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Spring Recipes A Trilogy of Grilled Cheese Sandwiches 0

spring-recipes-grilled-chee

Grilled cheese sandwiches aren’t just for kids! In this podcast with Executive Chef Ned Grieg of Woodman’s and the Essex Room, we’ll be discussing three amazing twists on the grilled cheese sandwich recipe that you can use to make delicious, adult-friendly grilled cheese at home or for any special occasion.

John Maher:  Hi. I’m John Maher. I’m here today with Chef Ned Grieg, executive chef at Woodman’s and the Essex Room in Essex, Massachusetts. We’re doing a series of podcasts on spring recipes. Today, we’re talking about “A trilogy of grilled cheese.” Welcome, Ned.

Ned Grieg:  Good afternoon.

New Twists on the Classic Grilled Cheese Recipe 

John:  When I think of grilled cheese — a sandwich that I make for my kids for their lunch at school — on a Saturday, or something like that, but what are we doing here? It’s something a little bit different.

Ned:  This is something that you would probably only do on a rainy day in the middle of spring, because you couldn’t go outside and use the barbecue. These are definitely grown‑up grilled cheese sandwiches. The first one that I came up with — it has avocado, herb pesto, a potpourri of cheese, and then we make a little Pico de Gallo dipping sauce with it.

Southwest Style Grilled Cheese Sandwich

But instead of making a regular pesto walnut basil, I took the recipe for an old fashioned Green Goddess salad dressing and made a new version of a pesto of it. I reinvented that whole process. Like I said, this is something that you probably would do on a rainy day, because you couldn’t get outside. I’d invite a bunch of my friends over.

We’d start to put the products together. We tried doing that one on a really seedy, grainy bread. It worked out extremely well. You can eat them as a full sandwich, or you can cut them into very miniature size pieces. You could pass them as hors d’oeuvres to your guests.

John:  What are some of the ingredients in this particular one? Again, this is the avocado herb pesto jack and cheddar cheese, again, offered with Pico de Gallo dipping sauce.

Ned:  The thing that’s unique about this one — you don’t have to do this on bread. We experimented doing it on floured tortilla shells also. To give it a little bit of a crispiness and texture, crunch up some Fritos into it.

John:  I’ve done that on sandwiches. I have it sit on the sandwich.

Ned:  You get something that’s a little crunchy. The pesto really sets it all off. Then you want to make sure that the cheeses — you don’t need to use these cheeses that we provided in these recipes that you can read online. You just need a good melting cheese.

One of the secrets to make a grilled cheese — don’t slice it; shred it. If you want to make a really good grilled cheese, that’s what you need to do.

John:  Because it makes it melt a little bit easier.

Secrets to the Perfect Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Ned:  It melts better, and always go low heat. My poor wife whenever she makes them, she’s burning them all the time. I go low and slow. But the avocado is great in this also. It brings a little healthier overtone to it. This looks like — it’s a very green looking sandwich. That’s why we made the Pico de Gallo dipping sauce to go with it to make it a little bit different from all the other ones.

John:  Do you go on a low temperature so that it’s on the grill for a longer time and that cheese has a chance to melt without the outside of the sandwich burning?

Ned:  That’s correct. Low and slow on a grilled cheese as far as I’m concerned.

John:  Walk us through putting this one together.

Ned:  You’re going to take — I take a little bit of olive oil, and I’ll brush it on one side of a floured tortilla. Then I will place it in the middle of a sauté pan, preferably nonstick. It makes it easier to deal with in the long run. Then I paint it, literally, with a layer of the homemade Green Goddess pesto and then slices of avocado.

Then I take the shredded cheese and put it on top of that. Then I put a little bit of the crispy corn chips, scallions, and a little bit more of the shredded cheese, put another flour tortilla on top, and then you want to press it down just slightly with your hand.

Then brush the top of it again with a little bit of olive oil. By the time you’ve got it all assembled in the pan, you can probably flip it over because it’s ready to go to turn on the other side.

John:  You’ve got a tortilla on the bottom and another tortilla on the top.

Ned:  That’s correct. That’s right.

John:  It ends up being like a quesadilla almost.

Ned:  It does. But then when you cut them open, you cut them into a triangle, and it looks like a grilled cheese, but done on a flour tortilla. We tried it on a little grainy bread, but we thought it was a little bit too much bite to it. This gave it more of an authentic, more Spanish flavor.

