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March 31, 2012. Yes, you should be smiling. No, you shouldn’t be rolling your eyes. This is Way more delicious than you might think. Way more than I thought before I made it and ate it way too fast.

Let me be the first to wish you a happy National Grilled Cheese Month. Begins tomorrow. This is not an early April Fools joke. This recipe is my entry in the Grilled Cheese Contest at the wonderful and cheese-centric New York restaurant, Artisanal. They’ll announce the results on April 18.

Meanwhile, you really should make this. Of course it tastes great. Cheddar cheese. Aged parmigiano. Swiss gruyere. Buttery pan-grilled rustic bread. Pretty hard not to like these flavors. But the “mouth feel” is the deal-closer. Crisp buttery bread. Soft, gooey cheese. And supple, not-quite-slippery macaroni. If you ate this blindfolded, I don’t think you’d know what was in your mouth. But you’d love it. Here’s all you have to do to get it there.

Ingredients, per sandwich
1 ounce of thinly shaved sharp cheddar
1/2 ounce of finely grated aged parmigiano
3/4 ounce of finely grated Swiss gruyere
2 ounces of small macaroni elbows
2 slices (1/4″ thick) of crusty, chewy bread
2 or 3 thin slices of tomato
1/2 tablespoon of butter

Excitement mounts
While the macaroni cooks (about 5 minutes) in boiling water, slice the bread and tomato and prepare the cheeses. Butter what will be the outside of one bread slice, then put it butter-side down on a plate. Cover it with the parmigiano. Butter the other slice, place it butter-side down and cover it with the cheddar. Put the tomato slices on top of the cheddar.

Drain the cooked macaroni and toss it immediately with the gruyere until it’s completely cheese-coated. There’ll be gooey strands of melted cheese. Mount it all on top of the parmigiano-covered bread slice. Now flip the cheddar-tomato half onto the macaroni. Use a spatula to tuck the macaroni into the sandwich – and to lift the whole thing into a pan you preheated over medium-high heat.

Use the spatula to lightly compress the sandwich while it grills. The bottom bread slice should turn to a dark golden brown – and the parmigiano should begin to melt – in two minutes or less. Then slide the spatula under the sandwich, use your fingers to hold it together – and flip it over. Two minutes later, it’s done.

Slice it in half. Amazingly, it holds together completely. All that gooey cheese does the trick. Take a bite. No mess. Melts in your mouth, not your hands or lap. And it’s a total party in your mouth.

With or without a contest prize, this is a big winner. Breakfast, lunch or dinner. Make yours today. Happy National Grilled Cheese Month!

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Cost-Benefit Analysis
Less than $2 for a truly spectacular sandwich. Has to be at least the second-best thing you’ll put in your mouth all day.

Cost Comparison
The Grilled Cheese Sandwich (no Mac) on the Kids Menu at the Applebee’s chain location in Times Square: $4.99. Two-and-a-half times more for “American cheese” and white bread! Way better is Way Cheaper.

Let’s Do The Math
A 45-minute run (at 6 mph) or 1 hour and 45 minutes of brisk walking will burn all 550 calories in this spectacular meal-in-a-sandwich. This is worth moving for.

New York, April 18, 2012. The Grilled Mac & Cheese was selected to be one of six finalists. Tragically, it did not win the contest. But it was fun. And it still tastes great!

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