To all my friends doing Whole 30 for January….my apologies. You’re almost there and doing a great job! You may want to bookmark this one for later. To everyone else…we’re talking CHEESE! The ultimate comfort food for January. The friend that’s always there for you. The thing that’s almost impossible to screw up. Cheese is happiness. My favorite memories and celebrations can be linked to cheese; these occasions always included cheese or a cheesy dish.
I’m not getting fancy today. Honestly most of my favorites are the ones we all know by name: grilled cheese, nachos, mac and cheese, mozzarella sticks, cheesecake! However, do want to share my go-tos, how I put my own spin on them, and where I go to satisfy my biggest cheese cravings.
Let’s start with the OG. The Grilled Cheese. I’m a traditionalist when it comes to the grilled cheese – I always use butter instead of mayo. Mayo does give it a perfectly crisped outer crust, but the flavor you get from the butter is the real winner here. Pro Tip: mayo has a higher smoke point than butter, which allows it to develop that crispy outside. In order to achieve maximum crispiness with butter, just turn down the burner. Low and slow. I definitely have to take my own advice on this one – I have zero patience. Trust the process.
Here are my favorite grilled cheese combos. Try switching it up next time and let me know which one is your fave!
We can’t forget about the best supporting actress in this blockbuster: the bread. Treat yourself to some really crusty on the outside, soft on the inside, indulgent loaves. I love slicing up the sourdough from On The Rise Bakery, and I’m dying to get the recently opened Leavened Cleveland to try one of their jalapeno loaves for a GC with a kick!
Need something that’s easier to share with a crowd? Allow me to reintroduce…Mac and Cheese. I love this for so many reasons: customizable; great fridge/pantry cleaner-outer; guaranteed crowd pleaser.
Seriously. Add anything to this. Need protein? Toss in some shredded rotisserie chicken. Throw in broccoli and cauliflower for kids as an easy way to get veggies. My recent go-to: diced up jalapenos. Feel free to stir in your own green chiles (canned or otherwise), or dice up a jalapeno or two. Any added heat is extremely minimal, but it does add a nice brightness to the dish and balances out the richness of the cheese.
My best versions of this dish are when I’m using up all of the odds and ends I have left in my fridge or pantry: leftover wheels of brie; random blocks of cheddar; the remnants of a tube of anchovy paste; 5 different boxes of opened pasta shapes. It’s a unique and tangy creation to savor each time.
It covers all the bases! An appetizer; a side; of course a main course; and then this dish is leftovers for the hosts for the next day. What I’m saying is – this dish is so easy to prep, everyone loves it, it’s a no-brainer. You’ll win Best Guest.
I’m definitely Team Mustard/Dijon and Team Nutmeg on this one. I mean, hopefully you’re catching on to me – I’m definitely More is More. I also prefer a creamier version of this dish versus something fully baked, but I never forget the buttery, crunchy, salty topping. To achieve my peak perfection, I melt down some butter in the microwave. I add to that my Flavor of the Week: Italian bread crumbs; panko; crushed up potato chips; crushed up Ritz crackers; D: all of the above? Mix with some salt and pepper, and pour over top. To keep it as creamy as possible, I’ll only heat this for about 15 minutes and will even turn the broiler on low for the last minute for the ultimate crunchy-to-creamy ratio.
The Mac-N-Cheese at Lucky’s Cafe is the best I’ve ever had. Hands down. Better than my moms (don’t tell her that). There’s a reason National Treasure Guy Fieri loves it so much. Do not sleep on this one!
Lastly – let’s talk about cheese in its natural element. The cheese plate. While this never has to be fancy, I Can. Not. Wait. to get back to L’Albatros in Cleveland Heights and Edwin’s in Shaker Square for their Fancy AF rolling cheese cart presentation. It brings me joy, ok? Speaking of joy – I’ve recently discovered the custom cheese boards from Old Brooklyn Cheese Co. They’re a work of art. Honestly it was difficult to dig into because the presentation is so stunning. Next time you or a friend needs a little pick me up – this is guaranteed to get the job done.
It only makes sense to end this with a cheesy quote, right? “Cheese always brings a smile to your face – whether you are saying it, or eating it!”