Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery made a grilled cheese like no other! The technique, outlined in Keller’s essential Ad Hoc at Home, starts off like any grilled cheese. You take good brioche, good gruyère and sandwich them together. But here’s where the recipe veers from grilled cheese tradition. Instead of buttering the outside of the bread (which is how I’ve always done it), Keller’s recipe calls for browning butter, in a pan and sliding the sandwich in. The sandwich cooks for one side for a minute and a half, then on the other side for 30 seconds. Then, Keller, have you add more butter to the top of the sandwich, throw it on a sheet pan, and slide it into a 350°F oven. The sandwich toasts and melts for 2-5 minutes, and then it’s ready. But only after you cut off the crusts.
I tried this recipe at home. And I liked it. But it seemed a little fussy. I wanted a grilled cheese I could make without having to turn on the oven. And believe it or not, I wanted even crispier bread.
So I tried again. Inspired by the teaspoon of butter Keller spreads on his sandwiches before baking—and inspired by my recent adventures in crispy cabbage—I tried a different method. I treated my grilled cheese like a steak.
Which is to say, I basted it. I cooked the sandwich per Keller’s method up until the point when it’s supposed to go into the oven. I added a few tablespoons of butter (enough to scoop and spoon over the sandwich) into the pan, tilted the pan towards me, and basted the sandwich with the now-melted butter for 30 seconds. The bread soaked up the butter like a champ, getting extra crisp and golden and, well, buttery. It was a beautiful sight.
Now, is the resulting grilled cheese for everybody? No. This is not for the faint of heart. Nor is it for people who are on the run—this way of making grilled cheese takes a little longer than most. But it is for people who love a mean grilled cheese.
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