The grilled cheese is the flip-flop sandal of the food world: easy to love, unpretentious, the ultimate in comfort. But for Jake Cohen — a chef and recipe developer — there’s no need to skimp on experimentation when it comes to the classics. “I get cyber-bullied all the time for putting too many extras into my grilled cheese, but I don’t care,” he jokes.
Cohen knows a thing or two about taking a modern twist on very traditional recipes. His debut cookbook, Jew-ish: Reinvented Recipes From a Modern Mensch, is all about reinterpreting beloved foods from his Ashkenazi Jewish heritage, including both recipes for the holidays and all year long. After a career both cooking, teaching, and writing about food, it was only in the past few years that Cohen began to explore his own identity and family history. “The beauty of Jewish food is how it’s evolved throughout the diaspora, based on the movement of Jews, and the new flavors and ingredients picked up along the way,” Cohen says. “That’s why I love exploring the history of Jewish deli and other old world/new world crossovers.”
It’s this spirit of reinvention that inspired Cohen to give us a new way — or actually, three new ways — of looking at the classic grilled cheese sandwich. His recipes below incorporate unexpected treats: the joys of leftover challah bread, the jammy goodness of braised onions, and the pickled bite that’s reminiscent of a New York deli. And of course, the cheese that unites us all, from Cabot Creamery.
You could even say that that Cabot Creamery is a modern spin on the traditional, too. A 102-year old dairy farmer co-op and certified b-corp, Cabot Creamery has been known for its award-winning, mouthwatering products from its farms in New York and New England. But the co-op is making traditional values — like sustainability in farming, community engagement, and employee happiness — feel fresh again.
And who can really resist the (cheesy) pull of a Cabot cheddar? We’ll never say no to a classic New York Extra Sharp cheddar in our ‘wich. These recipes also use flavored cheddars for a spin on tradition, making for the opposite of a basic grilled cheese. Cohen knows from firsthand experience the power of the perfect cheese pull, and the kind of cheese you need to perfect your own. “[The cheese has] got to melt beautifully and stand up on its own if it’s going to be the star of the show,” he says. “I also have a very picky family, so Cabot cheddar is actually one of the few cheeses everyone loves and won’t complain about if I use.”
Read on to learn more about Cohen’s culinary approach, and try his recipes for yourself.
Roasted Garlic Grilled Cheese with Coriander Pickles
The taste of Cabot Garlic & Dill Cheddar Cheese “just screams pickles to me,” says Cohen, “so I wanted something super-tangy from pickles, mellowed out with the earthy flavors of coriander seeds and roasted garlic.” This sandwich offers all the best flavors of a New York City deli, wrapped into one sandwich: a bold grilled cheese on slices of rye, smothered with roasted garlic mayo, quick cucumber pickles laced with whole coriander seeds, and some fresh dill fronds.
Makes 1 grilled cheese
Place the bread on a cutting board and spread ½ tablespoon garlic mayonnaise on each side of both slices.
On one slice, top with Cabot Garlic & Dill Cheddar, pickles, and dill fronds.
Place the other slice of mayo-coated bread on top.
In a medium nonstick skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Place the sandwich in the skillet and cook, occasionally pressing firmly with a spatula to smash, until golden on the bottom, 3 to 4 minutes. Serve warm.
Makes about 1 cup
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Rub the cut sides of the garlic with the olive oil, then season with salt and pepper.
Wrap in 2 layers of foil and roast for 1 hour, until softened and golden. Let cool slightly.
Once cool enough to handle, squeeze the roasted garlic cloves into a medium bowl. Mash with a fork or the back of a spoon, then stir in the mayonnaise until incorporated.
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Quick Coriander Pickles
Makes about 1 quart
- In a clean quart-sized jar, add the cucumber slices, coriander seeds, peppercorns, dill, and garlic.
- In a medium saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, salt, and sugar over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then pour over the cucumbers in the jar.
- Let cool completely, then seal and chill overnight before using. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
Crispy Cheddar Grilled Cheese with Jammy Cider Onions
Social media is where Cohen thrives, and this grilled cheese was inspired by the super-indulgent cheeseburger videos that he kept seeing on TikTok. With Cabot Vermont Sharp Cheddar Cheese on sourdough, this is all about a juxtaposition of textures. “I love the crispy bits of cheese,” says Cohen, “so why not make the whole thing crispy and replace the gooeyness with jammy braised onions?”
Makes 1 grilled cheese
Place the sourdough bread on a cutting board and spread ½ tablespoon mayonnaise on each side of both slices.
In a medium nonstick skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add Cabot Vermont Sharp Cheddar directly to the pan in an oval slightly larger than the bread.
Place one slice of mayo-coated bread on the cheese. Let cook until the edges are crispy and golden, about 2 minutes.
Using a spatula, carefully flip the bread and cheese so the crispy cheese is facing up. Add the onions and thyme, then top with the other slice of bread. Cook, occasionally pressing firmly with a spatula to smash, until golden on the bottom, 2-3 minutes.
Flip and continue to cook until the other side is golden and the cheese is completely melted, about 2 minutes more.
Transfer to a cutting board, slice and serve.
Jammy Cider Onions
Makes 1 1⁄2 cups
In a large, wide skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.
Add the onions with a large pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often and deglazing with splashes of the cider, until the onions are caramelized and jammy, and all the cider has been used and has evaporated, about 30 minutes.
Let cool completely, then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Sweet and Spicy Pepper Jelly Grilled Cheese
“Saturday mornings I always have leftover challah,” Cohen says, “and when I’m not making French toast, I’ve become obsessed with using it for sandwiches. It’s softer but adds such lovely sweetness to play with the pepper jelly.” Using Cabot Pepper Jack Cheese, this grilled cheese is for anyone who loves a sweet-spicy twist. Plus, the homemade pepper jelly is a winner.
Makes 1 grilled cheese
Place the challah on a cutting board and spread ½ tablespoon mayonnaise on each side of both slices.
On one slice, spread the hot pepper jelly, then top with Cabot Pepper Jack Cheese. Place the other slice of mayo-coated bread on top.
In a medium nonstick skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Place the sandwich in the skillet and cook, occasionally pressing firmly with a spatula to smash, until golden on the bottom, 3-4 minutes.
Flip and continue to cook until the other side is golden and the cheese is completely melted, about 2 minutes more. Transfer to a cutting board, slice and serve.
Hot Pepper Jelly
Makes 1 cup
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the peppers with vinegar until finely chopped, scraping down the bowl with a silicone spatula as needed.
Transfer to a small saucepan with the sugar and salt. Cook over medium-high heat until the mixture begins to boil.
Lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is jammy with most of the liquid evaporated, about 15-20 minutes. Let cool completely, then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.