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03 April 2015

London's Best Toasted Cheese Sandwich + How to Make it at Home ● by Jess

Toasted cheese sandwiches and I go way back. In my preschool years, we were super tight... my mom made me grilled cheese cut into strips and called it sandwich fingers. It was my absolute fav.

Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to last. We had a falling out when a friend's mom handed me two slices of wonder bread with a piece of plastic she called american "cheese." I learned then that not all grilled cheese was created equal... and some could not be trusted. 

It was a long time coming, but we've found our way back to one other. We reunited when I finally realised that the marriage of childhood comfort food, and a grown up palate, is what adulthood is actually all about.

So, I've been in search of London's best "cheese toastie." Oh boy, did I ever find it.

There's this food stall at Borough Market near London Bridge called Kappacasein that takes the grilled cheese sandwich to a whole new level. They are famous for their Swiss Raclette, which is a potato dish smothered in bubbly caramelised cheese (you can see the half round heating up in the photo above... in a minute she'll shave the browned, melted bit over the spuds).

Still, I think the star of the show is actually their toasted cheese sandwich.

All I can say is that this was the intense sandwich I've ever eaten in my life. FRIENDS DON'T LET FRIEND'S EAT THIS SANDWICH ALONE! It's surprising because it really doesn't look like much when they first give it you, but boy is it ever rich. If you try to eat the thing yourself you'll be flat on your back within minutes (or you'll want to be...  but you'll probably still be at Borough Market, so good luck finding a place).

Still, it is all kinds of wonderful and, like any decent foodie, I had to figure our how to make it for myself.

So, let's break this sandwich down.

I did some detective work (and some interrogating at the food stand) and the original sandwich contains:

8 parts Montgomery Cheddar
1 part Comte
1 part Ogleshield raclette
Leeks, onions, garlic
all grilled between two slices of poilâne sourdough

Most of this is doable, but I wanted to come up with a recipe that people could get at their local market, and at least one of these ingredients doesn't make the cut: the Ogleshield.

Ogleshield cheese is the invention of Bill Oglethorpe (the owner of Kappacasein) and Jamie Montgomery. It is a kind of softer cheddar cheese made from Jersey cows and comes in a rind.

Blessedly, I found all the other ingredients at my local Waitrose (gotta say, impressed with the cheese selection). Lacking the Ogleshield, and also wanting to tone back the intensity of Kappacasein sandwich, because I'm American and weak when it comes to strong cheddar. I decided to go for a medium strength west country cheddar instead. Here's what my recipe looks like:

Ingredients: (Yields 4-5 sandwiches)

Step One: Chop up the veg. Green onions would be a perfectly fine substitute for the leeks.

Step two: Saute the chopped vegetables in olive oil. Set aside.

Step Three: Grate your cheese. Make sure you mix it up before putting in on your sandwiches.

Step four: Butter the outside of the bread so it gets golden and does stick to the pan.

Step five: Assemble your sandwich by placing a small amount of cheese down, covering with 1/4-1/2 cup of the sauteed vegetables, then heaping another 1/2-3/4 cup of cheese on top. Because I don't have a sandwich press or panini grill, I pressed the sandwiches between two cutting boards before putting them in the pan.

Step six: I've found that until you have a professional grill, the best way to get the perfect melt + golden brown bread on a grilled sandwich is to go dutch oven style. I use a large oven safe frying pan with a lid on top. Bake at 350*F (or 180* C) for about 20 minutes.

And voila, there you have it! Ooey gooey deliciousness all there for the loving!

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