Move Over, Grilled Cheese; Make Room for Chili Cheese Toast

Cheese, chili, scallions, and garlic meet bread for impeccable results.
Cheese, chili, scallions, and garlic meet bread for impeccable results.

This might very well be the best thing to happen to sliced bread.

Think of “Chili Cheese Toast” as the marriage between pungent garlic bread and gooey grilled cheese with the familial addition of lively fresh chili peppers.

Now, that’s what I call harmonious company.

You will, too, in this recipe from “Indian Flavor Every Day” (Clarkson Potter), of which I received a review copy.

It was written by New York’s Maya Kaimal, an award-winning cookbook author and founder of Maya Kaimal Foods, a line of premium Indian foods sold nationwide.

The book’s 80 recipes are especially enticing for anyone who loves the bold flavors of Indian cuisine but has felt too intimidated to cook them at home.

You don’t need your own tandoori oven or a pantry’s worth of obscure ingredients to enjoy the likes of “Chicken Mulligatawny with Peppery Cashews,” “Gingered Brussels Sprouts,” “Peppery Beef Curry,” and “Nigella Butter Cookies.”

The gorgeous food photos in the book are by the Bay Area’s Eva Kolenko, whom I got to know when she did the same for my book, “East Bay Cooks” (East Bay Cooks).

These open-face cheesy breads are based on cheese toasties, Kaimal writes in her book, an incredibly popular snack in India.

Prepping the toasts for the broiler.
Prepping the toasts for the broiler.
Just a couple minutes under the broiler, and they are ready.
Just a couple minutes under the broiler, and they are ready.

They couldn’t be easier to make, either. Simply mash a minced garlic clove into softened butter, then spread on bread slices. I used a sourdough sandwich loaf from The Cheese Board in Berkeley that added great chewiness and tang.

Toast under the broiler, then pile on grated white cheddar that’s been mixed with scallions and either chopped jalapeno or serrano pepper. Broil again until the cheese melts, then sprinkle with red chili flakes, and enjoy. Don’t forget to nibble on those errant pieces of melted cheese that landed on the baking pan, either. They’re super crisp like mini frico and a real treat.

The garlic and chili on these toasts add layers of flavor to make this far more interesting than your average grilled cheese sando.

If you tend to shy away from chili peppers, have no fear. The cheese damps down the heat so it’s not incendiary, leaving behind just enough to tickle the lips and tongue, while adding a lovely grassiness.

Serve with tomato or any favorite soup, and it’s a meal.

It’s rich, filling, and devilishly good.

For cheese lovers.
For cheese lovers.

Chili Cheese Toast

(Serves 4)

For the cheese topping:

2 to 3 teaspoons finely chopped serrano or jalapeno

3 scallions (white and green parts), finely chopped (about 1/3 cup)

2 generous cups grated white cheddar

Freshly ground black pepper

For the garlic butter:

2 tablespoons salted butter, at room temperature

1 large garlic clove, finely minced (about 2 teaspoons)

To assemble:

4 (4-by-4-inch) slices of sandwich bread

Dried red chili flakes, for garnish

Preheat the broiler and set the top rack 4 to 5 inches below the heat.

Mix the cheese topping: In a medium bowl, combine the green chili, scallions, cheese, and a few grinds of black pepper and mix well. Set aside.

Make the garlic butter: In a small bowl, combine the soft butter with the garlic and blend well.

Assemble the toasts: Spread half of the butter equally over one side of each of the 4 slices of bread. Place the bread slices on a baking sheet, buttered side up, and broil until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside the baking sheet on a heatproof surface. Carefully flip the bread and butter the other side with the remaining garlic butter. Divide the cheese and scallion mixture equally among the buttered slices, gently pressing it into the bread, then broil until the cheese is bubbly, about 2 minutes. Remove from the oven, and cut each slice diagonally, sprinkle liberally with red chili flakes, and serve immediately.

Note: Vegan butter and cheese work well here.

Serving Suggestion: Have these with an icy cold beer or fizzy nonalcoholic drink. Or serve with a rich tomato soup.

From “Indian Flavor Every Day” by Maya Kaimal

More Delicious Indian Recipes to Enjoy: Cauliflower with Raisins (Indian-Style)

And: Pan-Fried Zucchini and Yellow Squash with Cumin

And: Roasted Cauliflower with Cumin, Turmeric, and Lemon

And: Stir-Fried Corn with Basil, Leeks and Cumin

And: Crisp Garlic Shrimp

And: Masala Shrimp

And: Lamb Kheema

And: Pomegranate Rice Pilaf

And: Asparagus Fry with Mustard Seeds and Coconut

And: Nik Sharma’s Roast Leg of Lamb

And: Savory French Toast

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  • This looks nice, I’m going to make a version with green garlic

  • Hi Reuel: Green garlic would be fabulous in this. At this time of year when it’s abundant, I try to put green garlic in most everything. Hope you enjoy the cheese toasts. They are indulgent and comforting all at once.

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