Don't ask me why, but April is National Grilled Cheese Month, and to celebrate, the Food Network ran Bobby Flay's exciting Grilled Cheese Throwdown this past weekend. Flay took on New Jersey's own Pop Shop in a sandwich battle for the ages.
The Pop Shop, which offers 31 different grilled cheese variations on their menu, put up a good fight with their sandwich called "The Calvert"--jack cheese, roasted turkey, bacon, avocado, and house dressing (balsamic mayo) on foccacia. Flay countered with his delicious-sounding Grilled Brie and Goat Cheese with Bacon and Green Tomato sandwich. In the end, Flay's sandwich won by a hair, with the judges saying it was a tough decision and that there were no losers.
Though the Pop Shop's sandwich goes a bit beyond the realm of grilled cheese and into more general grilled sandwich territory, there are certainly a couple of clear takeaways here:
Grilled cheese sandwiches are better with bacon.
Though it's not my personal preference, it's clear that bacon was the best supporting actor here. Indeed Flay's recipe for Mac 'n' Cheese in another recent Throwdown featured pancetta, bacon's non-smoking cousin. This is no coincidence.
Grilled cheese sandwiches have long moved beyond Wonder Bread and Velveeta.
Though those two bedrocks of American processed food arguably make for a delicious grilled cheese sandwich, it's clear that we as a nation are (smartly) moving beyond those ingredients in our quest for the perfect grilled cheese. Brie, Gruyère, and Fontina (among others) have replaced the orange stuff, and interesting flavor and texture complements like green tomatoes make occasional cameos as well. Tom Colicchio's 'Wichcraft restaurants serve a mean grilled fontina with black trumpet mushrooms and white truffle fondue on Pullman white bread.
Also this month, LA's Clementine is holding an election for Commander in Cheese, "the Highest Sandwich in the Land." Grilled Cheese Primaries are going on now at the restaurant, and the final vote will be held on "Super Cheesedays," April 28-30th. The voter guide they've created is especially hilarious; I highly recommend downloading the pdf and taking a look. (Make sure you catch the Partisan Cheese Measures up for vote.)
What about you? What's your grilled cheese recipe to end all others? American cheese or something more interesting? White bread or artisanal Pullman? Bacon? Tomato?