I don’t remember ever being without cheese. Growing up and throughout my university years, there was always an inventory of cheeses in my fridge. Along with bread, it is without question one of my favourite foods.
Grilled cheese was a staple when I was a child. Along with "beans and weans" (beans and wieners), it was one of the first meals that I mastered as I began to learn my way around the kitchen. My preference was the open-faced grilled method, made with little square slices of Cracker Barrel cheddar. I got such enjoyment peering into the oven and waiting for the perfection of bubbling cheese under the orange glow of the broiler. My wife, Andrea, says these were called cheese dreams in her household, sometimes adorned with crispy bacon. I like the name but prefer the simplicity of the star ingredient, cheese, all on its own. My childhood best friend, Jason, who lived across the street, preferred his grilled cheese cooked on a pan using processed cheese slices. We respected each other's method, although to be honest, I always thought mine tasted better and was a touch more sophisticated. I was a cheese snob even in my youth.
Simple foods are always the best. I love the recent trend of single-concept restaurants that focus on doing one food and doing it really well. New York seems to have the led the way in this arena, with cool concept eateries like Rice to Riches (rice pudding), Hummus Place and, of course, Grilled Cheese NYC—why did you close your doors? Long live the memory! Luckily, I now have access to the grilled cheese in Borough Market, and this isn’t just any grilled cheese, either. It’s toasted sourdough bread topped with bubbly melted cheddar and onions. Warms the soul on a rainy London day.
I like to think that my cheese twists are a grownup version of grilled cheese. I discovered these many years ago at Amy’s Bread in Hell’s Kitchen in New York, and have since made my own version. They are best made with sourdough, but are equally tasty made with any white loaf recipe. After a few days, they can be toasted, bringing them back to life. Of course, finding the time to make bread from scratch is often challenging – where did the phrase “banker’s hours” come from, anyway? Thankfully, I still find satisfaction in my famous childhood grilled cheese.