Let’s face it: despite Cornell’s countless dining options, sometimes we need to take our meals into our own hands. For those of you who can’t handle another RPCC dinner or are on first name basis with the Taste of Thai delivery guy, there are easy, delicious recipes that anyone can make in dorm kitchens or on neglected Collegetown stovetops. There are so many benefits to cooking your own food: it’s cheap, you can be creative and you don’t have to change out of your pajamas. Oh yeah, and it tastes good.
The stress of prelim season brings the need for some comfort food — those cheesy, crunchy, salty, sweet meals that make you feel like nothing else in the world matters. For me (and for many others, I assume), that means grilled cheese. Perfectly adaptable for any mood, the grilled cheese sandwich is perfect in its simplicity. You only need two slices of bread, some melty cheese and, if you so desire, some add-ins. The key to making a good grilled cheese into a sandwich of epic proportions lies in the selection of these ingredients.
Don’t get me wrong, a grilled cheese on white bread with Kraft Singles may be just the cure for that most recent stress attack. But you may also want to try mixing it up a little bit. Trek down to Wegmans or Ithaca Bakery one weekend and pick up a loaf of their freshly baked bread. A personal favorite is sourdough, but the possibilities are almost endless. As for cheese, try ditching that “processed cheese product” for a nice sharp cheddar, gruyere or brie. Heck, go out on a limb and try a cheese that you can’t even pronounce (chèvre, anyone?).
Choosing add-ins can be daunting — pretty much anything edible can be put in a grilled cheese. Start off simple with things like tomato or ham (The Piggery on Franklin St. makes their own, and it’s incredible). Want some breakfast? Throw an over-easy egg in there. Leftovers from that late-night Louie’s run? That would be great too. Pretty much anything that tastes good tastes better when surrounded by melted cheese and crunchy bread.
If you’re trying to impress that special someone, gourmet grilled cheeses are an easy way to impress. Try a combination of fig and gruyere — the sweetness of the fig works well with the subtle nuttiness of the cheese. Sliced fresh figs would be great, but you can use fig jam too. A crusty bread would contrast the soft filling. Another impressive grilled cheese combination is pear and bleu. I don’t know what it is about really strong bleu cheese that makes it taste so good with pears, but hey, it works. Slice the pears thin so they cover one slice of the bread, and then pile on the bleu. You may also want to add a creamier cheese, such as brie, for richness and meltiness (yep, it’s a word). No pears? Apples would be a fine substitution. Use a softer bread to ensure that the pear slices don’t all spill out the other side after the first bite.
Grilled cheese preparation is pretty simple and requires very little know-how and equipment, regardless of the type of bread or filling. Simply place a pan over medium heat and leave it there for a minute or two, and enough oil and / or butter to just coat the bottom of the pan, and then add your pre-assembled sandwich. Let it sit for a couple of minutes, and then flip the sandwich with a spatula. Your pan should be hot enough to toast the bread, but not so hot that the outside burns before the cheesy filling melts. Once both sides are browned and the inside is melty, remove the sandwich from the pan, slice in half and serve.
Whether it’s an afternoon snack or a meal, a grilled cheese sandwich is a beautiful thing. It’s easy to prepare, and the result is delicious and satisfying. Anytime you need a break from the dining halls or that impossible chemistry problem set, the comfort of a grilled cheese may be exactly what you’re looking for.