We've officially declared this Grilled Cheese Week. Why? Mainly because we just really love grilled cheese. To celebrate, we're covering everything from top tips to leveled-up ingredients. Join us for toasty comfort and plenty of melty cheese.
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It's time to break up with your grilled cheese bread of choice. Whether white, whole wheat, sourdough boule, or lovely brioche — just dump it. Use it for French toast, croutons, PB&J’s, whatever, because this Jalapeño-Cheddar loaf is the mic drop of all grilled cheese breads. (Compared to this, everything else is like the elevator music rendition of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir”; it's the same tune but, oh my gosh, I'm falling asleep.)
Let’s make something better.
My go-to grilled cheese begins with a loaf inspired by one at Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles. It’s a flavor and texture dart, hitting the bullseye of buttery, cheesy, crisp, and tender.
At first glance it looks like a basic pan loaf with an even crumb and cornmeal-crusted exterior. But on the inside, we crank up the volume. Durum flour and cornmeal add a sunny yellow hue, and cheddar cheese and butter give the dough a big boost of flavor. As the loaf bakes, the cheese melts into the loaf, infusing and tenderizing every bite.
And as if that’s not enough, home-pickled jalapeños are dotted throughout, adding their own hit of something like Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child” to the mix — a spicy punctuation to let you know this isn’t the school lunchroom version of a toasted sandwich. You won’t need ketchup or tomato soup for dipping: With this grilled cheese, the flavor is in the bread.
Of course, you need cheese, too. So once you have the loaf in hand, it’s time to make the sandwich. (And by the way, don’t worry if you’re afraid you’ll inhale the whole loaf before you get the griddle heated: This recipe also makes eight rolls that you can eat first.) This bread will make any grilled cheese better — whether you’re going with your basic favorite or an amped-up version full of fillings. But for my ultimate grilled cheese, follow this method:
How to make my Jalapeño-Cheddar Grilled Cheese
- Make the loaf.
- Cut thick slices (about 1” thick, more or less. Err on the thick side!).
- Generously cover the exterior sides with soft butter or mayonnaise (yes, mayo for better browning and heightened crispness, trust us).
- Grate pepper Jack (or one of my recent favorites, Cabot’s Horseradish Cheddar or Vermont Farmstead’s Sip of Sunshine Alehouse Cheddar), using as much as you want. Note that grated cheese will collapse and flatten as it melts, so go big. If you want to take things to the next level, sprinkle additional cheese on the outside of the sandwich, too — it will stick to the butter and crisp as the sandwich toasts.
- As you pile on the cheese, tuck in extra pickled jalapeños to taste. Me, I like it so spicy that I can’t feel my face. You find your own level.
- Start in a cold sturdy pan (like cast iron) and toast on both sides over medium-low heat until golden and melted. Add a lid if necessary for better melting.
- Put on your Robert Plant wig and sing, “Whole Lotta Love,” while wolfing down steaming bites. Trust me: If you don’t wait until it cools a little, you’ll scream just like he does. Maybe that’s what you want?
Cover photo by Rick Holbrook.