Master of grilled cheese 0
They came, they grilled — and rose to the challenge of recreating the iconic grilled cheese sandwich.
But there could only be one winner at the 2012 Grate Canadian Grilled Cheese Cook-Off, which recently took place at the Dairy Farmers of Canada’s All You Need Is Cheese exhibit at Toronto's Canadian National Exhibition.
There, in front of a crowd of media and drooling cheese fans, and under the intense scrutiny of food industry judges, (food writers Elizabeth Baird, Sue Riedl and yours truly, along with Kevin Durkee, founder of CHEESEWERKS restaurant), a handful of chefs from all corners of Canada pulled out all the stops to be named Master of the Melt.
The executive chefs — Ned Bell of Yew Restaurant at The Four Seasons Hotel in Vancouver; Michael Howell of Tempestuous Culinary in Nova Scotia, Liana Robberecht of the Calgary Petroleum Club in Calgary, and Jason Bangerter at O&B Luma and Canteen restaurants in Toronto — dug deep into their culinary bag of tricks and brought forth everything from candied sweet tomatoes to barbecued pulled beef, sweet chutney to fresh crab and perhaps a sprinkling of magic to produce an array of Oscar-worthy, mouth-watering sandwiches.
The winner? Toronto Chef Jason Bangerter took home top honours for his Niagara Gold Crunch, a sandwich that combined the nutty notes of Niagara Gold cheese, the saltiness of prosciutto and the sweet and sour pop of pickled grapes.
“The one thing that’s clear after today’s competition,” said a beaming Bangerter, award in hand, “is everyone loves grilled cheese sandwiches."
The Cook-Off was organized by Dairy Farmers of Canada to take the grilled cheese sandwich to a whole new level and showcase the "outstanding quality, variety, taste and versatility of Canadian cheese made from 100% Canadian milk," said Solange Heiss of the Dairy Farmers of Canada. "I’d like to congratulate all four chefs, and of course the winner for doing an outstanding job, and I hope we’ve inspired Canadians to put their own spin on this classic comfort food and enjoy some fantastic cheese produced in this country.”
What's your favourite grilled cheese sandwich? Mine is good aged Cheddar, bacon slices and tomato soup on the side.
Visit Allyouneedischeese.ca/grilledcheese for additional ideas.
Niagara Gold Crunch
The Niagara region brings together some of winner chef Jason Bangerter’s favourite things — grapes and cheese.
If unable to find Niagara Gold in your region, use Canadian raclette.
- 2 oz (60 g) Niagara Gold cheese, cut into thin slices
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) mayonnaise
- 1 small clove garlic, finely minced
- Pinch of fresh chopped thyme leaves
- Pinch of fresh cracked black pepper
- Two 1/4-inch (5 mm) thick slices sour dough or country style bread, about 5-inch (12.5 cm) square*
- 1 oz (30 g) shaved prosciutto
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) packed baby arugula (about 1/2 oz/15 g)
- 1 Tbsp. (15 ml) unsalted butter, softened
- Pickled grapes, optional (recipe follows)
- Mild sweet grainy mustard or grape mustard
- Potato chips or creamy summer slaw
- Fresh pressed grape juice
Bring cheese to room temperature. In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, garlic, thyme and pepper; spread mixture on one side of each bread slice. Place half of cheese on one bread slice; top with prosciutto, arugula and remaining cheese. Top with remaining slice of bread, mayonnaise side down. Butter both sides of sandwich.
Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Cook sandwich, turning once, for 5 minutes on each side or until golden brown and cheese is melted, adjusting heat as necessary to prevent burning. Cut sandwich in half and serve with pickled grapes, sweet grainy mustard, potato chips and fresh pressed grape juice.
*Bread: Trim ends of unsliced bread to make a 5-inch (12.5 cm) square. Slice crosswise into 1/4- inch (5 mm) thick slices.
- ½ lb (250 g) seedless green grapes (about 1-1/2 cups/375 ml)
- 4 sprigs tarragon
- 1 cup (250 ml) good quality white wine or champagne vinegar
- 1 Tbsp. (15 ml) granulated sugar
- Pinch of salt
Wash and dry grapes well; place in a 2-cup (500 ml) sterilized canning jar and add tarragon.
In a small saucepan, bring vinegar and sugar to a boil; add a pinch of salt. Pour liquid over grapes to cover. Seal jar and refrigerate. Grapes will be ready in 3 weeks.