Monday, April 17, 2017

It's National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Month! Here's how to celebrate it with America's Best Goat Cheese.

Photo Credit: BiRite Catering
            If this post looks familiar to some of you, it's because it was published last Tuesday, National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day, at The Daily  Since they edited it and didn't include the recipes, I thought I'd send you the complete article, along with 3 recipes for 3 great sandwiches. So here goes:

Photo Credit: Laura Chenel
Goat Cheese doesn’t naturally spring to mind when you think of that good old American Grilled Cheese Sandwich.  That’s a shame because Goat Cheese has much to recommend it.  It’s far healthier than cow’s milk cheeses because it has 30 to 40 percent fewer calories and fat. And it has considerably more vitamins and minerals -- 13 percent more calcium alone. To cap it all off, Goat Cheese has less lactose and it’s Gluten-Free. But all of this ignores how versatile and varied Goat Cheese has become. And no American producer is more responsible for that than Laura Chenel.

A Girl and her Goats. Photo Credit: SF Gate Frederic Larson
         Yes, there is a Laura Chenel.  As a young Californian, Ms. Chenel was America’s first commercial producer of Goat Cheese.  And arguably no one has done as much to popularize Goat Cheese in this country.  In the 70s, Ms. Chenel’s passion for goats led her to France where she learned the art of Cheese-making in a series of apprenticeships with French makers of Chèvre. Returning home, she worked odd jobs while selling her cheese at local farmer’s markets and to shops.  Her big break came when no less than Alice Waters herself put “Laura Chenel’s Chèvre” on the menu of her iconic Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley.  It’s also believed that this may have been the first Goat Cheese Salad on an American menu.  The standing order for 50 lbs. of Goat Cheese a week allowed Ms. Chenel to quit her day jobs and pursue her passion full-time.
Photo Credit: Laura Chenel
         Every year since, the company has moved the boundaries of goat cheese, creating a portfolio of Goat Cheese flavors. Their quality is unmatched and their variety seemingly endless.  Logs of Goat Cheese are now flavored with Summer Figs, Crushed Olives, Black Truffle, Pimento and Garlic, Garlic and Chives and Honey, all with the underpinning of Ms. Chenel’s superb Chèvre.  Small wonder, the company now sells more than two million pounds of cheese a year.   Their standards have never varied.

In 2006 Ms. Chenel sold her interest in the company to the Triballat family, French cheesemakers whose company, Rians, has made world-class Goat Cheese for four generations.  The Laura Chenel philosophy and portfolio of cheeses have remained steadfastly the same under Rians ownership. 

Photo Credit: The New York Times
To celebrate National Grilled Cheese week, there’s one more reason for choosing Goat Cheese.  This time of year, Laura Chenel runs a “Celebrate Spring Milk” campaign which signals the arrival of the new “kids” which means goat’s milk is particularly plentiful, and fresh Goat Cheese should be top of mind.   You could choose to make your sandwich with any one of the many flavors mentioned earlier.  Or you could try one of these recipes to make National Grilled Cheese Month a Goat Cheese event to remember. 
First, you could make a great Grilled Goat Cheese Sandwich just by choosing one of Laura Chenel's flavored Goat Cheeses.  Any one of them all by its lonesome would produce a fine sandwich.  As to bread, I'd avoid using American White.  As traditional as White Bread is in a grilled cheese sandwich, Goat Cheese is greatly enhanced by using by using heartier, healthier breads.  Choose Seven Grain or Whole Wheat or even Brioche.  Follow the cooking instructions for any one of our three recipes and take it from there.  Now on to the inventive recipes we picked up to showcase here:
Photo Credit: Cooking Light Magazine
Recipe for Cooking Light's Grilled Goat Cheese Sandwich with Figs and Basil:
Figs have a wonderful affinity to goat cheese providing a sweet counterpart to the tang-y creaminess of the cheese.  You could use Laura Chenel's Honey log and eliminate the honey here.  


2 teaspoons honey

1/4 teaspoon grated lemon rind

1 (6-ounce) package Laura Chenel’s Original Log

8 (1-ounce) slices cinnamon-raisin bread

2 tablespoons fig preserves

2 teaspoons thinly sliced fresh basil

Cooking spray

1. Combine first 3 ingredients, stirring until well blended. Spread 1 tablespoon goat cheese mixture on each of 4 bread slices; top each slice with 1 1/2 teaspoons preserves and 1/2 teaspoon basil. Top with remaining bread slices. Lightly coat outside of bread with cooking spray. 
2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 2 sandwiches to pan. Place a cast-iron or heavy skillet on top of sandwiches; press gently to flatten. Cook 3 minutes on each side or until bread is lightly toasted (leave cast-iron skillet on sandwiches while they cook). Repeat with remaining sandwiches. Serve at once.
Photo Credit courtesy of Erin Clarke/WellPlated
Recipe for Avocado Grilled Goat Cheese Sandwiches from and 

The blogger Erin Clarke tells her readers at that she is “fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food taste incredible”. Here she combines the creaminess of ripe avocado with the creaminess of Goat Cheese.  There’s plenty of flavor here due to her use of fresh herbs, scallions and spinach leaves.    

Makes 2 sandwiches

4 slices whole wheat or 7 grain bread
2 tablespoons softened butter, plus additional 2 tablespoons for cooking the sandwiches
1 large avocado, lightly mashed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
6 ounces softened Laura Chenel Original Log Goat Cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped green onion
1/2 cup fresh spinach leaves

1. Spread one side of each bread slice with butter, ensuring you reach all the way to the edges. Set aside.

2. Lightly mash the avocado with the salt, garlic powder, and black pepper. In a separate bowl, combine the goat cheese and herbs.

3. For each sandwich, layer 1 bread slice (butter-side down), 1/4 of the goat cheese mixture, 1/2 of the avocado mixture, 1/2 of the spinach, another 1/4 of the goat cheese, then top with the remaining bread slice, butter-side up. Repeat for the second sandwich.

4. To cook the sandwiches, melt 1-2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium low. Place the sandwiches on top, then cook for 3-4 minutes on the first side until the bread is golden, checking often to see that the bread is cooking nicely and doesn’t burn. Flip the sandwiches to the other side and cook an additional 2-3 minutes, or until the bread is toasted and the centers are hot. Let cool slightly and enjoy immediately.

Photo Credit: Solstice for Murray's Cheese Shop
Recipe for Murray’s Cheese Shop’s Grilled Goat Cheese Sandwich with Pecans and Sage

Murray's Cheese Shop is a New York institution whose customers trek to its Greenwich Village shop in droves.   Right next door is their restaurant.  On their menu, you'll encounter this terrific melt.  It too uses Fig Jam as a counterpoint to the tang of the goat cheese. But it adds texture with the addition of toasted pecans and the flavor of fried sage leaves.

Makes 1 Sandwich

2 slices whole wheat bread
Fig Jam
1 oz (approx.) fresh Laura Chenel Chevre,

Small handful of pecans, lightly toasted (approx. 8 pecans)
4 fresh sage leaves
Vegetable oil (enough to fill a small pan to 1/4")
Granulated sugar

1. Fry sage leaves in a few tablespoons of peanut oil until golden crisp, not quite browned, around 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle fried sage with a little salt and sugar, set aside.

2. Spread fig jam on both slices of bread. Crumble goat cheese on one side of bread. Add pecans to the goat cheese side of the bread, pressing in to secure them, then crumble the fried sage on top of that.

3. Close the sandwich and grill in a hot pan until golden brown (Note: Bread can also be toasted before assembling, if preferred.)

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