Ever notice whenever you look up a recipe online there’s some sort of long drawn out childhood or yesteryear reference to that time when the thing happened and then there was some stuff and then the mystery was solved by grandma’s tuna casserole even though you just wanted to know how shuck an ear of corn.

Well that ain’t happenen here. We’re gonna get to the point. I’ve loved grilled cheese ever since I was a little kid back when Target had actual real cafeterias. This was back when Return of the Jedi was on the big screen and I was just old enough to see it as my first movie and I tell you whut… did I want an Imperial Speeder Bike with the Scout Trooper when we were done seeing that masterpiece. 

To Target! After we picked up the toy I remember hitting the cafeteria and sliding into the smooth curved red melamine booth and settling in to open up my new Imperial Speeder Bike and Scout Trooper. The figure’s knees bent when no other Star Wars figure did… How the hell was anyone else going to ride this thing and not look stupid?

My mom came back from the counter with two grilled cheese sandwiches. To my 6 year old eyes they looked like perfect golden squares of bready cheesy goodness. And they were. Perfectly crisped, buttery slices of white bread that held its structure just before a solid bite crunched down into the warm, almost hot, American Cheese center. It’s a memory of a moment with my mother that I’ll never forget. Funny how the brain works recalling all those little details surrounding what at the time, may have been just a quick lunch but ended up embedded in my memories and recalled vividly 38 years later.

I’ve been chasing that grilled cheese ever since. But I’ve reconciled that like many childhood memories, my brain filled in the cracks, gaps and crevasses with youthful happiness. If you’re from 1970’s – 80’s Denver the perfect analogy is Casa Bonita. As a kid it felt like it wasn’t a real place, but in revisiting in my late teens and early adulthood it was so gross it made me question my memory. Anyways. Grilled Cheese.

THE PLAYERS

Bread

Inked Organics Rosie’s San Francisco Bay Sourdough or Great White Bread. What to choose?! White for childhood memories… or Sourdough because I have a mortgage… Or am I a man-child meaning I’ll use one slice of each to make the grilled cheese equivalent of a Day Walker from the 1998 cult classic “Blade” starring the tax evading Wesley Snipes.

American Cheese

American Cheese is only good on cheese burgers and grilled cheese sandwiches. I think cheddar is the worst on either of’em. I still love cheddar and I’ve included a GC variation with an unconventional cheddar use as an extra. I have found only one organic American Cheese and it was Trader Joe’s brand. Individually wrapped, sorta weird and it was just okay. I don’t like the individual wrappings. It’s wasteful. I don’t think I’ve had anything made by Kraft in years and I’m sticking to it. I prefer Boars Head white or yellow American Cheese from the Deli – the neighborhood Sprouts in my case. Color doesn’t matter but yellow is far superior for obvious reasons. Get your deli maestro to slice it to the thickness of a nickel or 1/16th of an inch. You can always double up if you want but it may be too much on a single sandwich. We’re going for something a bit more delicate.

Butter

Kerrygold salted butter. I’ve tried others and they just don’t have the same flavor. Pick up the 4 pack from Costco when you grab that double pack of bread and a block of Tillamook son! Make sure it’s room temp before making the sandwiches lest ye tear the fine breads beneath with your fumbled butter knife scrapings…

Cheddar 

Finely shredded. Tillamook medium or any other. Take 1 minute and shred it your self. Its moist, soft and easy. Be sure to use a cold block of cheese. Pre shredded is dry and has anti-caking powders on it which inhibit the melted crust phase. Melted what phase? Melted yes that’s right.

Mustard…? Really?

Yes. Boars Head Deli Style Mustard is great, but I’ll use straight hot dog yellow if I don’t have a good brown or spicy’ish mustard. 

Griddle or the Biggest pan you got

Buy as big of an electric griddle as you can. They’re great for 9 pancakes at a time, tons of french toast, quesadillas and grilled cheese. Or use whatever you have before you realize griddles are great for things that need to be flipped and made en masse for the fam. I bought this one after much research. Presto 22″ Electric Griddle

Spatula and Tongs

For the spatualaing and the tonging of things.

THE PROCESS

Get your griddle/pan and turn it up to around 350 degrees. Put 2 slices of bread and toast’em. We’re toasting the sides before buttering them. Ooooooohhhh… Such technique.

When they just begin to turn ever so slightly golden, pick them up by the edges (watch yer fingers), flip the slices over and butter them. You’ll notice the butter goes on evenly and doesn’t crater in the middle of the bread because we made the bread stiffer via the toasting. There’s also places for the butter to latch onto now too.

Place the untoasted side down, butter side up, to toast a bit while the butter melts face up. When the butter is just about melted, flip over – butter side down – and place your one or two layers of cheese on there. You may have to cut a slice of cheese in half to cover an entire slice of bread. So 1 and ½ slices should cover one of our slices. If you want cheddar sprinkle some shredded in there but make sure it’s under the American cheese. Overhanging the edges is desired so don’t worry about being neat.

Here’s the weird bit. Put two or three pea sized drops of mustard spaced out on top of the cheese and spread it around. The cheese is smooth and you should be able to spread a super thin layer of mustard around on it.

Place the other piece of bread on top of the cheese to complete the look and let it ride until the bottom is golden brown. Flip over with your spatula while gently holding the top bread with a finger and go for the gold again. Not dark brown. Not yellow. Golden brown… lest you ruin my childhood memories much like Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace did when I was in my late twenties.

Tong time. Use the spatula to lift up the GC just enough to get your tongs gently gripping it from the middle and hold it crust side down to the griddle and listen for the sizzle. We’re frying the overhanging cheese on all four sides to create a cheesy crust. 

Extra bonus is to sprinkle a little of that shredded cheddar on the griddle and upend a side onto the line of now melting cheese and hold it there for a crispy cheddar crust. Repeat on all four sides.

That’s it. Eat it with your kids while watching Star Wars.

Serve with Chilean Bass or Pomegranates or whatever. We’re not the boss of you.

Check out Rosie’s San Francisco Bay Sourdough here, Great White Bread here or the Day Walker reference here