I love me some grilled cheese. So when Mark Bittman boasted to the rest of the internets that he was actually making real grilled cheese, I felt intrigued, goaded, and hypnotized at the same time. Real grilled cheese? Yes, I want some. I will make some. Today.
Instead of using a frying pan or griddle, Bittman actually cooked his grilled cheese on a grill. Sounds good, right? Although I love grilled cheese, I don't eat it often, mostly because of the high fat content. So, the idea that "it was not frying in a lot of grease," as Bittman points out in this video, was quite appealing.
Working to turn convention totally up side down, I substituted peaches for tomatoes. See you later, boring old tomatoes and cheese, I'm making peaches and cheese (and arugula). For the bookends I used my favorite: olive bread from Atwater's.
The key to this endeavor is pressing the sandwich on the grill. (Like a DIY panini press? Exactly). It took me a few seconds to figure out what to use as my "weight." Then I zeroed in on my dutch oven. It worked perfectly.
Was it the best "grilled cheese" I've ever had? No. It was a damn good sandwich, for sure, but it was not something that I would characterize as "grilled cheese." Sure, the charred edges delivered on flavor (even without the grease), and the combination of peaches and melted cheddar was like a match made in e-harmony heaven (if there were such a thing). But it was more of a hot pressed sandwich (a panini perhaps?) then a grilled cheese, and, truth be told, even though this version is healthier and one that I could eat more often (and probably will), I missed the grease.
Sorry, Mr. Bittman (with all due respect, of course).
Grilled cheese sandwiches are the stuff diners are made of, not backyard BBQs.
It seems to me that despite the name, grilled cheese sandwiches belong frying in a pan or sizzling on a griddle with generous pats of simmering of butter, and that it is the grease--the salty, buttery bread, crispy and soft at the same time--that makes a grilled cheese a real grilled cheese. Nothing else can replace it (let's not pretend). If you want a panini (or something a little healthier) then grill your sandwich, but, if you are really in the mood for a grilled cheese, and nothing else will quell that hunger, then get out your frying pan and reach for the butter.