Grown-Up Cauliflower & Fontina Grilled Cheese Recipe

John:  A little Spanish flavor, a little Southwest kind of feel to it. The next one of the three grilled cheese that we’re doing here today is the roasted cauliflower Fontina and Berkshire Blue. Tell me a little bit about that and what’s in that.

Ned:  First of all, it was the most favorite of the three that we put together. When you roast a cauliflower, it’s tossed in a touch of olive oil and lemon juice. But you also, from the lemon itself, use a Microplane to get the zest off of it. Roasting it just concentrates the flavor of your cauliflower. That’s the first step that you have to do.

Once that’s done, you’re going to shred your Fontina. Fontina’s a softer type of cheese. What I did is I actually stuck it in the freezer for about an hour so it would shred a lot more easily without falling apart on me.

Berkshire Blue is an artisanal cheese that comes from the Berkshire Mountains in Western Massachusetts. It is awesome.

John:  I love blue cheese. Is it a blue cheese?

Ned:  Yes.

John:  I love blue cheese.

Ned:  It’s made from a Jersey cow milk, which is the highest butter fat content of any cow milk you can buy. It has this creamy, yellow‑blue color to it that, I tell you, I’ve got to go get some right now.

Ned:  This is so good you can’t stop eating it. On this one, we put it on a bread from Nashoba Valley Bakery Company, which we now buy their bread because we love it so much. It’s what they call, “Slow‑rise bread,” because you want something with big flavor here.

You have blue cheese. You have roasted cauliflower that has the sense of lemon and olive oil in it. The Fontina’s only in there to glue it all together. But, by far, this was the most flavorful sandwich. Putting roasted cauliflower in a sandwich, who would have ever thought? Though, you do need to make sure that you cut the cauliflower up into very small pieces.

You don’t want really big pieces in there. But you do want it to be identifiable if you cut into it. If you saw the picture of this gourmet, grilled cheese sandwich, it would be sitting on a magazine front cover. You see the cheese gooing out the side. Then you can see the cauliflower flecked in there. But it’s a wonderful flavor.

Adding Colorful Ingredients to Your Grilled Cheese Sandwich

We also added fresh arugula, because it didn’t have much color. Your blue cheese, you had the white from the cauliflower, and the arugula gave you a little bit of a walnutty flavor to it. Putting fresh greens in grilled cheeses and things like that, it makes it almost like a salad between two pieces of bread.

John:  Do you like to add ingredients to give things a little bit of extra color and have a little bit of this and a little bit of that to make it look nice?

Ned:  You do eat with your eyes. But I’m not going to put colored greens in there. I mean that wouldn’t work for me. But if I had fresh fiddleheads, I would have steamed some of those off and put them in, because that’s when they’re available is this time of the year.

We had some extra arugula left over from an event. I said, “Well, wow. That will work really good in there.” We decided to try it.

John:  In general, do you recommend that people, when they see a recipe like this, kind of play around with it a little bit?

Ned:  Absolutely.

John:  I can say, “Hey, I don’t really love cauliflower, but I really like something else, so let me experiment with it or try something different.”

Experimenting With Recipes to Create Your Own Culinary Query

Ned:  I think recipes are guidelines for people to launch their own culinary query. That’s what you should be doing. I mean, but most recipes, it’s like baking. Everybody thinks you’ve got to turn the oven on to 350 degrees and bake for 45 minutes to make an eight inch round chocolate cake.

You can cook at 300 degrees. It’s just going to take a longer time. It’s like using a crock‑pot as opposed to putting it in your oven. Times and cooking temperatures were given to the general masses so they could control their recipes in cookbooks, and for them to make some standardizations with ovens and things of this nature.

To me, you can break those rules. But don’t do them until you know what you’re doing.

John:  Maybe start with the recipe the way it is first.

Ned:  Follow the recipe for the first decade, then you can go crazy.

John:  The third of our trilogy of grilled cheeses is called the “Mediterranean.” What’s in that one?

The Mediterranean Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Ned:  The Mediterranean was invented because of all of the people that we do food for in weddings on the North Shore. We have a lot of Portuguese. We have a lot of Italians and a lot of people that like the idea of antipastos being put out there. They like the food that comes from Cuisine of the Sun or the coast of France and the Tuscany region of Italy.

