A carefully made grilled cheese sandwich is a gustatory wonder. Its key ingredients are bread that’s firm enough to hold its own against heat and pressure but soft enough to produce a tender sandwich; full- flavored, high-quality cheese (my preference is Comté or an aged cheddar), cut about 1/8 inch thick; and clarified butter. The butter flavors the bread and allows it to color deeply without becoming too dark or, worse, burnt. Make the sandwich on a griddle or in a heavy skillet and use another heavy skillet to press it down. The greater the pressure, the more the ingredients will blend and the better your sandwich will be.
2 slices whole-grain sandwich bread
About 2 teaspoons mayonnaise
2 slices aged cheese, such as Comté or cheddar
1 thick slice tomato (optional)
2 slices crisp-cooked bacon (optional)
1 to 2 tablespoons clarified butter (see note below), at room temperature
Spread one side of a slice of bread with some mayonnaise, top with a slice of cheese, tomato and bacon (if using) and another slice of cheese. Spread mayo on the other slice of bread and close the sandwich.
Place a griddle or heavy skillet over medium heat. Brush the cooking surface lightly with clarified butter, then brush both sides of the sandwich with the butter. Lay the sandwich in the pan, weight with a(nother) heavy skillet (or a plate with a couple of cans of beans on top to weigh it down) and cook until the underside of the sandwich is beautifully golden. Flip, weight and cook until the top of the sandwich is golden and the cheese is hot and bubbling. Serve without a second’s hesitation.
Clarified butter is a magical thing: It’s butter without water (you simmer it away) that won’t burn when used over high heat. To clarify butter, place the butter in a saucepan, bring it to a simmer and let it bubble gently until it’s covered with foam. Don’t stop there! Keep simmering the butter until the foam sinks to the bottom and the bubbling just about stops. Line a fine-mesh sieve with cheesecloth or a coffee filter, pour the butter through it into a container, cool and cover. The butter will keep in the fridge for at least 2 months.
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