Grilled Cheese For The People!

Grilled Cheese For The People!

Accessible yet limitless, the grilled cheese gives us both the blueprint and the freedom to create culinary magic. While one cannot go wrong with the classic ingredients that are available even at a gas station convenience mart, follow our lead into the higher realms to uncover greater levels of grilled goodness. We tackle each of the seven styles of cheese – precisely to let it be known that all of them have a place at the table during grilled cheese time!

Read on, and discover inspired recipe ideas, outside-the-box tips & tricks, and everything else you’ll need to get your grilled cheese game plan in action! 

Antonelli’s & Grilled Cheese: Best Friends Forever

Grilled cheese goes deep in Antonellis’ DNA. As some of you have come to know, Kendall and John Antonelli graduated from Georgetown University in 2004 and moved to Austin in 2005. John was a CPA working as an auditor with one of the big accounting firms, and Kendall was running a program for immigrant survivors of human trafficking at a nonprofit that had one of the highest caseloads in the nation. On their Caribbean honeymoon in 2007, amidst umbrella-laden coconut drinks and languid paperback books, John had an introspective revelation when he realized he had the perfect house, the perfect dogs – and now the perfect wife – but not the perfect job. He wondered if these reservations would make for a future miserable husband, and in that beachy moment of clarity, he told Kendall “I want to quit my job.” When, without missing a beat she asked him what he wanted to do, he responded, “Something in cheese.” Kendall enthusiastically pointed out: “No one likes an auditor, but everyone loves cheese” – and the rest is history! 

As their new path began to take shape, they started hosting “The Grilled Cheese Club” out of their home, producing tantalizing four-course grilled cheese meals featuring American artisan cheeses while exploring concepts and recipes. John & Kendall soon realized it wasn’t necessarily about the recipe or the cooking, rather everyone coming together around the kitchen. Friends would taste a cheese, pair it with a beverage, then pull in a brilliant accompaniment to make sparks fly. As Grilled Cheese Club nights evolved into an exploration of flavors and storytelling about cheeses and their makers, John became transfixed, spending hours staring at the cheeses with his trusty Cheese Primer in hand, researching them one by one. In fact, before the ‘Antonelli’s Cheese Shop’ concept was born, they started out by formulating a plan to open a gourmet grilled cheese restaurant! 

So it’s no small wonder why grilled cheese was the actual conduit from vision to reality for Antonelli's Cheese! Already on course to “do something in cheese,” and now with Kendall creating a true family business by his side – Antonelli’s Cheese Shop began to truly blossom. Says John, “I love that cheese brings people together… I love telling people what I do and nine times out of 10 – no, 99 times out of 100 – their eyes will light up and they’ll say, ‘I love cheese!’”

Let’s take a cue from the Antonelli’s origin story and really get in touch with our most soul-serving, elevated grilled cheese dreams.

Know Your Grilled Cheese Strategy

Whether a fast-fix for a bunch of hungry-hungry kiddos, or a Michelin-star aspiring cocktail function for those you love to impress – the promise of grilled cheeses holds something for everyone. Like Julia Child with her famously beloved omelet station, grilled cheese gatherings bring everyone together in joy, while serving them their very own made-to-order cravings.

As with any culinary adventure, the sum total will rise above individual ingredients, so what you put in will contribute profoundly to your masterful final product. The types of bread, cheeses, accompaniments and even butter are important players in a symphony of gooey goodness. It helps to think in themes: a French grilled cheese menu may begin with pan au levain, classic alpine cheeses, and butter that’s creamery-fresh, or made by yourself (it’s easy!); while a menu for a bunch of advanced-palate youngsters might revert to white bread, cheddars like Seascape & Widmer’s 10-Year, and sliced apples.

The Adventure: A Perfect Grilled Cheese

Broadening out from the basics is where the magic of the grilled cheese really begins. Open your fridge, pantry, and mind to all of the meats, condiments, dressings, pickled items, conservas and preserves that just might find a place in your spread (generally – the more, the merrier). Regarding the star of the show (the cheese!), walk through the Seven Styles of Cheese with us for an arm-load of fantastic ideas that will have your wheels turning towards your own brilliant creations.

Fresh Cheeses

  • Gluten-free or just low-carbin’ it: Get to the ancient roots of grilling cheese with Halloumi – a cheese so sturdy it can be placed directly on the grill! Garnish with Mediterranean flourishes such as drizzled Con’Olio extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil and Marcona almonds.

  • Grill it to the Greek: Use a rustic, crusty loaf as the foundation for artisan feta cheese, kalamata olive slices, fresh-from-the-garden cucumber, tomato & leafy greens. Serve with a tin of conservas from the sea, & dip in the oily sauce.

  • Preserved cheeses like Oro Bianco’s Marinated Bufaletta (spreadable cubes of decadent fresh water buffalo cheese, marinating in seasoned Texas EVOO) are practically begging to be put in play! Try grilling flatbread-style on dense sourdough, and drizzle oil over top to instill layers of depth. Sprigs of fresh rosemary enliven the bite.

Soft-Ripened/Bloomy Cheeses

    • Pick brie-style cheeses that possess a sturdiness to them, and consider getting the toasting of the bread slices in process before adding the cheese – as these just need a touch of warming to achieve gooeynessUse a dense bread like rye or pumpernickel.

    • Any super-fresh & firm (“young”) brie-style cheese will rise beautifully to the occasion, and those more inclined to retain their structure regardless of age work best: Brie de Meaux, Mt. Tam, Rougette, and Cana de Oveja are all fantastic starting points.

