Before I dive in, I want to thank everyone for being so nice about my last post. I'm a bit behind on replying to all of the comments, but in the meantime I wanted to say how deeply appreciated all your kind words are. I've fallen a bit behind on everything, as of late. I was gone hosting a workshop in the British Virgin Islands the last 10 days of January, (which I'll be recapping here on the blog at some point but if you need your workshop fix now you can hear all about it in my most recent podcast episode). It was sunny and warm and if I weren't me I would hate myself for even talking about such a hot place in the dreary dead of winter. So, I will abstain from elaborating on it until the weather north of the equator has sufficiently warmed and thawed out the winter grumpiness I (and likely others) tend to feel when sequestered from direct sunlight for months on end. I will say, though, that the tropics aren't entirely wonderful; one unpleasant thing I picked up while there was a suspicious rash on my hand. It looked like a slight bruise between my thumb and forefinger on my left hand, kind of a purplish darkening of the skin, but then spread between my other fingers on my left hand and that's when I panicked and went to the doctor on Monday. They didn't know what it was, either, so gave me some steroid and anti-fungal cream. I did burn the living hell out of my hands chopping scotch bonnet peppers while I was on the island, so it might be some scarring from that, but in the meantime I'm just staring at my hand in abject terror every so often with increasing paranoia about it spreading further up my arm and somehow murdering me. At least the fear is keeping me diligent about applying the creams to my hand, which is more than I can say about new year's resolution to maintain a daily multi-vitamin regimen.
But enough about my mysterious caribbean hand disease, let's talk about cheese! Grilled cheese, to be precise. There's really nothing not to love about the idea of a hot, melty slab of cheese sandwiched between two buttered and toasty slices of mildly crunchy bread. But, if you add even more things in there along with the cheese, you can get even more delicious melty hot things to love. I'm talking about toppings, people! In the past I've usually stuck with your standard savory grilled cheese additions, like sun-dried tomatoes, bacon, caramelized onions, and the like, but the trip I took to London a little over a year back completely changed my grilled cheese perspective. I was at Maltby Street market and they had a grilled cheese stand there with just a few grilled cheese sandwich options, all of which sounded delicious, but the one I found most intriguing was the chèvre, honey, and walnut grilled cheese on rosemary bread. So I ordered it, and my God. It is what I would imagine a religious experience to feel like; I felt nothing but the purest, brightest joy. Like I was a giant, quivering exclamation point. There were so many endorphins flowing through my compressed 5 foot frame that I think the flavor fingerprint seared itself directly onto my brainstem. It was the best sandwich I had ever had. Because of that, I think I've been afraid to try and replicate it myself for fear of toppling the mental pedestal its occupied since that moment. But, it has been popping into my head with an increasing frequency lately and, because I live an unfortunate 4,910 miles from Maltby Street, the only way to have it again is to make with with my own two
Instead of making it with plain fresh chèvre, I decided to use my favorite of all the goat's cheeses, Vermont Creamery's bijou. There are two things I love about bijou; its flavor, and how ridiculously adorable it is. It's like the cheese version of my spunky chihuahua Ralph; tiny, yet packs quite the punch. Bijou begins as crottin, which is a fresh goat's cheese made with a specific culture and formed into a small adorable cylinder. What makes crouton turn into bijou is time alone. As the crottin ages, the flavor becomes more complex, the bright tanginess of the cheese becomes more subdued and takes on a creamy, nutty tone. The cheese develops a very soft rind, which wrinkles as it ages, and more textural changes behind happening inside the cheese. The soft, slightly crumbly, and wet crottin changes into a firmer, more dense and slightly drier center surrounded by what can only be described as a melty delicious goat cheese goo. The paper thin skin keeps this goo inside the cheese, and the firmer center is basically floating inside of all the goo goodness. As you can imagine, using this in a grilled cheese sandwich is absolutely excellent. I used one bijou for each sandwich, cutting each bijou in half so that it laid a bit flatter in the sandwich. Bijou comes in a pack of two, so it's perfect if you're looking for a simple-yet-delicious Valentine's day dinner to make for your special someone.
I used rosemary bread for this recipe, but if you can't find any you can use plain French bread and sprinkle some diced fresh rosemary over the top of the bijou before sealing up the sandwich. And instead of using plain walnuts, I fancied mine up a bit and candied them in brown sugar and butter before incorporating them into the sandwich. If you're pressed for time, you can definitely use normal walnuts, but having the contrasting satisfying textural crunch of the sweet and savory walnuts against the gooey hot melted cheese is pretty epic and, in my opinion, worth the extra 10 minutes it takes to candy them. I hope this sandwich brings you as much joy as it brought me, and if you happen to make it I'd love to hear how it turned out for you :)
4 tablespoons Vermont Creamery cultured butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 cup crushed walnuts
4 slices rosemary bread
4 slices rosemary bread
2 tablespoons honey
Makes 2 Sandwiches
First, candy the walnuts. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium pan over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and cook until the sugar softens and darkens slightly, about 2 minutes. Add the walnuts and stir to coat them in the brown sugar and butter mixture. Toast them in the pan until lightly golden on all sides, staring every minute, for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, empty the walnuts onto a flat baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and allow to cool.
To prepare the grilled cheese, cut a bijou in half and place two halves side by side on a piece of bread. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of honey over the bijou and sprinkle the walnuts over it. Place a piece of bread over the filling and press down to compress it slightly. Repeat to assemble the second sandwich.
Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Add the sandwiches and cook until the bread is golden and toasty on both sides and the cheese is melted, about 4 minutes per side. Serve immediately.