I made Ina Garten’s grilled cheese recipe to see if it could deliver flavor and nostalgia.
With Dijon mustard and three cheeses, the flavors were robust.
Plus, the gooey cheese brought me back to my childhood lunch.
In an effort to curb cravings for bread, dairy, and nostalgia, I tried Ina Garten’s recipe for an adult-approved grilled cheese.
The Barefoot Contessa is synonymous with delicious, cozy, reassuring and above all user-friendly recipes. So when I saw she had one for something called the “ultimate grilled cheese“I was eager to try it out.
Garten’s recipe is accurate and even calls for brand-specific ingredients, including Cabot Extra Sharp Cheddar. I followed it closely for the full experience of how the queen of home cooking it would make it.
Her recipe calls for a total of 10 ingredients, including salt and pepper.
To make this adult-approved sandwich, you’ll need the following ingredients:
Thick sliced bacon
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
Either white pullman bread or sourdough bread
Old Gruyere or Comté cheese
Extra sharp cheddar cheese
You’ll also need some sort of cheese grater, and a wire rack is recommended to cook the bacon (although I didn’t have the latter).
The first step to conquering this sandwich was cooking the bacon.
The recipe says to toast the bacon on a rack over a baking sheet in a 400-degree oven.
I didn’t have a schedule, so I used a trick I learned by experimentingthat keeps the bacon moist as it cooks in the oven: a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Wanting more of a meaty texture than ultra-crispy for this sandwich, I pulled the bacon out as soon as it turned visibly brown in most places and the thin ends started to curl. I recommend keeping a close eye on the bacon, as the transition can happen quickly depending on your oven.
Making the cheese and mustard spread was next on my recipe to-do list.
Following Garten’s instructions closely, I grated my Parmigiano-Reggiano and then combined it with the mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper in a bowl.
I stuck to the proportions the cooking goddess stated (equal parts Dijon and cheese, with four times the amount of mayo) with the exception of the Dijon mustard – I’m a big fan of this flavor profile, so I added an extra teaspoon after cooking. taste the mixture. This way, more of the tart and tangy flavor comes through in the finished sandwich.
Then it was time to tackle the other two cheeses on the ingredient list.
While the chef says to use a food processor equipped with a large grater blade, that’s just another tool I don’t have in my small apartment kitchen. Instead, I used a box grater which I thought worked perfectly, even if it takes a little more energy.
When everything was ready, I started assembling my sandwich.
I chose to use sourdough bread for this sandwich. According to Garten’s instructions, I smeared one side of each slice before turning them both over to generously smear the other sides with the wet mixture I made.
“Don’t neglect the corners!” Garten wrote. I would definitely give them some extra love.
I carefully placed my 1 inch pieces of bacon on top of the cheese spread on a slice of bread and covered them with the Gruyere and cheddar cheese mixture before closing the sandwich with the other piece of bread on top.
Garten asked for a panini press for this recipe, but I didn’t have one on hand, so I made my own instead.
With a panini press, both sides get hot. That’s why I didn’t want to just use a cold plate and can to weigh down the sandwich.
Instead, I heated a smaller skillet on the stove until it was hot, then put it on the buttered bread, and weighed it with a large can of tomatoes. The hot pan acted as a heated top portion of a panini press.
Garten’s recipe wasn’t simple, but it was extremely easy to follow, leaving little room for error.
There was hardly any guesswork involved this recipewhich is a huge relief for those who may not be so confident in the kitchen.
Yes, of course you could make substitutions if you’d like. But it was nice to have the whole flavor profile already built into the recipe and ingredients list.
In my opinion, the only downside to this dish was that it was quite laborious. Between cooking the bacon, making the condiment, and grating all the cheese by hand, I wasn’t sure the work would pay off.
However, if you’re looking for a childhood classic to suit your more mature tastes, I think this is the sandwich to do it.
If I make this again I’ll probably try to use sliced versions of the cheddar and gruyere instead of grated. I felt like I was losing the flavors of each cheese by shredding and combining them. Both have so much to offer in terms of flavor complexity, but I couldn’t quite taste either one in this sandwich as they scrambled together and got greasy.
However, I loved the meaty texture of the thick-cut bacon and would recommend using the same parchment-lined pan method I went with. Even if you’re someone who, like me, always orders bacon well done, try taking it out of the oven just before it gets crispy.
It was a lot of work, but this sandwich delivered everything I craved.
Want more recipes from Ina Garten? Try some of her most popular dishes from her popular cookbook:
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