supplies, you could start your sandwich journey with homemade bread, homemade cheese, and homemade pickles. Heck, you could grow the veggies yourself. You could also make your own mayonnaise, but I personally love the tangy and unique flavour of Japanese kewpie mayo. In fact, it’s one of the few processed goodies that I really enjoy cooking with.
I don’t have a single take-home message here, other than my usual less-than-revelatory ‘cooking is good,’ but I will say one last thing on the subject: whatever you do, whatever you make, try to consider and honour your ingredients. Garbage in, garbage out as they say. That way, even if your final dish is no more than the sum of its parts, it will still be good. With a little artistry and care, it will probably be great.
It’s a grilled cheese. I’m the first person to admit that this barely qualifies as a recipe. But not all cooking has to be about mastering a souffle or painstakingly cooking your roux – this is good, rich, hearty EASY cooking, and it’s exactly the kind of thing that we should all do more of when we’re tempted by a cheapo fast-food burger (or worse – a microwaveable lunch).
I make my own pickled peppers and they’re incredible (if I do say so myself), but if you’re not into the home-preserving game, you can source out good pickled sweet peppers at farmers markets and better grocery stores. They’re really addictive, so don’t be afraid to buy a big jar. A pepper spread would work quite nicely too.
You could easily swap out the cheese, though I recommend keeping it on the stronger end of the flavour spectrum. Mild cheddar (ugh) is going to make for a middling sandwich, but a nice rich havarti would work well. You can change up the bread too; marbled rye is tasty and adds great visual punch, but any good, dense loaf will do.
As I mention in my other grilled cheese recipe, mayonnaise on the outside of the bread is like some kind of grilled cheese magic bullet. It browns beautifully and it adds a little extra dimension to the sandwich. That being said, butter or margarine will work just fine.
You’ll notice that I haven’t given any amounts for each ingredient, as amounts are kind of meaningless without knowing how big your bread slices are. Cover the face of the sandwich with cheese, but try not to make it too thick or the resulting sandwich will be overly greasy. As for the rest – use as much as you think you’d like to eat.
No ingredient pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe. Like to see one? Let me know in the comments below or by email.
No pantry pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe. Like to see one? Let me know in the comments below or by email.
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- old cheddar cheese
- roasted pickled sweet peppers
- red onion
- marbled rye
- Japanese mayo
Slather the outsides of the bread with mayo. Yes, mayo. Butter works fine if you don't have mayo, but trust me it works GREAT.
Lay cheese, peppers, and red onions inside the sandwich.
Melt the butter in a medium frying pan (preferably a cast iron) over medium-high heat. Once the butter is melted and sizzling, add the sandwich and fry until golden brown and gooey, then flip and brown the other side. Remove from heat, allow to cool for a minute or two and serve.
Feel free to use regular mayo or butter/margarine in place of the Japanese mayo. Likewise, you can change up the bread or even the cheese - though I'd recommend using a strong, flavourful variety to stand up to the peppers and onions.