Guest recipe: Fromage sur Pain Grillé
● This well-known dish comes without a precise recipe but will fail more often than it succeeds unless the following recommendations are heeded.
● First, get the bread right. It cannot be a sliced loaf. It cannot be wholewheat, wholemeal, wholegerm, or any of the heavy, overseeded loaves of the sort you find in health food stores. You don’t want seeds or herbs distracting your attention from the cheese.
● Ideally, the bread should be neither brown nor white but somewhere in between. You want to feel the dough has pull and moisture in it. Think a well-crusted Campaillou.
● Cut it thickly and unevenly. There is nothing worse than Fromage sur Pain Grillé served on orderly toast. It is not for nothing that the French sometimes call this dish Fromage au Pain Sauvage.
● Get the cheese right. It must be cheddar. It must be extra, extra strong, and it too must be rough cut. Don’t even consider a cheese slice. You should go to a fromagerie, ask to try whatever will burn your mouth, and if you lose all sense of taste for at least 10 seconds, buy it.
● If you over-brown the toast, throw it away. But you mustn’t under-brown it either. Before applying the cheese, the toast should be crispy in texture, with just a suggestion of softness in the middle.
● Colour is also important. The perfect toast for Fromage sur Pain Grillé is the colour of cognac.
● And now the hard part. With a sharp knife cut the cheese in various shapes and thicknesses — not so thin that it vanishes into the toast like a spread, not so thick that its peaks touch the grill element. You don’t want the cheese blackened. It is important that you cover all the toast. Fromage sur Pain Grillé in which even a suggestion of bread remains visible is not Fromage sur Pain Grillé.
● Allow to cool infinitesimally. Too cold and it is not worth eating; too hot and your lips will blister. At the ideal temperature the cheese will still be runny enough to spill down your wrist. If it leaves a scar, you have eaten it too soon.
This recipe is taken from ‘Generations on a Plate’, which is priced at £10 with proceeds going to the Children’s Hospital, Shaare Zedek Medical Centre, Jerusalem. To obtain a copy, call Dani on 020 8201 8933 or go to www.shaarezedek.org.uk/events