September 10, 2016


Ruth Reichl's Grilled Cheese is Genius, and Completely Out of Control (Kristen Miglore, August 10, 2016, Food 52)

First, Reichl grates up a bunch of cheese for even melting--simple enough, right? But then she goes her own way and mixes in many members of the onion family. A transcript from that episode of A Moveable Feast back in 2009 has her saying, "We're going to start with leeks, scallions, red onions, shallots, garlic, sweet onions, and white onions." Start with!

All these raw, crunchy, oniony bits seem treacherous: If the constant challenge of grilled cheese is getting the internal cheese to melt thoroughly before the bread burns, how is that same just-melted cheese supposed to cook a bunch of onions, too? Even Brooks Headley, an otherwise daring chef, sautéed them anyway. Of the sandwiches, he declared, "None left over."

But you truly don't need to cook the alliums, as long as you cut them finely. They'll steam and soften in the melting cheese, losing their crunch but keeping some of their aggressive freshness and funk. (Though as Headley proved, if you don't want any of that, sautéing is always an option.)

Cheese and onion mountain attained, Reichl then smears the outsides of the bread with mayonnaise, which--thanks to Gabrielle Hamilton--we already know leads to sandwiches that are crispier, more evenly golden, and less likely to burn than butter does.

But Reichl, the madwoman, adds a shaggy layer of grated cheese on top of the mayo too, which melts and fuses into a crispy cheddar crust when it hits the griddle, much like a cheese tuile or frico. It's a totally different, deeper, toastier cheese flavor and texture than the gooey party unleashed inside.

It should be noted that she also, for no clear reason--other than, maybe, better cheese retention?--adds a swipe of butter to the insides of the bread, too. But at this point, why not?

Ruth Reichl's Diva of a Grilled Cheese

Any combination of shallot, leek, scallions, onion (any color)

1 clove garlic

1/4 pound cheddar cheese, divided


2 slices thickly sliced, sturdy sourdough bread


Posted by at September 10, 2016 4:55 PM