First the recipe, then the story.
To make one delightfully delectable grilled-cheese sandwich, you will need:
- 2 slices of bread
- your favorite cheese, in slices about 1/4″ thick, enough to cover one slice of bread
- about 1 Tbsp. marinara sauce (or use jarred sauce)
- about 1 tsp. yellow mustard
- plenty of butter
- a good frying pan
- a spatula
Spread butter on one side of a slice of bread and mustard on the other side. Place butter-side-down in pan. Arrange cheese on it. Place pan over medium heat.
Spread marinara sauce on one side of the other slice of bread and butter on the other side. Place sauce-side-down on top of cheese. Nudge sandwich with spatula to make sure it’s not sticking to the pan; if it is, lift it just long enough to slip some more butter under it.
Closely supervise sandwich, adjusting heat if necessary, until cheese begins to melt. Flip sandwich over. Note brownness of the side that’s now on top, and cook the second side longer if you want it browner, less time if you want it less brown. (It’s hard to explain grilled-cheese technique! You kind of just have to learn through experience. The main lesson I’ve learned is that nervously flipping the sandwich every twelve seconds does not give good results; it’s likely to fall apart or dry out if you do that. Flip only once, unless your first side is so unacceptably pale that you have to give it a second turn.)
Eat it as soon as it’s cool enough.
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Now I’ll explain about the 14 years of gratitude: My life-partner Daniel taught me this recipe long ago and said he had learned it from his friend Jeremy, previously mentioned here as the source of the stuffed shells recipe that is our favorite holiday feast and the recipe for Jeremy’s Breakfast Pitas. I can’t recall exactly when I first tried this sandwich, but I remember making one just before moving out of my apartment to live with Daniel in April 1996, so it’s been at least 14 years! All this time, Daniel and I have attributed the recipe to Jeremy. Our five-year-old son also likes grilled-cheese sandwiches and quickly learned that this variant, his favorite, is called “Jeremy style”.
Well. This past Saturday, we were visiting Jeremy and talking about cooking, and Daniel mentioned how grateful he is for this recipe which we use all the time . . . and Jeremy said, “What? That’s not my recipe! I don’t even like marinara that much!” Some confused discussion ensued, during which he suggested that maybe he had taught Daniel his technique for draining diced fresh tomato so as to make a grilled-cheese-and-tomato sandwich that isn’t too wet, but Daniel had no memory of having even heard of that technique.
So, where did this recipe come from?!? It’s a mystery! But it’s our recipe now! As for the positive thoughts of Jeremy I had every time I made the sandwich, I can hardly regret those–I didn’t like Jeremy all that much when we first met, but he’s kind of grown on me over the years, and positive thinking undoubtedly played a role: “That Jeremy! [grumble grumble] but he does make a good sandwich!”