Who doesn’t have touchstone foods from childhood? My aunt Ruth made the best grilled cheese sandwiches, bar none. Decades before most people in this country had ever heard of panini, she used a waffle iron to make them with buttered caraway rye bread and Muenster cheese. This mouthwatering panino was embossed with square dimples, like crisp inverse croutons, encasing cheese that oozed and crisped at the edges. I thought my aunt invented it, but evidently it was a somewhat widespread Midwestern custom. There is no reason not to make it exactly the way she did, but here is the version I prefer these days.
Heat a waffle iron. Butter the slices of bread. Place 1 slice butter side down on the waffle iron, layer on the cheese, and top with the second bread slice, butter side up. Close the waffle iron and let the sandwich cook for about 2 minutes, until golden brown and crisp on the edges. Sprinkle with salt, if desired.
from One Good Dish by David Tanis (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2013.
Photographs by Gentl & Hyers.