Slabs of bland American cheese. Bread that has about as much substance and flavor as a cotton ball. If it were not for the caramelized butter on the outside, most grilled cheese sandwiches would not have any personality at all.
Imagine a delicious grilled cheese that is no more work than removing the plastic sheets from the plastic cheese. Rich, flavorful, sharp cheddar (preferably from the UK) makes a wonderful sandwich and uses less cheese. Throw in some thinly sliced shallots (or leeks if you have them) on some interesting 12-grain bread and you have a feast.
The key is shredding the cheese, and I often use my grandmother’s old Mouli grater. My mom kept a newer version in her Salt Lake City kitchen, and you can find them in kitchen stores or online. Any grater will do, and if you must you can slice the cheese. Just make it thin and do it in layers. Spread the shallots in and around the cheese.
Look through the photos that are with this article for simple instructions on how you can turn a good sandwich into a great one. Add a cup of hot soup and a spear or two of crisp garlic dill pickle on the side and you can handle the coldest Utah day.
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You have seen waiters using newer versions in restaurants to add just a sprinkling of cheese. This one belonged to my grandmother, but believe me, she never made a sandwich like this. She loved American cheese and Wonder Bread – and she was born in the UK. Go figure.
Butter One Side
Butter one side of one piece of the bread and place it buttered side down in a hot pan on medium to medium high heat. The thinner the pan, the lower the heat. You need to give the butter and bread enough time to caramelize as well as melt the cheese.
Add the Cheese and Shallots
Sprinkle on the prepared cheese mixed with the sliced shallots. If you do not have shallots, thinly sliced onion or leek is delicious. I prefer the garlicky onion flavor of shallots. If you do not have onions, leeks or shallots, I’m sorry.
Brown on Both Sides
Butter the other slice of bread and place it buttered side up. Flip and cook the other side after the bottom browns to your liking and the cheese melts. There is lots of flavor in the browned butter and bread, sharp cheese and shallots.