Category Archives: Cheese

Patty Melt on the Grill

Personally, I think the term patty melt is stupid, well, maybe not stupid, but not very creative. Wikipedia doesn’t seem to know its derivation, but does trace it back to the 1940s, at least. I’m guessing it was developed in some diner one day, when someone insisted on giving the sandwich a name, and the cook just yelled out “Patty Melt” from the kitchen. Its obvious relationship to a grilled cheese sandwich makes me wish that grilled was part of the name. I suppose the patty part is always beef, isn’t it? But why patty instead of burger? I’m sure the French could come up with a better name—I can’t think of one myself. What would you call them?

Anyway, I didn’t want to wash the griddle, so I figured out how to make one on the grill. It’s all about getting the process in the right order, whether using the griddle or the grill, but I like those grill marks, and the dripping cheese just gets burned/scraped off later.

Toasting both sides of the bread is key.

Patty Melt on the Grill

  • Servings: makes 1 sandwich
  • Difficulty: easy
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Set up a charcoal grill for two heat zones, direct and indirect.

Ingredients
  • Seedless rye bread—try to find one with a good texture, not too soft. I used “Al Cohen’s New York Open Rye” from Buffalo, NY
  • Thin sliced Swiss cheese—I used about 8 slices
  • Ground beef, shaped in patties, not too thick
  • Olive oil or melted butter for brushing on bread
  • Sliced onions, grilled until soft and browned
  1. Grill your vegetables first. We had asparagus, as well as the onions for the sandwich. Grill those over direct heat, then move off to the side to keep warm.
  2. Grill the burger(s) for the patty melt over direct heat. I will eat a medium rare burger, but prefer one that is cooked longer in this kind of sandwich, because I only want cheese dripping down the sides, not blood. Set aside the burger. Clean the grate.
  3. Prepare the bread by brushing some oil or butter on the inside of each slice. Grill over direct heat until toasted—probably less than 1 minute per side. Remove to area where you can build the sandwich.
  4. Build the sandwich on the toasted side of the bread—lots of cheese, burger, onions, lots more cheese. Cover with the second slice of bread, toasted side on the inside.
  5. Brush the outside of the sandwich with oil or butter. Grill both sides of the sandwich over direct heat until nicely toasted and the cheese is melting.

I like Swiss cheese, but you could obviously use any other cheese that melts well, like American or cheddar, and a hearty white bread would work well, too. My rye bread was already sliced, or I would have sliced it a little thicker.

The last step of the meal for me was grilling my husband’s burgers, which he likes very rare—that’s why you have to figure out the order of steps.

Blue Cheese Ranch Dressing

I’ve been eating this dressing in an apple salad with walnuts and dried figs for lunch recently, but it would be good with any fruit or vegetable salad or with chicken strips or wings. The blue cheese is the star, but I wouldn’t use a premium eating blue, like my favorite Stilton in it. I would eat the Stilton in a deconstructed salad of apples, figs (dried or fresh), and nuts. Just buy two cheeses, one for the dressing and one for munching. Today, I used a Danish Blue in the dressing, and picked up a little wedge of Stilton while I was at it for an indulgent snack.

My ranch recipe is as easy as possible. Equal amounts of buttermilk, sour cream, and mayonnaise, plus chives and dill and salt. I haven’t been adding garlic for my apple salad purposes, but I would add it if dressing pasta or vegetables.

I’ve made more complicated ranch dressings before, but it soon became obvious that it doesn’t need to be complicated to be good. It’s not a low fat dressing, but it has no added refined sugar or sharp vinegar, both of which characteristics are good for me. You could easily make a lower-fat version with common substitutions.

Blue Cheese Ranch Dressing

  • Servings: 1.5 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (mine was whole milk buttermilk)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise, preferably Hellmann’s
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons dried chives
  • 1 tablespoon dried dill weed
  • 1/2-3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese, such as Danish or buttermilk blue
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or less if your cheese is very salty

Whisk together the first 5 ingredients until smooth. Stir in the crumbled cheese with a spoon. Taste and add salt, as needed.

 

Grilled, Beer-Brined Chicken Enchiladas

I usually use poached chicken in enchiladas, but have even used rotisserie chicken, which is always moist and gives me chicken from all parts of the bird. Just for something a little different, I decided to grill some flattened and beer-brined chicken breasts for these enchiladas, and it made all the difference. The brined chicken was the definition of succulent.

We were fond of red and white enchiladas—using both enchilada and cheese sauces—until my husband’s lactose intolerance, so I’m skipping the cheese sauce, using a little more enchilada sauce, and less shredded cheddar. I make my own enchilada sauce, which has been posted on this site a few times, I think, and it makes a big difference. If you have never tasted enchilada sauce that doesn’t use tomatoes, I urge you to try it. Here’s the recipe again, adjusted to make 3 cups:

Enchilada Sauce

  • Servings: about 3 cups
  • Difficulty: moderate
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Prepare Reconstituted Dried Chiles

  1. Rinse 6-8 dried ancho chiles, remove stems and seeds
  2. Tear into pieces so they fit in a small container or bowl
  3. Cover with 3 cups boiling water, submerging the peppers as much as possible; cover container with plastic wrap
  4. Set aside for at least 45 minutes; reconstituted peppers will be dark red, soft, and pliable
  5. Place reconstituted chiles in blender with half the liquid and puree, adding the rest of the liquid through the lid opening
  6. Strain puree through a fine strainer to remove large pieces of pulp—stir slowly in the strainer with a spoon until all the liquid is out and only the pepper fiber remains in the strainer (about 5 minutes)

