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Grilled Cheese with Ribs and Slaw

Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Ribs and Slaw served with a dill pickle

The folks who run the Gorilla Cheese truck have what is easily one of the most popular food trucks in southern Ontario. I really like to see nice people do well but have to admit that their popularity annoyed me.

Grilled cheese sandwiches are probably the first meal I learned to make on my own. Why would anyone want to line up for an hour for something that fifteen-year-old me could make when instead, without waiting, they could have any of a score of more complex dishes? I watched just that happen at last summer’s third Food Truck Eats event and was flabbergasted.

The idea that these are more complex creations started to dawn on me after I attended the opening for Cheesewerks, a bricks-and-mortar competitor for the gorilla. But really it wasn’t until a month ago when I tried The Bubba at the Gorilla Cheese truck that I came full circle. That is one delicious sandwich.

Delicious enough that I was inspired to make it at home with my own substitution for the pulled pork they use.

Ribs are essential to the summer food rotation but they can be tough to estimate portions. Because they always come in racks even the most delicious recipe will almost always have a few left over. Still delicious the next day, but by then they’ve usually lost their visual appeal. The obvious solution is to pack them inside a sandwich.

Ninety-three percent of the time that ribs are served coleslaw is as well (not a real stat) so you’re likely to have some of it left over as well. As I learned from tasting that Bubba of a few paragraphs ago it provides crunch, really lightens the texture of a grilled cheese sandwich, and brings enough acid to cut all that fat in the rest of the ingredients.

Two very easy techniques will improve your grilled cheese sandwiches immensely. The first, general to all grilled cheese sandwiches and courtesy of Alton Brown, is that the cheese should be grated, not sliced. I’m not sure if it’s about organising proteins into an arrangement more like melted strands or about making the pieces smaller and therefore more quickly heated but it definitely works. The other trick, specific to sandwiches that are more than just bread and cheese, is to mix the ingredients in a bowl. Melted cheese is like the mortar that holds the delicious, brick house together but it can only do it’s work if you distribute it evenly.

The Polish mountain cheese is something I picked up a few ago and discussed at some length here on Spotlight Toronto. I bet only a tiny fraction of you will be lucky enough to have an Eastern European deli at your disposal, the rest can substitute the most assertively smoked gouda or cheddar they can find.

Grilled Cheese with Ribs and Coleslaw

Ribs are smoky, fatty, and spicy; coleslaw provides a balancing bite and a crunchy texture; and I’m sure I don’t have to explain the greatness that is melted cheese.

Yield: one sandwich

  • 2 slices good-quality bread
  • 1 TB bbq sauce
  • leftover rib meat. I know this pisses off purists but the ribs I make are braised and therefore fall of the bone. You could just as easily use pulled pork if you have some in the fridge.
  • smoky Polish mountain cheese, grated
  • 2 – 3 times as much standard-issue, block mozzarella, also grated
  • coleslaw
  • 1/2 TB butter
  • Put the rib meat in a small, microwave-safe bowl and add the bbq sauce on top. Microwave on high for forty-five seconds. The goal is to heat the meat so that it won’t keep the cheese from melting and thin the sauce so that it lubricates the meat.
  • In a mixing bowl combine all ingredients except bread and butter. Set a heavy (preferably cast iron) pan over medium heat and melt the butter.
  • Put one of the slices of bread on a large offset spatula (“grilled cheese flipper” to eight-year-olds everywhere) and top with the meat-cheese-slaw mixture. When the butter has stopped foaming swirl the pan, transfer the open-faced sandwich (bread down) into the pan and top with the other slice of bread. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover.
  • You want that first slice of bread to be golden brown and the cheese to be well on its way to melted before you flip the sandwich. Start checking around the three or four minute mark but let the smell coming from the pan guide you.
  • Flip the sandwich, press it down firmly with your offset spatula and recover the pan. Uncover the pan after about two minutes and start checking to see if the second side is cooked. Removing the lid will also help drive off excess moisture and further crisp the top slice of bread.
  • Serve with a dill pickle and (optionally) more of the bbq sauce.

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