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The Perfect Grilled Cheese

It’s been a long time since the Lazy Chef has stolen a little of the blog spotlight around here, and so it seemed appropriate to shift gears with the soft, gooey goodness of a tried-and-true grilled cheese recipe for National Grilled Cheese Month - or several of them built into one tutorial. There’s no question that there are limitless ways to paint this beautiful food masterpiece, but it’s also true that there are just as many ways to ruin it. Just one example of a massive no-no (and yet all too common mistake) is using American cheese – don’t do it! Instead of dwelling on poor judgment, however, we shall focus on the trifecta of deliciousness: 1) Cheese, 2) Bread and 3) Spread. <strong>The Cheese</strong> There are so many different options and combinations that it’s impossible to pick the best – although it’s not impossible for you to pick <em>the best for you</em>. Some people really do like straight-up American (gasp!), while others like to mix it up. Something special always occurs, though, when you blend a piquant cheese with something milder. Swiss + sharp cheddar, Roquefort + provolone, blue cheese + Gouda … or experiment with your favorites! Also, don’t be afraid to incorporate soft or spreadable varieties like brie and cream cheese. <em>The Method:</em> Slice your cheese thin, but not transparently thin. You want to get a nice, even melt without having to use too much heat. <strong>The Bread  </strong> Pairing your bread perfectly with your cheese selection will take some practice. Keep in mind that both texture <em>and</em> flavor will impact the final result. If you’re using firmer cheese that is less prone to crumbling or dripping (i.e. blue, brie, etc.) you may want to try a crusty, porous bread like ciabatta or focaccia. If you need a little more support, though, meaty breads like wheat, rye or bagel work well. When it comes to flavor, white bread is going to focus most of the attention on the cheese, which is a good thing. But, if you want to add to or complement those flavors, there are many options: pumpernickel, sourdough, challah or even an English muffin, to name a few. <em>The Method</em>: If the bread is not pre-sliced, slice it a bit thick – between 3/4 to an inch thick. <strong>The Spread (and Cooking Instructions)</strong> Real butter – it’s hard to recommend anything else. There are alternatives, though, and you should know about them. There are butter substitutes like margarine that leave little to the imagination, but then there are the upgrades. If you want to try your grilled cheese “diner style” you can use mayo, or if you want a more sophisticated flavor you can brush your bread with any number of olive or truffle oils. <em>The Method</em>: Coat the tops of your bread with your chosen spread and place one coated side down in your pan. Put your cheese on top and then stack the other slice of bread on the cheese, spread-side up. Turn your heat to Medium/Low so your bread doesn't fry too fast. It’s important to give the cheese a chance to start melting before the first side turns that perfect golden brown (or crispy, if you’re using dark bread). That way, once you flip it – and you should only be flipping this once – you’ll already be halfway there and the half-melted cheese will provide some stability for the flip ... The trick to flipping is speed and confidence. Lift your half-cooked work of art fully off the pan with a reliable <a title="Spatulas" href="http://www.atgstores.com/spatulas-cookware-accessories_3298_oa0209901.html" target="_blank">spatula</a>, pause a microsecond to focus your <em>Chi</em>, and then just flip that business. Boom! Give it a couple minutes, checking the sides to make sure the cheese is gooey and the edges are crispy. BONUS: To get your grilled cheese (of any kind, really) to look like the one in the picture, top your sandwich with <em>another</em> slice of cheese and bake at 350ºF until the cheese melts - about 2-3 minutes. Garnish and serve hot. <a title="ATG Stores Home Page" href="http://www.atgstores.com/default.aspx" target="_blank">ATGStores.com</a> hopes you enjoy your perfect grilled cheese – and your Friday.
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