Doesn’t it seem like most things are better when sandwiched between bread? This month, we’re featuring sandwich recipes — minimal cooking, maximum tastiness. Today, Posie from 600 Acres shares her dad’s secret recipe for the best grilled cheese…
Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Relish
by Posie Harwood of 600 Acres
When I talk about food, it’s almost always connected to my mom. We grew up on a farm and she cooked and baked everything we ate, from French fries to homemade pizza to ice cream. And while the kitchen was her space, my dad had his moments.
He specializes in three things: Christmas morning omelets perfect enough to make a French chef weep with envy, steaming bowls of Cream of Wheat doused with brown sugar and cream, and grilled cheese.
My dad’s grilled cheese is legendary. Partly it’s nostalgia: I loved watching him pull out our battered blue enamel skillet and set his ingredients down methodically. Is there a better feeling than being eight years old, hungry, and about to be fed?
Mostly, though, it’s technique. His secret is to add a thin layer of sweet relish into the sandwich while it’s still hot. It’s brilliant: Most people swear by mustard, but relish is the business. The smell conjures up a grilled cheeseburger with a pickle on the side, and the tangy vinegar of the relish helps to balance all that rich, ooey-gooey cheese and butter. Try this trick with other sandwiches, too: turkey and Swiss, a croque-monsieur, Brie and ham, a meatball sub, tuna salad, and so on.
Grilled cheese has very few ingredients, so you might think it’s crucial to start with expensive things: crusty artisan bread, pricy aged cheddar, homemade aioli, and European butter. Not so! There’s an alchemy that happens when soft bread and cheese meet hot butter — it transforms even the most humble ingredients into something intensely satisfying.
Just use a basic white sandwich bread. I’d skip the Wonderbread (too squishy) but anything else is fine. My dad uses Cracker Barrel cheddar cheese and I do too. Yes, expensive cheese will also taste good, but you really don’t need it. The butter and mayonnaise can be whatever brand you have on hand. The relish should be sweet, but that’s the only requirement.
Recipe: Grilled Cheese with Relish
Makes one sandwich
2 tbsp. butter
2 slices white sandwich bread
Generous handful of grated cheddar cheese
2 tbsp. sweet relish
Slice your bread thickly and evenly.
In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat until it foams and smells so delicious you want to spoon it up and eat it.
Liberally spread mayonnaise on the outsides of each slice of bread. Make sure you cover it to the edges.
Grate a large handful of cheese. (Please keep in mind that this is no time to be stingy! We are literally eating a bread, butter, cheese and mayonnaise sandwich so you might as well jump in with both feet, right?)
Place one slice of bread, mayonnaise-side down, in the skillet. Top the bread with your grated cheese and press it into an even layer. Place the second slice of bread, mayonnaise-side up, on top of the cheese.
Cook over medium heat for about 2 minutes per side, pressing down occasionally with a spatula. You can check to see if it’s ready to flip by peeking underneath: The bread should be darker than golden brown but not burnt.
When both sides have cooked, remove the sandwich from the pan onto a plate. Carefully open the sandwich (it will be hot) and spoon 2 heaping tablespoons of relish onto the sandwich. Spread it into an even layer and close the sandwich.
Let it cool just enough so that you can bite it. Eat!
Thank you so much, Posie!
P.S. More recipes, including a lazy egg sandwich and grilled cheese with balsamic roasted vegetables.
(Photos and recipe courtesy of Posie Harwood. This series is edited by Caroline Donofrio.)