Prepare Enchilada Sauce

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil  and 2 cloves of grated garlic in saucepan over medium heat until you can smell the garlic
  2. Stir in 2 tablespoon flour until smooth
  3. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, and 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  4. Pour in pepper puree and 2 tablespoon white or rice vinegar
  5. Stir and simmer until slightly thickened

Grilled, Beer-Brined Chicken Enchiladas

  • Servings: 8-10 enchiladas
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

At least 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

3 cups enchilada sauce

1 small onion, diced

1 3/4-2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

8-10 8″ flour tortillas

Prepare chicken:

  1. Flatten breasts to a uniform thickness, maybe a little less than 1/2″, between plastic wrap.
  2. Place chicken in large dish with brine (see below).
  3. Cover with plastic wrap and brine for at least 4 hours.
  4. Remove chicken from brine and grill over direct heat, turning once, closing grill lid between turnings. The chicken cooks after about 5 minutes per side at 300° but use a thermometer to test for an internal temperature of about 165°
  5. On a large cutting board, pull the grilled chicken into large shreds. I only used 3 of the breasts for 7 good sized enchiladas. The two breasts left over will not go to waste!
  6. Mix the pulled chicken with about 1 cup of enchilada sauce and 1 small diced onion.
  7. Fill 8″ tortillas (mine were whole grain) with about 1/3-1/2 cup of the meat and sprinkle with shredded cheddar cheese.
  8. Place filled tortillas in large baking dish with about 1/2 cup of the enchilada sauce spread over the bottom.
  9. Pour the remaining enchilada sauce down the center of your row of enchiladas and sprinkle with more cheddar.
  10. Bake at 350° for about 25 minutes, until cheese is melted and edges of tortillas are beginning to brown.

Brine:

  1. 2 12 oz bottles beer
  2. 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  3. 1 tablespoon chili powder

I also made a small pot of black beans, but I’m retired, so don’t feel like you have to go all out.

Bacon Gruyere Quiche with Fresh Herbs

Quiche gives my husband cognitive dissonance, you know, that odd feeling you get when you confront two contradictory ideas or feelings in the same thing, usually in yourself, like holding two seemingly contradictory political views. Every time he bites into a quiche, he expects the sweetness of a custard pie—one of his favorite pies—but can’t wrap his head around the savory deliciousness of quiche ingredients. It just doesn’t make sense to him. It’s not that he won’t eat a savory omelet; I think it’s the pie format and that creamy custard that confuses him. Anyway, he’s getting a steak for dinner.

I’m following the recipe I’ve always used, from my old Joy of Cooking (1967). It begins with a pâte brisée crust that uses room temperature butter, instead of the cold butter that you would expect. It can even be pressed into a pie plate instead of being rolled, but I prefer to chill it and roll it. It’s a dough that handles very nicely and holds up to the wet custard, as long as you blind bake it a little.

The filling possibilities for a quiche are endless, but I usually stick with the traditional bacon and Swiss cheese, with Gruyere being my Swiss of choice. You can make this recipe in a regular pie plate, but I like the high, formal collar you get with a spring form pan.

Bacon Gruyere Quiche with Fresh Herbs

  • Servings: one 9 inch pie
  • Difficulty: moderate
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Preheat oven to 450° to bake the pie crust; allow time to lower to 375° for baking the quiche.

Pâte brisée crust:

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter at room temperature

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2-3/4 cup water (does not need to be ice water)

1 beaten egg white (you will use the yolk in the filling, below)

  1. Work the butter into the flour-salt mixture with your fingers. A food processor would be too much with the soft butter and probably work it too much, resulting in a tough dough.
  2. Make a well in the center and add 1/2 cup of the water, then stir quickly with a fork until it holds together, adding more water as needed. I used a little more than the 1/2 cup, but not as much as the 3/4 cup.
  3. Dump the dough onto plastic wrap and shape into a ball, then flatten into a round of about 1/2″ thickness. Cover with the wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  4. Roll out the chilled dough to fit your pie plate or spring form pan. Fill the pan with parchment paper and some kind of weights—beans work well to keep the sides up in a spring form pan.
  5. Bake at 450° for about 12 minutes. remove beans and decide if you want to bake it a few minutes longer. It won’t be completely done, but will be done enough to stay crisp on the bottom through baking the custard.  Brush the crust with beaten egg white and set aside while you prepare the custard.
  6. Turn the oven down to 375°, opening the door to hasten the cooling.

Custard filling:

1/4 lb thick sliced smoked bacon, diced and browned

2 cups shredded or diced Gruyere cheese

3 whole eggs, plus 1 yolk from the egg you separated to brush the crust, above

2 cups whole milk, scalded and cooled slightly

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

a pinch of grated nutmeg, fresh or ground

1 1/2 tablespoons chopped chives

1 tablespoon thyme leaves

  1. While the crust is baking, sauté the bacon over medium heat to brown and to render out most of the fat. Drain on paper towels.
  2. Sprinkle cooked bacon and shredded cheese over bottom of baked pie crust.
  3. Whisk eggs with the herbs and seasonings, then whisk in the cooled milk quickly.
  4. Pour the custard over the bacon and cheese.
  5. Bake at 375° for 35-40 minutes, until the top is browned. This is longer than I would cook a custard pie, because I hate a custard pie that weeps, but it works for a quiche that is loaded with other filling ingredients, and I use a lot more cheese than the original recipe.