This grilled cheese recipe was named the 5th best grilled cheese sandwich in the world at the 2013 World Food Championships in Las Vegas Nov. 7.
I competed in the ultimate food fight in downtown Vegas in the sandwich category. Along with creating a signature sandwich, we were asked to develop the world’s best grilled cheese.
I was tempted to pile some bread high with multiple cheeses, fig jam and charcuterie, but my husband stopped me in my tracks. He said the best grilled cheese is white bread and American singles. You know, he’s right.
I’ve heard food judges repeatedly say that simple is better. There is a reason the World Food Championships asked competitors to recreate traditional dishes like grilled cheese, mac-n-cheese and cookies. It’s because in their original form, they are fantastic.
So, I took my husband’s advice, and I kept things simple. But I knew, as great as the original is, I couldn’t pull out the Wonder Bread and Kraft Singles if I wanted to win.
I amped up the bread and cheese by using Ciabatta and Fontina. Ciabatta is airy bread that sweeps me away to Italy, and Fontina has a profound flavor, but it’s still subtle and uber-meltable.
Chef Scott Conant’s Grilled Filone appetizer at D.O.C.G. at the Cosmopolatin in Las Vegas introduced me to the combination of Fontina cheese and truffles. That dish inspired me to add truffles to this creation. I visited one of my favorite Vegas foodie stores, Artisanal Foods, for some beautiful truffles.
I needed to introduce a quality acid to this sandwich, as well. Mustard was the perfect touch. Saucy Mama makes a Dijon that is not too harsh. It has just enough white wine vinegar to add a Zestuous bite, but it’s mild enough that it doesn’t overpower the decadent truffles. In fact, I stirred some freshly grated truffles right into the mustard.
So far, I had created a 4-ingredient grilled cheese: Ciabatta bread, Fontina cheese, truffles and Saucy Mama Dijon Mustard. My concept of amping up simple was coming together.
Because these were so elegant, I decided to make them bite-sized. I wanted to offer the judges two grilled cheese bites that were so tasty they would be craving more. That’s when the final touch came to me. Truffle Fries!
I enjoyed a sumptuous cone-full at Gordon Ramsay’s Burgr a few weeks ago. Truffle fries are traditionally finished off with some truffle oil, parmesan cheese and herbs or garlic.
I shaved more fresh truffle into a bowl, tossed it with shredded parm and added a bright handful of fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley. After grilling up my mini-bites in a pan full of European butter, I salted them and added the truffle-cheese blend.
I braved to add one more ingredient that makes me extremely nervous: Truffle oil. I have seen too many judges on cooking shows slam competitors for using truffle oil. If you don’t get the good stuff, it really can ruin a dish. So I splurged on some quality truffle oil and VERY sparingly drizzled some on.
The result was exactly as I envisioned. Fontina grilled cheese in a teeny size, hence the name Fonteenies.
This was my first time competing as a head cook in a kitchen coliseum. Thankfully, the World Food Championships judges appreciated this creation. With a score of 92 out of 100, it received 5th place in the grilled cheese category.
- 1 loaf ciabatta bread
- 6-8 ozs. Fontina cheese
- 1 preserved black truffle
- ¼ cup Saucy Mama Dijon Mustard
- 4 tablespoons butter
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons parsley
- Kosher salt
- Truffle oil
Slice the ciabatta into 1/2-inch thick slices. Using a 1-inch circle cutter, cut the slices into circles.
Slice the cheese into 1/8-inch thick slices. Use the circle cutter to make circles of cheese; you’ll need 1 circle of cheese per 2 circles of bread.
Zest half a truffle into a small bowl. Stir in the mustard. Spread mustard onto each circle of ciabatta.
Add a circle of cheese and sandwich ciabatta together mustard sides in.
Zest the remaining truffle into another bowl. Stir in Parmesan cheese and parsley.
Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet. Add 8 sandwiches. Cook covered for 2 minutes. Flip. Cook until golden. Remove to a sheet pan.
Season with salt and cover. Add more butter to the pan and continue cooking all of the sandwiches.
Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over the sandwiches and drizzle very lightly with truffle oil. Serve warm.