best grilled cheese

The Best Grilled Cheese Sandwich

April 10, 2010 · 51 comments

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
Sea salt

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)

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7 Amazing Grilled Cheese Sandwich [Recipes]
April 12, 2012 at 6:27 am

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Britt April 11, 2010 at 7:00 am

This looks positively decadent! And it’s gluten-free to boot. I have a bag of chickpea flour that’s been waiting entirely too long for me to finally get off my butt and make some socca, but I think this ooey-gooey wonder of a grilled cheese may just win out and get me to finally break it open. No please excuse me, I’m beginning to drool….


Jessica @ How Sweet It Is April 11, 2010 at 7:43 am

That looks fabulous! Definitely the best grilled cheese I’ve seen.


Dana April 11, 2010 at 8:23 am

I’m going to sound like a heathen here, but I don’t really like cheese. And yet, somehow, I find that I now need to have this for dinner tonight. I make grilled cheese for my kids all the time (admittedly, on store-bought bread with cheddar), and I am of the hurry-up-and-cook school. Low and slow next time. Sorry to hear about the location challenges. It is nice you have some good options.


kamran siddiqi April 11, 2010 at 9:10 am

A simply childhood delight made simple and sophisticated! Yumm. Probably one of the best grilled cheese sandwiches I’ve ever seen! :)

Great post, Allison! :)


carol April 11, 2010 at 9:15 am

can’t wait to try the recipe for farinata and as a local bay area resident, can’t wait for you to pick a location! wishing you truly, all the best with your restaurant adventure!


Janet Rudolph April 11, 2010 at 9:36 am

I can’t wait to make this! but…mostly can’t wait for your restaurant. Hope you decide soon.


Sara April 11, 2010 at 9:39 am

i love it so much. and yes, i think your grilled cheese is teaching you something. It will be so absoluetly wonderful when you find that location, if you stay positive and hopeful that it will come… and it WILL! In the meantime, it seems you do make the best grilled cheese :)


David {Green Kitchen Stories} April 11, 2010 at 9:41 am

That sandwich looks absolutely wonderful! I love that you used chickpea flour to make it gluten free. Good luck deciding on a location, i’m sure you will attract lots of people regardless of where you choose.


Jocelyn April 11, 2010 at 9:56 am

Wow. That looks amazing – especially on a day like today. Definitely need some comfort food with our crappy weather. I’ve never been to Yasai market. I’m a Berkeley Bowl devotee. What do they carry (other than chickpea flour :-) )?


Chef Dennis April 11, 2010 at 10:32 am

wow….that does look amazing!! I am intrigued with your skillet bread as well….I just had lunch and looking at that sandwich made me hungry all over again…..
Great post!!


Mike April 11, 2010 at 10:37 am

I thought mine was the best …. until I checked this one out with the farinata. That is so not fair. But thank you!

Can’t wait until you find your spot; I’m hoping it’s Rockridge -but as you said- lot’s of great choices in Oaktown.


Stephanie (Fresh Tart) April 11, 2010 at 10:41 am

Rarrr, looks incredible! Love the updates on Little Mac, a fascinating process. My money is on YOUR mac & cheese recipe, btw, ha.


arugulove April 11, 2010 at 11:07 am

The sandwich looks so good!

Can I put in a vote for downtown Oakland? There’s nothing to eat there! I have a friend that comes to town once a month for work and is always at the Oakland Marriott and she always has to take the BART somewhere for dinner because everything there sucks. Plus, I’d love a nice lunch spot there for when I have meetings. Pretty please?!?!? :)


Maria April 11, 2010 at 11:34 am

Yep, it looks like the best. I always can count on you for the best recipes!


LolaCooks April 11, 2010 at 1:14 pm

just stumbled upon your blog from tastespotting. everything looks super yummy! you’re very creative! and cant wait to try this grilled cheese!


Frenchie April 11, 2010 at 3:18 pm

I am dying to try this out, I have chickpea flour in my pantry but am always at a bit of a loss for what to do with it, this seems like a very exciting new option. Congratulations on your restaurant, it’s always scary to make the big decisions like location because that makes it real, but I have no doubt that no matter what neighborhood you choose it will be a smashing success.


Crissie April 11, 2010 at 6:05 pm

This looks absolutely divine. I saw you on foodgawker. Can’t wait to try!!!!


cindy April 11, 2010 at 8:56 pm

Have you considered the Gourmet Ghetto? You’d be in some great company; Cheeseboard, Chez Pannise, Cha Am, just to name a few… If not, then my vote is for Rockridge. Best Wishes! … and Go Bears!


greg April 11, 2010 at 9:56 pm

You are an inspiration! We made the Asparagus Pesto last week (thrice – once per the recipe and twice more, variations on a theme), and now I’ll have to give the grilled cheese a try, although I have my own cheese ideas (Raclette, Grier, Pecorino). Thanks!

I’m road-tripping to Oakland from LA when you open!!!

ps: whomever does your food photography is genius!


