When The Christian Science Monitor volunteered to send me a copy of Laura Werlin‘s new grilled cheese cookbook, "Grilled Cheese, Please!" in turn for a review, I asked where do I sign. Seemed like a no brainer to me.
The last time I wrote a book review was probably sometime in grade school for some book I probably never even read. I know I still owe one to my Sunday School teacher. (I’ll get on that right after I finish this review.) And now, here I am writing a cookbook review, a grilled cheese cookbook review for that matter. I would definitely say this is an improvement and that I am moving up in the world. I wonder what fun will happen next.
Prior to knowing I was going to write this review, I was planning on cooking a sandwich from Werlin’s first grilled cheese cookbook, "Great Grilled Cheese." I briefly thumbed through, trying to find that perfect recipe. I stumbled on a cucumber sandwich that looked promising, but honestly, none of the recipes really excited me (as they did when I originally purchased the book). Sure, I have to discount some because of the whole meat+milk/Kosher thing, but although the vegetarian ones looked interesting, I couldn’t find the one. That all changed once I received "Grilled Cheese, Please!"
The minute the book arrived, I thumbed through as quickly as possible, trying to take everything in. The introduction is a great initiation for all grilled cheese novices and a great refresher for the grilled cheese aficionados. Werlin is a grilled cheese expert, so make sure to heed all of her advice regarding grating the cheese, buttering the bread (not the pan) and covering the sandwich while cooking. It is valuable information regardless of your cooking expertise.
The 50 recipes are divided into 8 chapters:
"Meat and Cheese"
"Veggies and Cheese"
"Global Grilled Cheese"
"Grilled Cheese on the Go"
"Regional American Grilled Cheese"
"Old Favorites and Modern Sides"
One grilled cheese sandwich can fit into multiple chapters, but in my opinion, all of the sandwiches are matched with their most correct category and shouldn’t prove confusing. I am especially impressed with the “grilled cheese on the go” chapters, as it features recipes from such grilled cheese staples as The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen, Grilled Cheese & Co and The Grilled Cheese Truck. When you are ready to choose a recipe, use the chapters if you know what you want. Otherwise just start thumbing through, letting the book be your guide through the many options. That is how I decided on my sandwich.
I had no idea what to expect from "Grilled Cheese, Please!" so I simply opened my mind … and the book. I had a stack of Post-It Notes to the right of me as I found multiple recipes to mark for future examination. I found 11 sandwiches that showcased the uniqueness of the cookbook and its recipes. These selections include spinach, egg, and manchego; artichoke grilled cheese; havarti with balsamic-glazed carrots; and arepas with monterey jack, plantains, and black beans. Sound amazing, don’t they? I enjoyed other recipes but vetoed them for various reasons.
After debating with myself (and the sous chef), I decided to try out the Gruyere and Gorgonzola with Hazelnut Butter Grilled Cheese. The photo enticed me and the recipe persuaded me. I know very little about hazelnuts, so I was excited to try them in a sandwich. Below is the story of the sandwich and how it compared to my inner-hype. Make sure to continue reading.
With keeping Kosher already limiting my palette, this grilled cheese cookbook has a variety of choices even for me. That means the general public will have even more options. If you are unable to find at least one grilled cheese sandwich that you would like to prepare, then you are no fan of grilled cheese sandwiches and should just move along. For every other normal grilled cheese loving individual, I highly recommend you thumb through this at your local bookstore (or digitally on Amazon) and then buy it, making one of the sandwiches as soon as possible.
The sandwich: Gruyere and Gorgonzola with Hazelnut Butter
Makes 4 sandwiches
As already stated, I had marked 11 recipes to choose from but chose this one for its uniqueness. I have not made many sandwiches with either Gruyere or Gorgonzola and have only very rarely used any nuts on a sandwich. Since I know very little about hazelnuts, I went ahead and chose this sandwich, trying something different. This particular sandwich falls in the anything goes chapter.
