From Cowgirl Creamery, a lesson on perfecting the classic comfort food
As everyone over the age of 3 knows, a grilled cheese sandwich is the most purely comforting food ever created: a toasty, golden beauty that brightens your mood without fail. As Peggy Smith, co-owner of Northern California’s Cowgirl Creamery, puts it, “Just go home and make a grilled cheese sandwich, and you’ll feel better.”
Peggy Smith and Sue Conley have built Cowgirl Creamery into one of the best cheesemaking companies in the country—and sold
hundreds of grilled cheese sandwiches at Sidekick, their San Francisco lunch counter. Now, they’ve written a cookbook, Cowgirl Creamery Cooks (Chronicle Books; $35), with a whole section on grilled cheese.
“It’s more about technique than a recipe,” explains Conley, “and flavor combinations that elevate ordinary grilled cheese to an exquisite experience.” In her home kitchen in Petaluma, with the scent of browning butter and nutty cheese billowing from the stove, the Cowgirls showed us how to do just that.
“You can make this recipe with any kind of cheese,” says Smith. The key is to use a variety of different-textured cheeses—moist
with dry, elastic with hard. The recipe is based on one in Cowgirl Creamery Cooks.
Recipe: Simple, Classic Grilled Cheese
A favorite at Cowgirl Creamery’s Sidekick Cafe in San Francisco, this soup is a grilled cheese sandwich’s best friend. Its
success depends on really good canned tomatoes and long, slow simmering, so that all the flavors meld.
Recipe: Sidekick Tomato Soup
“We use a fish spatula to turn the sandwiches,” says Smith. “It’s thin and slips right under the bread.”
For a visual demonstration of the Cowgirls' easy method for grilled cheese, watch our video.
“You’ve invested in your cheese. Take care of it so the subtle flavors are preserved,” says Smith. Here's how:
Rewrap. Take off the plastic film (which prevents it from breathing); wrap it in waxed paper, parchment, or cheese paper; then seal in a plastic bag with some air inside. “That way, it won’t pick up flavors of whatever else is in your fridge, like onions,” Conley says.
Date it. Aged cheeses start to deteriorate as soon as they’re cut from the wheel. Fresh cheeses should be eaten within a day or two, and harder cheeses within a couple of weeks. Write the date—and name of the cheese, if you need to—on the waxed paper, says Conley. “Otherwise, you’re going to look at it and wonder, ‘How long have I had this?’”
Protect. Keep cheese in an enclosed meat or vegetable drawer, away from the fridge’s airflow, which dries it out.
Warm up. A cold cheese is a tight cheese, unable to express its nuances. Let it warm up at room temperature for 3 hours before serving.
Freshen. Scrape a knife across the cheese before serving. “As it sits, oil comes to the surface, and that can get rancid,” Smith explains.