This one is made — it’s almost like having, well, for lack of better reason, like having a sub sandwich, where you put fresh whole milk mozzarella in it. Sprinkled it with a little bit of feta so it’d have a little bit of salty flavor to it.

We took roma tomatoes, and we slightly roasted them off to dehydrate them a little bit. Then I pickle my own red onions, which is really fun to do. You should try it at home.

How to Pickle Red Onions

You get a pot. You put red wine vinegar in it. I’d say, maybe three cups, and then you’re going to put a cup and a half to two cups of sugar, some fresh bay leafs, and let that come to a simmer. While that comes to a simmer, you should be slicing your red onions as thinly as possible. Put them in a stainless steel bowl.

As soon as that vinegar mixture comes to a simmer, you pour it over the top of your red onions. Let it sit for a day and a half. It adds character to a sandwich or to a salad that you can make. It looks so bright red and beautiful.

The last time I did it, I actually put some Cabernet Sauvignon brine in it also. It really took on this burgundy, red, lovely, deep, cherry red color to it. Again, you eat with your eyes so you’re seeing this great, beautiful, red thing. You’re seeing these cured olives in there. Then you’re seeing the roasted roma tomatoes and the feta cheese.

We did do this on sourdough bread. Instead of using a pesto, we took fresh basil, julienned it, and put that into the sandwich also. It’s a tomato basil sandwich. Enhanced with really unique cheese and pickled red onions is probably the best way to say it.

John:  That all sounds really appetizing. I can’t wait to go home, make some of these myself, and try them for my next party.

Ned:  Awesome. Go for it.

John:  Thanks again for speaking with me today, Ned.

Ned:  You’re welcome.

John:  For more information, you can visit Woodman’s at woodmans.com, or the Essex Room at essexroom.com. Thanks again. Tune in next time for the next in our series of podcasts on spring recipes.


Recipe

Note: this recipe is intended for catering and measurements may need to be scaled down for individual or family use.

A Trilogy Of Grilled Cheese

Avocado, Herb Pesto, Jack & Cheddar Cheese Offered With Pico De Gallo Dipping Sauce
Roasted Cauliflower, Fontina & Berkshire Blue
The Mediterranean

Avocado, Herb Pesto, Jack & Cheddar Cheese Offered With Pico De Gallo Dipping Sauce

Item

Quantity & Unit Of Measure

Ned’s Notes

Green Goddess Herb Pesto

 

 

Garlic

4 Cloves

 

Anchovy

4 Individual

 

Shallot

4 Tablespoons

Finely Chopped

Lemon Juice

1 Tablespoon

 

Italian Parsley

1 Cup

Finely Chopped

Kale

1 Cup

Finely Chopped

Fresh Chives

½ Cup

Finely Chopped

Fresh Tarragon

½ Cup

Finely Chopped

Olive Oil1

1 Cup

 

Pico De Gallo Sauce

 

 

Red Onion

1 Individual

Finely Chopped

Roma Tomato

4 Individual

Finely Chopped

Poblano Pepper

½ Individual

Finely Chopped No Seeds!

Cilantro

2 Tablespoons

Finely Chopped (¼ Cup)

Lime Juice

1 Tablespoon

 

Kosher Salt

To Taste

 

Cracked Black Pepper

To Taste

 

Unsalted Butter

8 Tablespoons

Softened

Olive Oil

8 Tablespoons

 

Flour Tortillas

16 Individual

 

Jack Cheese

1 Pound

Shredded

Grafton Cheddar Cheese

1 Pound

Shredded

Avocado

4 Individual

Room Temperature

Scallions

4 Bunches

Lightly Grilled & Chopped

Corn Chips

2 Cups

Lightly Crushed

Procedure

Green Goddess Herb Pesto Procedure

  1. Combine The First 9 Ingredients In A Food Processor.
  2. Rapidly Pulse & Scrape Down The Insides Till Concoction Is Manageable.
  3. Now Turn On Processor & Stream Olive Oil Into Concoction.
  4. If You Want To You Can Add Some Finely Grated Parmesan.

