The High-End Grilled Cheese Sandwich
We’ve been talking a lot about a more common approach to grilled cheese sandwiches here on the Tastespotting Blog. Sliced bread, sliced cheese, maybe even some sliced meat here and there. Of course our previous post on Clementine’s One-A-Day Grilled Cheese breaches some boundaries of what a grilled cheese sandwich might be, but right now, there might be one single grilled cheese sandwich that reigns supreme in the culinary universe.
Chef Ludovic Lefebvre busted his chops at the famed Arpege and Restaurant Pierre Gagnaire in France. Both are temples of modern gastronomy, each holding the heralded highest ranking of three stars from Le Guide Michelin, or Michelin Guide. When he came stateside, he helmed the kitchens at the classic French restaurant L’Orangerie and nouveau restaurant Bastide, where he introduced (perhaps earlier than any chef in Los Angeles), avant-garde cooking. Using techniques such as sous-vide or vacuum pressure cooking; and emulsions (notoriously known as “foams”), Chef Ludo brings a flair for combining unique flavors and ingredients to classic French dishes.
Where to Eat Chef Ludo’s Foie Gras Croque Monsieur
These days, you will likely catch Chef Ludo cooking his creative dishes at the fourth iteration of his pop-up restaurant, Ludobites. It’s taking place for the next two months (through May 30th) at a sandwich-and-salad café called Gram and Papa’s in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles’s Fashion District. Unfortunately, the reservations for the entire 2-month pop-up are completely filled! And thanks to Twitter, they were filled in just about 18 hours of the initial announcement. The best chance for those on the outside looking in is to put your name on the waiting list and hope to get a call back.
In addition to the brick-and-mortar kitchen, you might also see Chef Ludo on TV impressing judges on the second season of Top Chef Masters (on Bravo), where he is competing with such luminaries as David Burke, Rick Tramonto, Marcus Samuelson, and Susan Feniger.
One of the best examples of his ingenuity is his Foie Gras Croque Monsieur. This is no simple ham-and-cheese sandwich with foie gras. To construct the dish, Chef Ludo takes fresh grade A foie gras (fatty duck liver) and makes a terrine so keep its shape. He flavors bread with black squid ink and places prosciutto and Lamb Chopper cheese (a sheepsmilk cheese) inside before grilling it in a Panini press. Sided with a chutney of turnip and lemon to cut through the rich flavors, this decadent and luxurious grilled cheese (in essence) might be a perfect example of Chef Ludo’s philosophy – taking classic French dishes and elevating them with distinct ingredients. While we can’t exactly share the recipe since it is one of Chef Ludo’s signature dishes, we welcome you to try and incorporate some more extravagant ingredients in your grilled cheese sandwiches. For me? Let’s just say I won’t scoff at the next black truffle I see. It just might make its way into my simple grilled cheese sandwich.
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(Photo Credit: Wesley Wong. Wesley is a photographer who writes the blog Two Hungry Pandas with his girlfriend Evelina)