1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted (preferably skinned)
1-1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons butter, at room temperature
8 sandwich-size slices Italian bread (or use wheat or French)
6 ounces Gruyere cheese (or use Comte, Emmantaler or Swiss)
6 ounces Gorgonzola Dolce cheese
4 teaspoons honey (preferably chestnut or acacia)
I should note up front that although I tried to follow the recipe as best I could, I mostly eye balled the measurements as opposed to actually measuring them. And of course, I only made 2 sandwiches, not 4.
Cheese No. 1: Gruyere
"Best known as the key ingredient in classic fondue, Gruyère is one of the most famous cheeses made by the Swiss. A hearty, piquant, hard cow’s milk cheese, Gruyère is named for the town of Gruyères and the surrounding La Gruyère region of western Switzerland.
"On the outside, Gruyère has a natural brown wrinkled rind-like crust. Inside, Gruyère is pale gold in colour with little to no porosity. Rich, nutty, salty, and slightly sweet to fruity in flavour, Gruyère is similar to other Swiss-type cheeses, like Emmental. Aged longer, Gruyère is firmer in texture and more assertive in taste." (ILoveCheese.co.uk)
This particular Gruyere, as noted on the packaging, was only aged for 150 days, making it a young cheese. It definitely had the nutty flavors spoken above, as well as the sweet overtones, which is the reason it is so perfect for this more sweet grilled cheese.
Cheese No. 2: Gorgonzola Dolce
I had originally read the recipe simply as Gorgonzola and was ready to purchase Whole Foods brand Gorgonzola raw milk crumbles. That is when I read the recipe again and noticed it said Gorgonzola Dolce. I used my iPhone to see if the “Dolce” really differentiates this particular variety from its regular counterpart and discovered that it does. Therefore, I searched through Whole Foods’ cheese department and eventually found Gorgonzola Dolce.
"Gorgonzola Dolce is the ‘sweeter’ gorgonzola – milder and much softer than its Natuale or Piccante counterparts. It is made using pasteurized cow’s milk and is aged for 3 months. It is very creamy and almost spreadable in texture with a light piquancy." (Formaggio Kitchen)
Upon tasting this particular Gorgonzola, I found it to taste very similar to typical Gorgonzola or Blue Cheese. The cheese added a great contrast on the actual sandwich.
Prior to actually deciding on this sandwich, I needed to first find hazelnuts. I searched Whole Foods with no luck, and even asked for help.
However, I wasn’t defeated and kept looking, finally finding them in the bulk department. They weren’t toasted or skinned, so I needed to do that when I arrived home (which turned out to be very easy).
The only issue was peeling the hazelnuts after toasting, so yes, some did retain their skins. In the end, I don’t believe this altered the taste or caused any issues.
Once the hazelnuts were toasted, it was time to make hazelnut butter. All that needs to be done is blend the toasted hazelnuts with some oil until the texture is like peanut butter. My hazelnut butter was a little more grainy than I would have liked, but I wanted to avoid over-oiling the mixture.
The recipe calls for Italian bread so I went with Italian bread. I was hoping to purchase the bread from Whole Foods, but unfortunately they were sold out. The second best option at the time was Italian bread from Giant Eagle. It wasn’t the perfect choice, but it did not affect the sandwich negatively.
I chose this sandwich recipe because I wanted different and unique. After taking my first bite and actually tasting this Gruyere and Gorgonzola w/Hazelnut Butter Grilled Cheese I knew it was a success. This sandwich, in my opinion, is very unusual and unlike anything I have made up to this point. The hazelnut butter reminds me of peanut butter and was tasty and sweet. It was a bit grainy but that could easily be fixed. The Gorgonzola Dolce cheese added a great contrast to the sweet which I enjoyed. Overall, I enjoyed the sandwich. It wasn’t earth shattering but after taking the last bite all I could think was, “That was a good sandwich.”
And I went on my way.
Shane Kearns blogs about grilled cheese at Grilled Shane.
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