The grilled cheese sandwich is one of the crown princes of the comfort food world. There are successful restaurants and food trucks that serve (almost) nothing else. And yesterday four a-list chefs from across Canada competed in the 2012 "Grate" Canadian Grilled Cheese Cookoff sponsored by Dairy Farmers of Canada.
Chef Jason Bangerter of Oliver & Bonacini's Luma and Canteen rose above the rest of the field that included Ned Bell, executive chef of Yew Restaurant in Vancouver's Four Seasons Hotel; Michael Howell, executive chef of Tempestuous Culinary, the Wolfville Nova Scotia-based restaurant consulting firm; and Liana Robberecht, executive chef of Calgary's Petroleum Club. The winner was chosen by a panel of food writers (Sue Riedl, Elizabeth Baird, and Rita Demontis) and restaurateur Kevin Durkee of Toronto's Cheesewerks.
Bangerter's Niagara Gold Crunch featured an all-Niagara list of ingredients that came together to give a sense of regional connectedness that goes beyond terroir. The Niagara Gold cheese from Upper Canada shared the stage with Mario Pingue's prosciutto and both had their salty richness cut by a garnish of pickled grapes.
After he finished his holding-the-trophy-for-photos duties I had the chance to chat with the always-affable Chef Bangerter about the grape must sourdough he used for the presentation version of his winning dish. The juice and pomace (all the solid byproducts of pressing grapes including the stems, seeds, and skins) go into making a powder that he worked into the standard O&B artisan miche starter. Adding flavour and colour with a dry, powdered ingredient instead of larger, wetter ones (like olives, nuts, roasted garlic, or sun-dried tomatoes) is an interesting approach that I may have to try repeating myself.
Obviously, with 30 Days of Ontario Wine around the corner I was pleased to see that the winning dish had such a tight Niagara–and wine–focus. If you'd like some sustenance as you join us for a month of drinking some of Ontario's best juice Chef Bangerter's recipe is below.
The Dairy Farmers of Canada booth is located in Hall "A" of the Direct Energy Centre.
Niagara Gold Crunch
The Niagara region brings together some of chef Jason Bangerter’s favourite things…grapes and cheese. They are the perfect pair. Niagara Gold is a delicious cheese with nutty notes and a lovely texture. The saltiness of the prosciutto and the sweet and sour pop of the pickled grapes make for a very satisfying cheesy treat.
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Yield: 1 serving
2 oz (60 g) Niagara Gold cheese, cut into thin slices
¼ cup (60 mL) mayonnaise
1 small clove garlic, finely minced
Pinch of fresh chopped thyme leaves
Pinch of fresh cracked black pepper
Two ¼-inch (5 mm) thick slices sour dough or country style bread, about 5-inch (12.5 cm) square*
1 oz (30 g) shaved prosciutto
½ 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 must
Potato chips or creamy summer slaw
Fresh pressed grape juice
Bring the 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 the 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 the 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 the sandwich in half and serve with pickled grapes, sweet grainy mustard, potato chips and fresh pressed grape juice. Enjoy and happy cooking.
*Bread: Trim ends of unsliced bread to make approximately a 5-inch (12.5 cm) square. Slice crosswise into ¼- inch (5 mm) thick slices.
Recipe courtesy of Dairy Famers of Canada.
Written by David Ort
As one of Spotlight’s contributing editors, David enjoys turning his mind (and keyboard) to a wide variety of topics ranging from recipes to restaurants to craft beer. When he’s not writing for Spotlight Toronto, David shares his thoughts on new restaurants and beer at PostCity.com and all things food and drink on his own site, Food With Legs.