Our Ninth Annual (and second virtual) Grilled Cheese Smackdown is in the books! And the virtual Golden Spatula goes to... drumroll please....
CJ Woods from Winooski, VT (just outside of Burlington). CJ graced our Instagram feeds with the Cheddar Than Goude Grilled Cheese, and racked up more mouthwatering votes than any other sammie did. Since we'd only met CJ in the world of Instagram, we followed up with a short Q&A to learn about the person behind the masterpiece. And, of course, share this top secret, super savory, winning recipe with the hungry fans.
Toad: Your Instagram feed full of delicious food is awesome! Are you a full-time chef or is a side passion?
CJ: Cooking is certainly my passion, but I'm actually in Business Development for a tech company. I started @Chef Ceej as a funny quarantine project, as I had been cooking for years and realized I'd never bothered to take pictures or share. I found that I have the most supportive community of friends and followers (be it small), and it has proved a fantastic reference guide for when I'm not sure what to make for dinner!
Toad: What else are you into in your free time?
CJ: I'm an avid canoer, fisherman, snowboarder, and share my great little life with my partner of 7 years, Molly, and our 1 year old pup Nova. I'll always continue to support Toad and urge anyone to check out the story and mission on your site if they haven't already!
Toad: We gotta ask, favorite Toad style and why?
CJ: I LOVE the Mission Ridge pants. I'm 6'4" and finding comfortable pants was a part time job. I got my first pair 3 years ago from a local gear shop and have since picked up the exact same pair in green, blue and brown. I'm also making my way to the Mission Ridge Shorts with my first pair this spring! You make it VERY easy to love your company and what you stand for.
Toad: OK, now we're blushing. But we know why the readers are really here - hit us with that winning recipe!
CJ: This recipe, as with most of mine, comes from a similar mindset of the Toad&Co family. How can I keep food out of the compost and utilize what I have with as little waste as possible? Leftover cheese from charcuterie and apples starting to brown - and I paired it with a homemade Maple Roasted Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato soup that I freeze in big batches!
- Fresh sourdough bread (make it if you can!). Mine came from Klinger's Bakery in South Burlington, VT.
- Equal parts VT Extra Sharp Cheddar and Smoked Gouda, grated on large holes of box grater (I'm not here to tell you how much cheese you need. Might be 2oz, might be 5oz 😊 ). (**Toad editor's note: We say, always go 5)
- Decent Brie, rind removed and broken up (for melting's sake)
- 1/2 apple, sliced thin (Macintosh or Granny Smith are great options. I would just steer away from anything too sweet)
- Salted butter
- Spread butter, fairly thick, on one side of each piece of bread and add a small pat to a pre-heated pan (preferably Cast Iron, medium heat). Get your prepared cheese ready.
- Before the butter browns, place bread, NON-BUTTER side down into the pan, and gently toast what will be the inside of the sandwich, moving constantly to ensure even toasting. 1-2 minutes (Goal is not to brown here, just to start to develop a crispy layer). Move to a wire rack.
- Place first piece of bread, butter side down, and quickly top with 1/2 of the Cheddar/Gouda blend, sliced apples, Brie, then the remaining Cheddar/Gouda blend.
- Place second piece of bread, butter side up, and start moving the sandwich around the pan for about 15-30 seconds. Wait 2 minutes, flip and repeat (I flip my grilled cheese about 4 times, flipping and moving to ensure an even, golden crust).
- On the final flip, hit it with some flakey salt while the butter is still sizzling and move to a wire rack to cool for 3 minutes.
- Most importantly, cut into triangles. Triangles always taste better. Enjoy!
**Honorable mention goes to the two sammies that tied for second place: The French Onion Grilled Cheese by our CEO Gordon, and The Inverted Grilled Cheese by our E-Comm Guru SJ.
And our Production/Fit Master Lucinda is crowned Top Poet with her limerick "Ode to the Sublime (Reflections on Grilled Cheese Sandwiches)."