Long before grilled cheese sandwiches were a trend and mobile trucks were selling them from L.A. to New Haven, we all knew they were the ultimate rainy-day comfort food, a baby boomer’s answer to the madeleine. Here are the general principles, adapted from Grilled Cheese, Please! 50 Scrumptiously Cheesy Recipes, by Laura Werlin (Andrews McMeel, $16.99).
1. Grate the cheese. It will melt more evenly and will more likely reach the desired consistency before the bread burns.
2. Use the proper bread-to-cheese ratio: 1/2-inch-thick slices of bread, roughly 4 by 5 inches, with 1 1/2 to 2 ounces of grated cheese per sandwich, depending on the recipe.
3. Melt the butter and spread it on the bread, not the pan.
4. Cook in a nonstick pan.
5. Use a spatula to flatten the sandwich slightly as it’s grilling.
6. Go low and slow: Figure 18 to 20 minutes total cooking time on medium-low heat for a golden-brown outside and a gooey inside.