Ruth Reichl’s Diva of a Grilled Cheese

October  4, 2022
7 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Makes 1 sandwich
Author Notes

Ruth Reichl has been publicly aligning herself with grilled cheese for a long time. And we really should have paid attention sooner. Her grilled cheese is genius, and also completely out of control. Adapted slightly from My Kitchen Year (Random House, 2015). —Genius Recipes

What You'll Need
  • Any combination of shallot, leek, scallions, onion (any color)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 pound cheddar cheese, divided
  • Butter
  • 2 slices thickly sliced, sturdy sourdough bread
  • Mayonnaise
  1. Gather a group of shallot, leek, scallions, and onion—as many members of the allium family as you have on hand—and chop them finely into a small heap. Add a minced clove of garlic. Grate a few generous handfuls of the best cheddar you can afford. (Montgomery is particularly appealing), set a little aside, and gently combine the rest with the onion mixture.
  2. Butter one side of thickly sliced bread and heap as much of the mixture as possible between the slices (butter facing in). Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise on the outside of the bread (this will keep it from scorching on the griddle). Press the reserved grated cheese to the outside of the bread, where it will create a wonderfully crisp and shaggy crust, giving your sandwich an entirely new dimension. (For less mess, it helps to apply the mayonnaise and cheese first on one side only, lay that side on the griddle, then quickly do the remaining top side while the bottom is sizzling.)
  3. Fry on a heated nonstick griddle or in a nonstick skillet about 4 minutes a side, until the cheese is softly melted.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Steven Williamson
    Steven Williamson
  • Therese
  • Hollis Ramsey
    Hollis Ramsey
  • krikri
  • Gayle Streett
    Gayle Streett
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

20 Reviews

Steven W. November 25, 2023
Oh, in a panini press this would be awesome.
Therese July 13, 2021
Love, love Ruth and her books and recipes but this was meh. Next time I’ll just use a Cotswold cheddar and get the same result.
susan December 18, 2019
Am I missing the amount of onions? How many do I use? What is a small pile of chopped alliums? Quarter cup? Half cup?
Lisa August 5, 2018
Holy mackerel, this is one darn good sandwich. In fact, my boyfriend declared it the "best grilled cheese I ever had." Might take me a few tries to get the outer crust perfect, but I sure am willing to try!!
Michelle July 11, 2018
Thought about using Parmesan on the outside?!?
Hollis R. April 13, 2018
i make mine with mayo on both sides of the bread, inner sides sprinkled with garlic powder. then i mix the shredded sharp cheddar with powdered mustard, celery seeds, caraway seeds, garlic powder, and onion powder. first i use Challah for the bread, mayo (Duke's) on both sides). sprinkle a little garlic powder inside. cover the bottom with thin-sliced ham, then pile on the shredded cheddar. add the top slice.

melt 1/2 T. butter in a cast-iron skillet on Med-Low, add sandwich, and weigh down with something heavy. after a few minutes -- when it's as brown as you want it -- flip and repeat. next time, i'll use minced shallots, scallions, and garlic instead of powders. maybe chop up an anchovy in oil and add to butter to melt, before adding the sandwich to the skillet.
Linda D. March 17, 2018
WOW! What a perfectly messy and delicious grilled cheese. I used scallions, shallot and red onion. The local Fry's (Yuma, AZ) does not carry Montgomery cheddar, so I chose the Wisconsin Colby. Very good. Thank you!
krikri February 13, 2018
Sauteed the onions + garlic first. Did one in frying pan, one under the grill. Preferred *slightly* the under-the-grill version, so did the third one that way. Note to self: Watch carefully so it doesn't burn!
One advantage to the grill version is you don't have to turn it over after putting the mayo and cheese on.
Scott September 13, 2017
For instruction #2: "Butter one side of thickly sliced bread and heap as much of the mixture as possible between the slices" I would suggest "Butter one side of two thickly sliced bread slices..."
Gayle S. February 9, 2017
Don't need talk down language, best cheddar you can afford. Nicer, polite, to say, best cheddar you can find.
beavergoodman January 11, 2017
This looks just like my very favorite grilled cheese sandwich, which is made at Kappacasein in Borough Market, London. Poilane bread, Montgomery cheddar, and all the alliums. Can't wait to make this version at home - maybe a little slice of London in PA.
Robin L. November 14, 2016
Montgomery Cheddar is my absolute favorite but it has been virtually impossible to find in Manhattan over the past two years. If there are any cheesemongers here who presently carry it, please share. Thank you!
Courtney C. November 14, 2016
This was awesome - I used chives, shallots, and garlic and a combo of cheddars. I would definitely make again and again.
edgargonzalezcom October 12, 2016
What temperature the skillet should be? I always end with burned bread or non melted cheese.
Kristen M. October 12, 2016
It will depend a bit on your skillet (and bread and cheese, etc.) but I tend to go for medium to medium low—nothing worse than your bread getting dark quicker than your cheese can melt.
Shruthi G. August 16, 2016
Will try this soon! Thank you

Mark B. August 10, 2016
I'm sold! This has to be the best grilled cheese I have ever eaten, even without the shallots and garlic. I used smoked cheddar and gruyere. Do you want the best mayonnaise? It's called Kewpie brand and it's found in Asian groceries.
howiff November 8, 2017
I must disagree. Duke's Mayo. Southern made and in business for 100 years. Explains why southerners are such pleasant people.
Deborah November 8, 2017
Home made mayo = sine qua non.
David March 29, 2018
love Kewpie!!