Jenn AKA The Leftover Queen April 12, 2010 at 9:45 am

Oh wow, I have never had farinata – but I am totally making it today or tomorrow! AND I am going to make this sandwich!!!


The Food Hunter April 12, 2010 at 12:05 pm

Never had farinata but that sandwich sure looks amazing.


cheese products April 12, 2010 at 10:24 pm

I want to try this out. It look yummy. Cheese recipes are always delicious. We all have cheese party at weekends. I will try this recipe.


Linn @ Swedish home cooking April 13, 2010 at 12:32 am

It looks like one of those sandwiches that would taste very good after a rough night out. Everything that is good – stuff into one bread. Mm Mm Mm.


Diana @ frontyardfoodie April 13, 2010 at 6:25 am

Chick pea bread for grill cheese!?!?!? Mind-blown.


heather @ chiknpastry April 13, 2010 at 7:49 am

chick pea bread sounds awesome – can’t wait to try that out :)


Anna April 13, 2010 at 11:26 am

Wow, Lot’s of good news here, first congrats on the top 9, this grilled cheese looks the best ever. And congratulations on your new restaurant, it will be a very exiting ride.


Lauren April 13, 2010 at 12:16 pm

I think your grilled cheese wins as the best! You had me at the gorgeous photo with the cheese dripping off the bread.



Brie April 13, 2010 at 7:21 pm

awesome recipe – love the ingredients! looks fabulous!


steph April 13, 2010 at 9:19 pm

it’s BEAUTIFUL! thanks for sharing! can’t wait to eat at your place.


Cherine April 14, 2010 at 5:47 am

This is mouth-watering!


Ash April 14, 2010 at 6:41 pm

Is this for real? It looks totally amazing!! I believe you when you say this is the best!!


Molly @ molly's menu April 14, 2010 at 6:50 pm

Oh my goodness, does this look good! Rarely can a picture capture the essence of something like “the best grilled cheese sandwich” but this does so with flying colors. The bread looks incredibly flaky and crisp while the cheese is perfectly melted and oozing from the center! Great work on creating something that your readers will easily be persuaded to make.


Lea Ann April 15, 2010 at 6:17 am

I don’t say that because I really don’t have any other version except a slice of processed American Cheese, two pieces of buttered bread and fried. I have seen some fabulous versions and this one really looks like it could be “the best ever” Definitely saving this post to try one of these days. Thanks for sharing.


molly April 15, 2010 at 4:17 pm

a picture’s worth a thousand words, and this one has me drooling…


Alicia April 16, 2010 at 1:01 pm

Amazing….I love grilled cheese and this one looks incredible.

Thanks for sharing!!!!!!!


Erica April 16, 2010 at 1:12 pm

That looks delicious, Allison! I made something similar with masarepa (corn flour), but this sounds interesting and printing this one……my husband is going to love it!


Megan Gordon April 16, 2010 at 10:36 pm

Allison! I have a little (actually, quite a long) list of things I want to make on my own blog, ideas I have, foods I try that I want to try to emulate at home. I tried farinata on that hot ass day in Oakland at the Eat Real Festival this summer, and it’s been hanging out on my list ever since. I knew it was simple and I planned on making it with some romesco sauce and a bit salad…but never in a million years would I have thought to do a grilled cheese out of it. Genius. Love it.

And I know all this hard work is going to pay off with location scouting. I’m sure of it. Anyone who is as dedicated, passionate, level-headed, and handles cheese as well as you do–you’re set.


MrsLavendula April 18, 2010 at 7:58 am

wow that melted cheese looks delicious!


penelope April 18, 2010 at 5:46 pm

I loved this sandwich. I even invited a neighbor over to indulge. The bread base was fantastic and I normally don’t like sage and had thought of leaving it out. That would have been a mistake. A keeper and will make again, maybe this week.


Tania April 19, 2010 at 4:43 am

Oh my lordy lord, that looks good. I’ve just discovered your blog and I’m pretty sure that your version of anything I make will be better than mine.

Come, open your restaurant in Melbourne Australia!


Jessica @ The Cooking Chick April 19, 2010 at 7:11 am

That looks almost too good to eat… almost. Thanks for sharing – I cant wait for lunch!


Nastassia (Let Me Eat Cake) April 21, 2010 at 2:16 pm

that really does look like the best grilled cheese ever! and chick pea flour thats genius!


Chef Dennis April 24, 2010 at 4:48 am

that looks so appetizing…I am getting so hungry thinking about it..
thanks for sharing such a wonderful recipe!


Kendra July 23, 2010 at 5:14 pm

Decadent is the word that comes to mind when glancing at your main photo. This looks and sounds absolutely delicious. Great job!


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Its like you learn my mind! You seem to know a lot approximately this, like you wrote the guide in it or something. I feel that you just could do with some % to force the message house a bit, but other than that, this is wonderful blog. An excellent read. I will certainly be back.


meatballs & milkshakes July 29, 2012 at 1:30 pm

I stumbled upon this looking for a farinata recipe to use up some old chickpea flour, and I’m drooling! Can’t wait to try it tonight!


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