I’m struggling with this semester. I can see the end coming and I’m impatient and unmotivated. I’ve spent more time this week looking at grilled cheese sandwiches on Instagram than I have on homework, I’m ashamed to admit. I would rather focus on gooey, melty cheese with a bite of freshly cracked pepper. I would rather envision strings of provolone juxtaposed with the crisp bite of apple. I would rather listen for the sizzle of the moment when melting cheese dips down to meet hot, buttery pan.
I’m a bit enamored with grilled cheese, I must admit. I carry a notebook with lists of grilled cheese sandwiches, waiting for the perfect opportunity. I’m not against the traditional American cheese, white bread grilled cheese from the quintessential American childhood; I just prefer my grilled cheese a little jazzed up.
In college I worked at a local gym whose “snack” bar made the most intense grilled cheese sandwiches with a mix of cheeses (that I was never able to figure out) and a heavy sprinkling of freshly cracked black pepper – almost too much pepper. That simple sandwich opened my taste buds to the wonders of the less-than-average grilled cheese.
In Masaka Town, Uganda, there is a little ex-pat cafe. I’d often find myself there after work most afternoons sipping on a fresh fruit smoothie glancing at the $11.00 cheeseburger far outside my Peace Corps stipend (although, I did save up for one or sometimes two a month). One afternoon as I opened the menu, a small slip of paper floated to the floor: New: grilled cheese! I nearly tripped over myself to get the attention of a waitress. I asked for one grilled cheese with pickles on the side. I received one grilled cheese with pickles inside. Enunciation wasn’t always my strong suit in Uganda. I was excited, however, for the chance to eat real cheese again in months that I powered straight ahead. And it was good. Mouth-wateringly, make it a “the-weird-muzugu-girl-is-back” regular kind of meal. A few months later I was slowly walking through a small market in my town and my eyes landed on a frozen block of “cheddar” cheese. I found myself reaching for it, despite the exorbitant price. All I could think of was all the grilled cheese I could make. Grilled cheese at every meal for days. I began experimenting: grilled cheese with lettuce (no.), grilled cheese with chili peppers (yes), grilled cheese and tomato soup (always), grilled cheese with green apple slices (yes, yes, yes).
Life is good with grilled cheese.
Three Cheese and Apple Grilled Cheese
Two slices bread of your choice – I use Udi’s Gluten Free Florence Street Bakery Farmhouse White
1 slice provolone
4 slices (or enough to cover one slice of bread) extra-sharp cheddar – I like Cabot
2 slices of Gala or green apple
2 Tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
Freshly cracked black pepper
Place the slice of provolone on one of the slices of bread. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top and grate some cracked pepper. Top with the apple slices, the sharp cheddar, and more black pepper. Finish with the second slice of bread.
In a skillet large enough to hold the bread, melt unsalted butter over medium-low heat. When the butter has melted, carefully add the sandwich and cover with a lid. The lid will help the cheese melt as the bottom is browning.
After about 3-4 minutes, check the bottom of the sandwich to see how much browning has occurred. If you see a nice even, golden brown color (or whichever color of “toasted” you prefer), flip the sandwich by sliding a spatula underneath and, using your fingers to keep it together, carefully flip the sandwich over. Return it to the pan and replace the lid. Continue to cook for 3-4 minutes longer, or until the bottom is browned to your liking.