Grilled cheese review #1: Brie de Meaux and Serano

Written by Daniel Waldman

One food dish that seems to be sorely lacking in France is the classic grilled cheese, which is surprising given the enormous different types of cheese found here, as well as the French’s love of bread. The closest thing  to it is the Croque Monsieur, a baked or fried ham & cheese sandwich that also has cheese melted on top.  Not to knock the French sandwich, it’s quite delicious in its own right, but it rarely veers from the typical ingredients or style.

So, as a grilled cheese enthusiast, I am undertaking what could be a long and artery-clogging adventure: to create, test and rate grilled cheese sandwiches using the full bounty of French products available to me.

And there are A LOT of products available. There are more than 350 – 450 unique French cheeses, and when you add in different varieties of each, there are more than 1000! Add in many varieties of bread, as well as cheese combinations, and the potential is infinite!

I’m not a traditionalist when it comes to grilled cheeses, either, which means I frequently put a slice of ham, tomato, or other interesting filling. So, I’m pretty sure this adventure will either end in a heart-attack or when I’m utterly burned out on them. But neither of those are really likely, as I see things at the moment.

So, without further ado, here’s my first review:

Brie de Meaux with Serano Ham

Bread: pain de mie (essentially plain white bread)

Cheese: Brie de Meaux au lait cru (non pasteurized)

Other items: Serano ham, one slice

Fat: butter

One mark of a good grilled cheese is  the gooeyness of the cheese. It should gently ooze out, but not gush, as you bite into it, giving a warm, rich, creamy and soft mouthfeel. Brie de Meaux has this characteristic in spades. It’s a soft and runny cheese that melts quite easily.

Brie de Meaux, named for the city where it’s produced, is a cows milk cheese with a soft white rind. Even by itself, it’s very rich and creamy. Supposedly, the cheese dates originally gained popularity in the 8th or 9th century and was a favorite of King Charlemagne. In 1815, it was named the King of Cheeses by Talleyrand at the Congress of Vienna.

Using it in the sandwich, the Brie was almost a little too gooey. I found the cheese getting stuck to my gums very easily. That was fine at first, but by the last bite it was a little off putting. I felt like I had more cheese in my gums than going down my gullet. A feeling akin to how peanut butter tends to stick to the roof of your mouth when you eat it straight.

It’s also is a fairly strongly flavored cheese, which in this particular combination didn’t work very well as it completely overshadowed the flavor of the Serano ham. Serano is a lightly salty and fairly delicately flavored ham. It’s sometimes a good compliment, or even the star of a sandwich, but it just couldn’t hold up to the Brie. Probably a better combination would be Jambon de Bayonne, which has a tougher texture and is saltier and more flavorful than Serano.

The pain de mie, which is sort of ordinary white bread (though sliced thinner than typical American white bread) held up well to the cheese, which is usually good. I’m not a fan of when the cheese melts through the bread.  The outside got nice and crispy without getting burnt.

Overall, it was a perfectly acceptable sandwich, even if the Serano was drowned out and there cheese had a little too sticky mouthfeel.

Sandwich score: 3/5

A note on scoring: Scoring anything can be incredibly subjective. I am going to try to be objective, but granted this is all based on my personal tastes. I chose a 5-point scoring system, simply because of, well, simplicity.

One final note: I only thought of this concept for my blog while I was eating the sandwich, which was completely demolished by the time I had mentally committed to writing it. Next time, there will be pictures of the sandwich, I promise!

Comments: 5

  1. Rob Bennett says:

    I love a great grilled cheese, partial to one with tomato, bacon and horseradish cheddar on an I Italian style sandwich bread. And I was taught to butter the outside of the bread for maximum effect. : ) But do be in France and to experiment, that is utterly divine. Bon appétit!

  2. Ellen says:

    Hi Daniel,
    What are the French hard cheeses? Gruyere? What else? I feel an ongoing school lunch experiment coming on. Mangia!

    • Daniel Waldman says:

      Gruyere, Emental, Comte are typical. But there are also some that are “soft” but not like Brie. For example, Tomme is like a Swiss cheese, but it’s also softer than Gruyere.

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