A friend of mine in Dublin sent me this cookbook and an issue of Easy Food magazine this past Christmas (such excellent gifts! and benefiting a charity!) and I was stoked to see that one of the recipes in the magazine was for a rather tasty-looking grilled cheese sandwich! Okay, so there definitely were a whole bunch of other awesome recipes both in the book and the magazine that I’d love to talk about but this is first and foremost a blog about grilled cheese so that is what we’ll be focusing on here. The recipe is titled “Cheddar, Pear, and Watercress Sandwich” which loses points for creativeness but gets plenty of marks for making my mouth water just by reading it. It’s no secret that fruit and cheese together make for excellent eats and I absolutely love pairing the two. The recipe called for whole-grain bread, sharp yellow cheddar cheese, a ripe pear, a handful of rocket (what the Euros call arugula) and some butter. Not entirely sure why they didn’t just call it “Cheddar, Pear, and Arugula Sandwich” as watercress is clearly nowhere to be found in the original sandwich. Oh well! The arugula at the grocer’s was looking a wee bit suspicious so I ended up going with watercress anyhow. Cress is a bit tangy and has less of the peppery bite that arugula has. I wanted to keep the ingredients as Irish as possible so I used Killaree Cheddar from Kerrygolds Farms as well as their Irish butter.
Killaree is fairly sharp, though definitely not the sharpest cheddar I’ve ever eaten. If I were pretentious about this sort of thing I’d describe it as robust, full-bodied, buttery with smooth grassy notes. As I am merely an amateur cheeseologist, however, I’m just going to say that it’s decent. Relatively inexpensive as far as cheeses go which is a plus if you’re looking for something cheap but good.
Ok so I realize that there are two distinct camps of grilled cheese makers: the ones who butter their bread before they put it in the pan and the ones who melt the butter in the pan, then put the bread down. I am firmly in the first camp as I feel the bread browns more evenly/gets less soggy but everyone has their own technique. I tried it the other way round this time, melting the butter in the pan first and then putting my toasted bread down. Eh. Sometimes it’s nice to do a thing if only to remind yourself why you don’t ever do it.
Finished! Sharp cheddar gets less melty and gooey than milder cheddars do which is why you don’t see cheese oozing out all over the place. I didn’t completely overdo it on the stove, either, so the pear and cress retained a bit of crunch and freshness. The saltiness of the cheese combined with the sweetness of the fruit and the tanginess of the greens, tied together with the heartiness of the whole-grain bread, made for a pleasant combination of flavors and a suprisingly light sandwich. A definite do-again for warmer days.
Oh, and I should mention that the soundtrack to my grilled cheesemaking this go around consisted of tunes from the multi-talented, multi-instrumentalist and all around niceguy So Cow. Who, much like today’s recipe, happens to be from Ireland. And happens to play lovely little catchy noisy pop numbers about nerdy things like Korean actresses and eating popcorn. Not necessarily in the same song.