    • Try variations of sweet sandwiches with as brie, including jams or cajetas (a goat’s milk caramel sauce). For example, Cana de Oveja & Cajeta or Rougette with Robert Lambert's Raspberry Champagne Jelly.

Washed Rind Cheeses

  • Regarding texture, not all washed rinds are the same, but those inspired by Taleggio (as well as the real deal) work best: Timberdoodle, Quadrello & Ciresa Taleggio D.O.P. are all excellent leads.

  • This is a chance to embrace sweet & savory alchemy: get your bread oiled & toasting, add the cheese, combine bread slices and slowly grill on low to get the cheese (and other chosen goodies such as red onion, salami slices, olive tapenade, etc.) melty, and finally slather the finished product with umami-rich Apple Onion Jam from American Spoon (or your favorite chutney).

Semi-Soft Cheeses

  • Semi-Soft cheeses are classically home-base for grilled cheeses. They are a great place to revisit your grilled cheese journey – because you can scarcely go wrong.
  • Try an open-faced grilled cheese to switch it up! Use baguette slices, topped Ossau-Iraty cheese from the Basque region of France. Once cheese is slightly melted, add a not-too-sweet preserve, and drape silky prosciutto slices on the side. It'll be an experience that will transport you to foothills of European mountain ranges.
  • If you are craving a creation made with another flavorful cheese that might not have the texture you’re looking for, grate & combine it with some semi-soft to get it in the zone. For example, moist Menage from Carr Valley Cheese serves as a brilliant conduit for firmer & dryer Pecorino, Jack & Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Firm Cheeses

  • Gruyere, Comte, Challerhocker, Manchego, Cheddar & Gouda all jump out flailing for your attention, as they are all top-notch grilled cheese sure bets. Try shredding & blending 2 or 3 like-bodied cheeses to make your own nuanced fusion.

  • Take cues from famous sandwiches for inspiration: the extreme interplay between savory & sweet of the Monte Cristo; the Croque Monsieur with its gooey bechamel – heck, even bring in a fried egg for a Croque Madame-inspired grilled cheese!

  • Themes are lots of fun in this category – Invent a ‘Don Quixote’ with manchego, sun-dried tomatoes and super-crunchy Quicos (gourmet ‘corn-nuts’); or an ‘All-American’ with 10-Year Cheddar and Apple Cider Jelly from Wood’s Cider Mill. (These are just off the top of our head…so be fearless!)

Hard Cheeses

  • When it comes to the Hard cheese department, you’re looking at big, bold flavors, with not the best melting potential. But don’t fret – blend. When working with a hard cheese like pecorino, fold in a younger cheese to achieve spreadability, and problem solved!

  • Vella’s Dry Jack is a nutty and oft-overlooked cheese that has a rind brimming with subtleties touching on ground cocoa and bright, green olive oil. Blend Dry Jack with something from the semi-soft category to sustain a melty marriage.

  • Pay respects to the “King of Cheese,” Parmigiano-Reggiano, and grate together with fresh, mild mozzarella, add tomato & basil on focaccia to signal Italian flag vibes.

Blue Cheeses

  • Sound a little too adventurous? Hear us out: Start with a simple entrée into the realm of grilled blue cheeses by keeping it straightforward. Select something not too crumbly and not too spreadable, like Roquefort, and gently warm atop pre-grilled, bias-cut French bread; let cook to combine a bit. Finally, simply dip in your best honey!

  • From there, branch out (you can always blend a little grated Ossau-Iraty or your best semi-soft to achieve the desired meltiness-encouraging blend) – Try Bayley Hazen blue with sliced dried (or fresh) figs; Smokey blue or Caveman blue with LaQuercia Speck prosciutto; the ‘Blue-on-Blue,’ with Point Reyes Bay Blue and Blueberry Lemon Jam from Robert Lambert.

  • Clearly, this is a fantastic time for a dessert bite. Follow your bliss with blue cheese & chocolate by combining a grape or fig leaf-wrapped blue (Rogue River Blue, Shakerag Blue) and Wildwood Chocolate’s Texas Pecan Brittle Bar.

Up Your Sleeve: Tips & Tricks

  • ‘Tis the season for bountiful, gorgeous produce, whether home-grown or farmer’s market procured – bring your chives, tomatoes, herb sprigs, mushrooms, and anything else from the garden that might even possibly find a role (it will).

  • “Around the World in a Grilled Cheese” menu: plan a virtual journey with your compelling bites as the mode of transport by selecting complementary region-specific cheeses, breads, and accompaniments. (Don’t forget – your friendly Antonelli’s cheesemonger is always ready to assist in refining any of your visions!)

  • Make a Pimento Grilled Cheese: Start with equal parts grated cheese and cream cheese, a couple spoons of mayo, diced red peppadew peppers (or pimentos), salt, black & red pepper, onion and garlic powder; tweak to taste, spread & grill.

  • To serve a small crowd: employ a panini press next to the stove, or take it down to the oven: butter and toast bread on sheet pans, add cheese & melt, add trimmings, combine & serve!

  • Flip, Flip Flip! Cook grilled cheeses low & slow, and flip approximately every three minutes until done.

  • Avoid sogginess: it might sound counterintuitive, but don’t overdo it with too much cheese, as it can bring along too much moisture. Also, use plenty of butter, oil or mayonnaise to contribute crispiness.

  • As with accompaniments, the same goes for beverages – Bring everything and the kitchen sink! Sparkling wines & waters are a must; stouts, porters (and all manner of beers) should be invited; and wines from white to burgundy will most certainly find new friends.

For even more cheesy-gooey excitement, look for our Grilled Cheese classes (and other events where we enjoy melting cheeses: Raclette Nights, Fondue Nights, etc.) at our Public Events Calendar!

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