Pico De Gallo Sauce Procedure

  1. Simply Combine All 7 Ingredients In A Food Processor & Process Till Smooth & Use As A Dipping Sauce.

Grilled Cheese Procedur

  1. Combine The Softened Butter & Olive Oil In A Food Processor & Pulse Till Well Mixed.
  2. Paint One Side Of One Flour Tortilla & Place Into A Non-Stick Fry Pan.
  3. Paint The Other Side With Green Goddess Pesto & Place Into A Non-Stick Fry Pan.
  4. Place 2 Oz. Cheese Onto Tortilla,, ¼ Of A Sliced Avocado, ½ Bunch Grilled Scallion A ¼ Cup Tortilla Chip.
  5. Finish With 2 Oz. Of Cheddar Then Paint Another Flour Tortilla With Green Goddess Pesto.
  6. Lay On Top Of The Other Side Of Grilled Cheese.
  7. Pan Sear Over Medium Low Till Amber Brown & Flip Over.

Grilled Cheese
Roasted Cauliflower, Fontina & Berkshire Blue

Item

Quantity & Unit Of Measure

Ned’s Notes

Olive Oil

½ Cup

 

Cauliflower

1 Head

½ Inch Thick Florets

Lemon Juice

1 Individual

Micro Plain Zest First

Cracked Black Pepper

1 Teaspoon

 

Kosher Salt

2 Teaspoons

 

Unsalted Butter

8 Tablespoons

 

Olive Oil

8 Tablespoons

 

Whole Grain Seed Bread

16 Slices

 

Fontina Cheese

1 Pound

Shredded

Fresh Arugula

1 Pound

Firmly Packed & Julienned

Berkshire Blue Cheese

½ Cup

8 Tablespoons

Cracked Black Pepper

To Taste

 

Procedure

  1. Combine The First 5 Ingredients In A Stainless Steel Mixing Bowl & Mix Well.
  2. Evenly Distribute Onto An Oven Proof Cooking Tray.
  3. Roast At 350*f. For 10 Minutes.
  4. Heat 1 Tablespoon Each Of Olive Oil & Butter In A Non Stick Fry Pan.
  5. Over Medium Low Heat Place 2 Slices Of Bread In The Pan.
  6. Evenly Distribute 1/8th Of The Shredded Fontina Onto Both Slices Of Bread.
  7. Cook Till Bread Is Amber Brown & Cheese Is Melted – You Can Cover With A Lid.
  8. Transfer To An Oven Proof Baking Tray; & Continue Till All The Bread Slices Are Cooked.
  9. Place Seasoned Roasted Cauliflower Onto To 8 Of The Bread Slices.
  10. Sprinkle 1 Tablespoon Of Blue Cheese On Top Of The Cauliflower.
  11. Adorn With Arugula, Season With Salt & Pepper & Bake For 3 – 5 Minutes @ 350*F.
  12. Close The Grilled Cheeses With The Non Embellished Slices.

The Mediterranean

Item

Quantity & Unit Of Measure

Ned’s Notes

Olive Oil

3 Tablespoons

 

Fresh Garlic

2 Teaspoons

Finely Chopped

Fresh Spinach

2 Pounds

 

Fresh Basil

¼ Cup

Firmly Packed & Julienned

Sourdough Bread

16 Slices

 

Olive Oil

½ Cup

 

Whole Milk Mozzarella

1 Pound

Shredded

Feta

½ Pound

Crumbled

Roma Tomatoes

16 Slices

¼ Inch Thick

Cured Black Olives

8 Tablespoons (½ Cup)

Chopped

Pickled Red Onion

1 Cup

Finely Sliced

Cracked Black Pepper

To Taste

 

Procedure

  1. Heat Olive Oil In A Large Sauce Pot.
  2. Add Garlic & Saute Briefly Then Add Spinach.
  3. Simmer For 60 Seconds, Remove From Heat, Stir In The Basil & Cool To Room Temperature.
  4. Lay Down 8 Slices Of Sour Dough Bread Onto A Clean Working Surface.
  5. Spread With Both Cheeses, Then Sliced Tomato & Finally Spinach.
  6. Sprinkle Olives, Onion & Cracked Black Pepper Last & Top With Additional Bread.
  7. Next Paint With Additional Olive Oil & Cook Over Medium Low Heat – 3-4 Minutes.
  8. You Get The Drill! Turn Over & Cook An Additional 3-4 Minutes.

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