Dairy Diaries: Gooey Delicious Meltiness

How grilled cheese connoisseur Dave Danhi delivers unapologetic joy and comfort
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For six years, The Grilled Cheese Truck has roamed the streets of L.A. and delivered one of the city’s best on-the-go grilled cheese options. Dave Danhi, the founder and chief creative officer, brings his experience as a fine dining chef to the truck and its menu. He says his reason for starting the business was to “take your childhood memories and use them to feed the adult palate.”

The truck offers a number of menu items, including the best-selling Cheesy Mac, which is a double dose of comfort food: Tillamook Sharp Cheddar paired with macaroni and cheese and grilled between slices of dense buttermilk bread. (The fully loaded version includes BBQ pork and caramelized onions.)

“The flavor is perfect,” says Danhi about why he uses Tillamook Sharp Cheddar in his popular creation, particularly when paired with BBQ sauce.

DanhiBecause grilled cheeses are truly about the eater, Danhi offers an array of fillings to personalize any of his sandwiches. Popular add-ons include avocado and bacon, though some prefer the sweet crunch of sliced apples or pears. Ready for dessert? Danhi has that covered too: Mom’s Apple Pie Melt boasts Tillamook Sharp Cheddar, brown butter, caramelized apples, and candied walnuts.

“When it comes to grilled cheese, it’s a personal persona thing,” he says. “It’s the epitome of comfort food. It’s really about the moment and what suits your mood.”

For cooking a grilled cheese at home, Danhi recommends buying high-quality natural ingredients, starting with a great stiff crumb bread that will hold firm when you add your spread and cheese. As for ingredient ratios, the cheese rules the day—50 percent of a good sandwich’s quality is owed to the gooey middle, he says. The spread is important too, and on the truck, Danhi mixes butter with mayo because the mayo raises the smoking temperature of the sandwich, thus allowing those middle ingredients to form a perfect meltiness.

Dahni’s last tip might be his best in this age of overdone portions: “More is not necessarily better. Even, believe it or not, when it comes to cheese.”


 

Pepperbelly Melt

“This melt was inspired by the Hometown Fair in Manhattan Beach, California that I’ve been going to since I was 10 years old,” says Danhi. “I still go to the fair every year, even if just to get my Pepperbelly ‘fix’.”

Total time: 20 minutes
(Serves 8)

Ingredients:

Butter Spread
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) Tillamook Unsalted Butter, softened at room temperature
3/4 cup mayonnaise

Avocado Cream
16 ounces Tillamook Sour Cream
1 ripe avocado
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and white pepper to taste

Fire Roasted Tomato Salsa
4 Roma tomatoes, vine end cut off
4 cloves garlic
1/2 red onion, peeled and cut into quarters
1 jalepeño, stem removed
2 limes, juice only
2 tablespoons pure olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
salt and white pepper to taste

Sandwiches
8 slices chili cheese bread, thick 1/2 inch slices
8 Tillamook Medium Cheddar Cheese Slices
8 Tillamook Hot Habanero Jack Cheese Slices
1 1/2 cups of your favorite chili recipe (hot)
1 cup Fritos, gently crushed
2/3 cup Fire Roasted Tomato Salsa (see recipe)
1/3 cup Avocado Cream (see recipe)

Directions:

Butter Spread
In a mixer, beat butter and mayonnaise with the paddle attachment until well mixed. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl to incorporate all butter as it may stick to the bowl.

Avocado Cream
Place all ingredients in a processer and puree until smooth. Chill for 30 minutes before using.

Fire Roasted Tomato Salsa
Place all ingredients except for salt, pepper, and cumin in a bowl and toss to cover with olive oil. Place in oven under the broiler for about 5 minutes or until skins start to blacken. Toss and re-broil until dark all around. Blend in blender with salt, white pepper, and cumin. Chill for 1 hour.

Assembly
Generously butter each slice of bread on one side and lay buttered side down. Add (in order): 1 slice Medium Cheddar Cheese, 1 slice Hot Habanero Jack Cheese, 3 ounces chili (heated), 2 ounces crushed Fritos, 1 ounce salsa, 1/2 ounce avocado cream, 1 slice of Medium Cheddar Cheese, 1 slice Hot Habanero Jack Cheese, and top it off with 1 slice of buttered chili cheese bread (buttered side out).

Cooking
Heat griddle to about 350 degrees F. Place all sandwiches on griddle. Allow melts to cook slowly. If your heat is too high it will burn the bread and the inside will not be hot. Once golden brown, gently flip and repeat until cheese is melted and inside is hot. If the bread browns prior to the inside being hot, place pan with sandwiches in oven at 450 degrees F to allow to finish.