Turn your Cheese Toastie up to ELEVEN!
- Good Bread, sliced
- Red Leicester, shredded
I’m an American Expat, and I have a confession to make. I miss American Cheese. Yes, I miss artisan American cheeses, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about the fake stuff. Individually wrapped slices of bright orange goodness. Stay with me here…
I believe that true cheese only has four ingredients – milk, salt, rennet & cultures – that’s it. All of the world’s best cheeses – four ingredients that provide all the flavour, texture and preservative qualities that make cheese, cheese! So, if you pick up something from the supermarket and it lists more than four ingredients, some of which may be difficult to pronounce – it’s pretty safe to say that’s not true cheese. The only exception to the rule being annatto, a natural food dye traditionally used to make cheeses orange!
Where does that leave my beloved American Cheese? I don’t know – a dairy product perhaps? But that’s the grilled cheese (ahem, cheese toastie) that I grew up with. Say what you want, but the stuff melts like a champ. When it’s all gooey between two buttery slices of white bread – heaven.
Alas, you’ll be hard-pressed to find the Kraft singles or equivalent in your local UK supermarket! Silly food standards! (In truth I am 100% in favour of stricter food standards.) Where is that bright orange beacon of comfort? Enter: RED LEICESTER. A classic cheddar recipe, dyed with annatto. However, technically speaking it’s not the best for melting. Whaaaaat?! How dare you, Dan!
Don’t get me wrong, it melts, but certain cheeses melt better than others. Cheddar is categorised as an uncooked-pressed cheese, made with a process called – cheddaring! The true classic melters are the cooked-curd cheeses, most notably the alpine-style cheeses like gruyere, comte, and appenzeller, to just name a few. Here, the curds are melted and then pressed to form the wheel.
Look at a piece of farmhouse cheddar – see all those cracks and spaces? That’s where individual curds of cheese are fused together with pressure. Look at a wedge of comte – and you’ll note a smooth and uniform paste. Rule of thumb – if the cheese has been melted when made, it’ll melt well again! Cooked curd cheeses lock in the fat – so if I put a slice of cheddar into a frying pan, yes – it will melt, but the fat will separate out and get greasy. A cooked curd cheese? Loong oooey gooey strands of cheese. (These also make the best base for fondue!)
But oh boy, the flavour of cheddar – SO GOOD.
I am inspired by the Pimento Cheese of the American south (google a recipe) essentially a cheese spread made with cheddar, cream cheese, a bit of mayo and spices. And it is one of my favourite things to melt on a cheese toastie. Try it with fried chicken tenders and pickles.
But for the purposes of a classic, you can pair it back and simply mix some Red Leicester (or cheddar of choice) and some cream cheese. Save the mayo for the outside of the bread for a golden brown crispy toast on the griddle. I recommend using mascarpone (for its richness) as opposed to regular cream cheese. Whip these together in a mixer or food processor and then chill it down before filling your toasty with this magical mix of awesomeness.
The result – oooey gooey goodness! And the bright orange colour I so crave. Serve with a cup of classic tomato soup, dip and repeat. Welcome to Flavour Town.
I used: 50g of Cheese & 30g of Mascarpone
The Wine Lover’s Pizza
Grapes – Red or White
Wine – Red w/ Red, White w/ White
This is inspired by a classic Tuscan Grape focaccia and not my original recipe. I made this pizza for my (now) wife on our second date. I think it may have sealed the deal for me frankly! Over eleven years later and many tweaks and iterations, I am happy to share my take on this recipe with our FreshMag family!
The pizza (or flatbread, etc.) is a gooey cheese blend, heightened with the sweetness of fresh grapes and a wine reduction. It runs the risk of being too gooey, so many of the tweaks are designed to keep your base crisp!
FONTINA – A washed-rind cow’s milk cheese from northern Italy. The official D.O.P version (use this if you can find it) is Fontina D’Aosta, made from the milk of alpine grazing cows since the 1200’s – it’s rich, nutty and an excellent melter.
GORGONZOLA – A classic blue produced in Piedmont and Lombardy, often in large wheels topping the scales at 12kg. Gorgonzola Dolce is the milder version, but also higher in moisture. If you enjoy the flavour of blue cheeses look for Gorgonzola Piccante – harder, drier, spicer.
Cube up both kinds of cheese and combine in a mixing bowl.
Choose white or red grapes – and an accompanying wine – (red with red, white with white). For red wines, look for fruity, low-medium tannin wines like Grenache, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel/Primitivo. For white wines, a classic pairing with blue cheese is aromatic whites – think Gewurztraminer, riesling, pinot blanc, etc.
Cut your grapes into quarters and place them in a non-stick frying pan, with a generous splash of wine and a generous pinch of white sugar. Cook on medium heat until the liquid is reduced to a thick tasty syrup. Strain the grapes from the syrup and set the syrup aside. Add your candied grapes to your cheese blend and mix by hand. The heat from the grapes should help soften the cheeses and you’ll end up with a delightful spreadable pizza topping!
If you’re making a pizza or flatbread, I would recommend baking the base on its own for a few minutes to firm it up and get extra crispy. Top with your cheese/grape blend and finish baking to your liking – I let it get extra bubbly until it starts to brown on top!
After the pizza cools for a few minutes drizzle it with your wine reduction and serve immediately with a glass of the wine!
Who knows, it may help you hook a partner for life…
Dan Belmont, AWE (American Wine Expert, WSET L3) is Liebherr’s UK Wine Ambassador and the proprietor of goodwinexgoodpeople.com. He is a former education manager for Murray’s Cheese in NYC (the largest artisan cheese retails in the United States), and former education manager for Beadles of Borough, based in the heart of London’s Borough Market – cheese heaven!
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