Everyone says that, don’t they? I’m sure you do too. Don’t you think your grilled cheese sandwich is the best grilled cheese that was ever made? I know I do.
You know what else everyone says? That their macaroni and cheese recipe is the. best. ever. It’s the first thing people tell me when I mention Little Mac. Or maybe the second thing. But still, we haven’t even chose a location yet and people already bet that their mac and cheese will be better than ours. That is, of course, unless we use their super secret, super special recipe. Well. We’ll show them, won’t we…
Before we get to the grilled cheese, let me back up. It’s true–we have yet to finalize our location. The good news is we have options. Lots of great options spanning all different neighborhoods throughout Oakland. The bad news is we can’t decide. Uptown, Downtown, Old Town, Temescal, Piedmont, Rockridge – really cool, unique spaces all over the great city. It’s frustrating. I try reminding myself that the location is probably the biggest decision we’ll make, but still, it gets to me. Everyday we move forward. Finalizing recipes, choosing distributors, working out a logo – but without a location, I feel stagnant.
So what do I do when I’m anxious, nervous, discouraged, a little down and kinda sad? I make a gooey, creamy, oozing, over-the-top grilled cheese. I replaced the bread with homemade farinata, an Italian flatbread baked with chickpea flour, sage, salt, water and olive oil. Three very different cheeses went into the sandwich: mild, buttery Wagon Wheel from Cowgirl Creamy, sharp Capricious from Achadinha Cheese Company and the slightly tangy Tome from Laura Chenel.
Low and slow is the trick to grilled cheese. Use a heavy cast-iron skillet that retains heat, and keep the flame on medium-low. Have patience, and when your bread is golden brown, the shards of cold grated cheese will melt into a thick, velvety sauce that spills out the sides when you take a bite.
Wait, that’s funny, isn’t it? I can learn a lot from grilled cheese. Go slow. Take your time. And maybe you’ll be rewarded with the. best. restaurant location. ever.
Okay. I feel better now.
Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Farinata
Makes 2 sandwiches (4 quarters)
1 cup chickpea flour
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup grated sharp, aged cheese like pecorino or manchego (I used Capricious)
1/3 cup grated soft, mild, buttery cheese (Wagon Wheel)
1/3 cup grated goat cheese, preferably something tangy but not too “goat-y” (Tome)
1/2 tablespoon butter, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped small
Combine chickpea flour and 2 tsp. sea salt in a large bowl. While whisking, slowly add water and olive oil. Add sage. Whisk until smooth. Let sit for about 20 minutes at room temperature.
Preheat oven to 450F. Place an 8 inch cast-iron skillet in the oven while it’s preheating.
Remove skillet and drizzle in a little olive oil to coat. Add chickpea batter and smooth over with a spatula. Cook for 15-20 minutes. The top will be lightly browned, and when you insert a fork it will emerge dry.
Remove farinata from skillet and cut in half. Combine cheeses and pile them on top of one half. Dot with butter and cover with other slice of farinata.
Heat up the same skillet on low heat. Add a scant swirl of olive oil. Place a bacon press or a small skillet on top of sandwich to weigh it down, and cook for 7-8 minutes. Flip, and cook for an additional 7 minutes. Occasionally check to make sure farinata isn’t burning. When finished, slice each half into quarters.
Serve with a side of hot sauce.
Where I Shopped:
Chickpea Flour: Yasai Market, Oakland
Sage: Monetery Market, Berkeley
Capricious, Wagon Wheel, Tome: Artisan Cheese Festival, Petaluma (Try looking for these at The Pasta Shop in Oakland or Cheeseboard in Berkeley)