Give Me Some Comfort! (Food): Cheeese!

There are few things more simple or delicious than cheese. Salty, smooth, soft, or stinky, cheese is universally available, versatile, and as exotic as it is boring. I just had a quick snack of the two different kinds of cheeses I bought today, but I have a total of four different kinds in my fridge (Cracker Barrel extra sharp cheddar, Athenos feta, Chevre--goat--cheese, and Parmesan). They are all wonderful. Even though I technically buy them for various recipes, usually it ends up that I buy the cheese and try looking for recipes to fit them in. But if I can't who cares because hey more cheese for me!

I have always enjoyed cheese as a snack, but I never quite realized how expensive good cheese is. There's a quaint little cheese shop by Dave's house that sells an impressive amount of delicious cheese, but since I love cheese not bankruptcy, I usually have to stick just to raiding their generous amount of free samples. Fancy white people grocery stores (Whole Foods, I'm looking at you) tend to stock up on the less exotic but not so much less expensive varieties. Yes cheese is nice and all, but it starts to hurt when I'm busting $35 for a tablespoon of mozzarella. So, I tend to stick to the more generic, but certainly no less delicious versions, saving the expensive stuff for fancy parties or my wedding (let's do it for the cheese!).

When I was in college, my access to cheese was severely limited, and every bon vivant freshman art show was a chance to go crazy. While my friends might have eyed the large collection of boxed wines, I headed straight for the cheese table. Generally the selection tended to be cubes of either soft white or bright orange, but I got my fix and it was at least better than the crumbly fake Parmesan stuff, the worst human invention and completely undeserving of the moniker "cheese."

As for how to eat cheese other than right off the knife, I like to go classic: grilled cheese, mac&cheese, fried cheese. They are all wonderful, although equally so one of my favorite meals every is freshly baked bread and some very good cheese. At the risk of sounding pretentious, there is something very lovely about warm, soft bread, smooth, fresh cheese, open air, sunshine, and a park. I don't think I have a favorite, although the four that I have right now are pretty much my gold standards. Fresh mozzarella is amazing--ball form floating in water, not the drier and more solid square stuff. Smoked it is utterly delicious. One of my favorite meals ever was a soft filet mignon topped with shredded and slightly crispy Gouda (at Steve and Jenna's rehearsal dinner! That place was awesome!). When I "worked" at a restaurant, we used to amuse ourselves by cooking exotic food that wasn't on the menu, and my grilled cheese would have made bank if they'd actually tried to sell it. I even dress up Kraft Mac & Cheese, which is a great medium for some crumbled feta and a little Parmesan.

I'll leave you with my famous grilled cheese recipe, which I've perfected over years of being uninterested in healthier foods. It's good! I fry it in bacon grease, to give it an extra flavor, but I usually just eat the bacon separate from the grilled cheese. If you don't want to fry a slice of bacon just for its fat, you can use clarified butter instead.

two slices fresh bread (French bread or a baguette)
goat cheese
extra sharp cheddar cheese
butter or margarine
1 slice of bacon or 1 tablespoon clarified butter.
several slices smoked ham (optional)

If frying in bacon grease, cook bacon in medium pan. Cook very slowly to allow grease to accumulate.
Generously butter both sides of the bread; you can also coat with clarified butter
Spread goat cheese across one slice of bread
Top with several slices of ham, if using
Cover with thin slices of cheddar cheese and the other slice of bread--cheese should be in the center of the bread, with no cheese sticking out
Coat frying pan with clarified butter or bacon grease
Cook over medium heat until the bottom slice is golden brown or cheese starts to melt--about 3-5 minutes
Flip and cook until other side is golden brown, about 2-4 minutes
Flip and cook both sides for 90 seconds
Let cool and serve immediately

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