Hot Mustard Grilled Cheese Panini- Handheld Sandwich Perfection

You can’t talk about sandwiches and not include some version of a grilled cheese sandwich. I used a sandwich press and a grill pan. Giving mine the char grilled hash-marks of a good panini. But whether you want to call this sandwich a panini or a grilled cheese doesn’t matter. Because, in many ways, this simple combination of flavors is everything I require in hand-held perfection.

There are very few things in life you can count on quite like a grilled cheese sandwich. As the Saveur sandwich issue states, “Plans falter and empires collapse, the no-fail recipe fails. But you can pretty much take it on faith: Grilled cheese will not disappoint.”

Well, my version of grilled cheese is the perfect example of a sandwich that does not disappoint. I was very careful in choosing the ingredients for this sandwich because I really wanted it to be simple but satisfying. But it got me thinking. Why is it people love grilled cheese so much? Well, for starters it may have been one of the first foods you ever learned to make. Once mastered, if you are at all like me you may have experimented with its components. New cheeses and new partners. I pretty quickly learned to look beyond the Velveeta and try other cheeses. Swiss, mozzarella, gruyere– even brie, they all make great grilled cheese.

grilled cheese paniniBecause I am doing this sandwich as simply as possible, I need to choose just a few perfect elements. I learned long ago that cured pork and grilled cheese is a fabulous combination. So I am going to present my sandwich with crisp oven-baked pancetta. It will round out the taste experience add texture and make this meal work on several levels.

But what else? Well, when you say pork and I say mustard. Besides, I love mustard on my grilled cheese sandwiches. Cheese, pork, and mustard. Mustard is the only other ingredient I need.

Typically I prefer nuanced mustards like Dijon. Which can be herby, and pairs well with mild cheeses. So I was seriously considering doing a grilled cheese with a savory French Port Salut. Which is a semi-soft pasteurized cow’s milk cheese originally from Monks in Entrammes, France. It’s very mild but has an acidic kick. It pairs nicely with traditional Dijon and it is just great on rye bread.

That would be a heck of fancy grilled cheese don’t ya think? But I can just see my mother. Her eyes squinted, brows furrowed, Campbell’s Tomato Soup in hand, not really approving of the idea of rye bread and grilled cheese. So I have to come up with something else.

Another cheese that I think pairs well with mustard is Le Berger Basque. It is a raw sheep’s milk cheese with a sweet nutty, herbal quality. You might even say grassy. But in truth, I think I am getting a little too pissy with my grilled cheese here. My pants are are starting to get wet. This is not the time to show off my ridiculously astute palate.

This is Grilled Cheese, Greg. Grilled Cheese.

grated cheeseSo I’ll just admit it. In my heart of hearts, grilled cheese means cheddar. A big, sharp yellow cheese. I chose a double-cheddar from Gloucester. Which means no Dijon today. This calls for bold mustard with a good degree of heat. So search your pantry. Taste your mustard and choose the hottest mustard you can find. Something you might like to put on pastrami. Maybe even a super hot Chinese mustard. I’ll leave the choice to you. But please go as hot as you dare.

Grilled Cheddar Cheese Panini with Pancetta and Hot Mustard 

serves 2 CLICK here for a printable recipe


Greg Henry

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