Upscale Your Grilled Cheese Sandwich

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There's nothing like a good grilled cheese sandwich.

Early spring is a confusing time. The buds are out and we have more daylight hours, but ... just as you're getting used to the warmth, the cold comes back. Windy, rainy cold. Chilly damp-to-the-bone cold.

And what better to warm you up on a cold day than a grilled cheese sandwich, with all its brown-butter-toasty-gooey-cheese charm.

So, why not take that classic meal upscale?

Last month, at the Minneapolis Food & Wine Experience, I attended a Gourmet Grilled Cheese presentation by Martial Noguier, chef of Chicago's one sixtyblue, who upgraded the ingredients for the classic grilled cheese sandwich.

He chose local cheeses and brought them to a state of "warm, but not melting." He used a soft truffle and herb butters to flavor the inside of the sandwich, while using olive oil to gain a golden crisp on the outside of the brioche.

Your average chef might wax poetic about foie gras, Wagyu or marrow; Chef Noguier's passion is his grilled cheese.

One sixtyblue has a sophisticated cheese program, two full-time cheese chefs and a complete cheese menu. There's fondue, in addition to warmed cheese plates, composed cheese plates, flat cheese plates and grilled cheeses. Chef Noguier will soon be introducing cheese terrines.

"In the United States, cheese is getting bigger and bigger," said Chef Noguier. "I have the same feeling about cheese in this country that I had about wine."

Hand in hand with the developing American cheese palate arrives the American cheesemaker. Among Chef Noguier's favorite American cheeses are Wisconsin's Uplands Cheese Company's Pleasant Ridge Reserve and California's Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company's Original Blue Cheese.

Chef Noguier started making grilled cheeses years ago at the request of his two young children.

"I wanted to make something different, with different cheeses and breads, but they didn't like it. They wanted two pieces of bread with some yellow cheese."

Today, Chef Noguier experiments with gourmet grilled cheeses, including ingredients like truffles, camembert and brioche, and fresh goat cheese, herbs and black olive bread.

As Chef Noguier says, "With grilled cheese sandwiches, you can do anything you want."

Let the sun shine in.

GRILLED HUDSON VALLEY CAMEMBERT SANDWICH

By Chef Michel Nouguier, adapted by Allison Fishman

Makes two sandwiches

At one sixtyblue, these gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches are served with a frisee salad tossed in a hazelnut vinaigrette and topped with chervil and toasted hazelnuts.

8 ounces Hudson Valley Camembert, sliced into 1/3-inch wedges

1 stick butter, at room temperature

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon truffle oil

2 teaspoons chopped chives, divided

Salt

Cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 slices brioche bread


Mix together butter, honey, truffle oil and 1 teaspoon of the chopped chives. Season to taste with salt and cayenne pepper.

Spread butter mixture on one side of each piece of brioche. Assemble two sandwiches, dividing the cheese among them. Buttered sides should be facing in.

Heat a small sauté pan over medium heat and add 1 ½ teaspoons of olive oil. Saute both sides of each sandwich until crispy, about three to five minutes per side. Cut sandwiches into quarters and serve warm.

 

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