The Modern Deli Owner’s Guide to Cheese Pairings

The Modern Deli Owner’s Guide to Cheese Pairings

There’s something simple yet amazing about pairing meat with cheese that never really gets old.

The real beauty lies in the level of customization available. Although there are only two key ingredients, the combinations are nearly endless. You’re really only limited by your imagination and willingness to experiment.  

It’s also helpful to have a basic understanding of how various types of meat and cheese compliment one another. Having a grasp of flavor profiles is the key to pleasing your customers’ palates.

Let’s now take a look at some of the best ways to pair meat and cheese to create some of the most mouthwatering sandwiches in existence.

Grilled Pastrami and Swiss

This is one of the more old school sandwich varieties. It’s a minted original and could easily pass as the official sandwich of NYC.

Of course, it’s great as is. Pastrami and Swiss will probably never go out of style.

But Colleen Casey points out at Culture Cheat Sheet that you can take it to the next level by adding some sweet onion marmalade, which includes the following:

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 medium red onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup red-wine vinegar
  • ½ cup dry but fruity red wine, such as a Zinfandel or Grenache

This is a great way to dress up an old favorite and should spark excitement in those who like to get a little adventurous with their condiments.

Laura Roman also mentions at Grace Table that this marmalade will stay fresh in the refrigerator for a few weeks, so you can use it for other dishes (like a pizza dip).

Corned Beef and Cheddar

Corned beef has a rich history that can be traced all the way back to the Cattle Act in the 1660s, when Irish cattle were prohibited from being exporting to England. Matt Blitz writes at Food & Wine that salted beef took on the term “corned beef” because large kernels of rock salt were used in the preservation process.

Fast forward to the 21st Century, and corned beef is just as popular as ever and pairs well with several different types of cheese. One particular pairing that’s recommended by Rachel Farnsworth at The Stay at Home Chef is corned beef, cheddar cheese and cabbage, all grilled on rye.  

This sandwich is simple yet incredibly tasty. She recommends putting corned beef brisket in a slow cooker along with 2 cups of beef broth and ¼ cup of Worcestershire sauce, then letting it cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.

Roast Beef and Blue Cheese

When you think of a classic roast beef sandwich, you probably envision adding either cheddar or Swiss cheese. And why wouldn’t you? Those meat and cheese pairings are bonafide favorites.

But sometimes, it’s nice to think outside of the box. One combo that many people find satisfying is roast beef paired with blue cheese. Marie Simmons offers her recipe in Bon Appétit, which consists of the following:

  • 2 cups thinly sliced red onions
  • 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 4 large soft whole grain rolls, toasted
  • ½ cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 12 tomato slices
  • 8 ounces thinly sliced roast beef
  • 2 cups (packed) small watercress sprigs

You’ll find this offers a bold taste and is an interesting way to repackage an old favorite.

ham and cheese sandwich on rustic wooden table

Smoked Beef Brisket with Smoked Cheddar and Gruyère

Brisket is one of the tougher cuts of meat. The Cook’s Illustrated team explains that it’s because it contains a lot of chewy collagen, the connective tissue found in meat.  

But with the right cooking techniques, like slow-roasting, you can make brisket tender and delicious. Peggy Trowbridge Filippone at The Spruce mentions that it takes awhile (8 to 12 hours for Texas-style), but the results are well worth it because the long cook times allow the collagen fibers to break down.

Although brisket goes well with a variety of foods, one of the more delicious options is to combine it with smoked cheddar and Gruyère to create an epic grilled cheese sandwich.

Mary Cressler at Vindulge suggests combining ½ cup of shredded, smoked beef brisket with a thick slice of smoked cheddar and a thick slice of Gruyère. Put between two slices of sourdough bread for optimal results.

Ham and Camembert

There are about a million ways to prepare a ham and cheese sandwich, but it’s all too easy to play it safe and stick with the typical cheddar or American cheese.

But those who prefer to be a bit more daring will find ham and Camembert to be a somewhat unorthodox (at least to American tastes, anyway) yet delicious combination. Anna Monette Roberts explains at Popsugar that Camembert is similar to brie but has a stronger flavor, which she describes as “earthy and barnyard-y.”

Although some find it to have a bit of a funky smell, it pairs amazingly well with ham and is just the ticket for those willing to get out of their culinary comfort zones. The Chowhound team recommends wedging thinly sliced baked ham and Camembert cheese between two slices of a baguette. Then, add a bit of olive oil, fig jam, baby arugula, and salt and pepper.

Lori A. Selke at Our Everyday Life adds that the creaminess of Camembert is the perfect compliment for the ham’s saltiness, which makes for a rich and delectable pairing.

Honey Roasted Turkey Breast and Havarti Cheese

To begin, let’s start with one of the classics: turkey and cheese. It’s a staple and for good reason. It hits all of the right notes and rarely disappoints.

More specifically, honey roasted turkey breast and havarti make for a killer sandwich. Colleen Matthews writes at Aisle 9 that creamy Danish havarti is an extremely versatile cheese with smooth texture and slightly acidic taste. Those properties are the perfect balance to the sweetness of honey roasted turkey breast.

Provolone on a Deli Meat Ranch Melt

This is a must for customers with an appreciation of delicious deli meat combined with ooey, gooey cheese dripping all over the place. This one also calls for provolone cheese.

Paula McTune Jones at Call Me PMc highlights one of her favorite sandwiches, the ranch melt. It consists of ham, salami, pepperoni and provolone cheese on a sub roll. Throw it in an oven at 400 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes and add ranch dressing. It’s a warm, delicious masterpiece.


Salami and Asiago

Asiago is often mistaken for parmesan because of their similarities in appearance. But as the Curious Cuisiniere team explains, Asiago has a definitive taste all of its own that is both sweet and nutty.

While many people would agree that Asiago is good on it’s own, you really get the full impact by pairing it with quality salami. Wegmans Food Markets suggests placing hard salami and Asiago cheese between two slices of ciabatta bread and adding red leaf lettuce and honey mustard to create a delicious sandwich.  

Prosciutto and Feta

Prosciutto is an Italian favorite that, according to the Eating Italy Food Tours team, can be traced back to pre-Roman times. Creating it involves a time-consuming process of curing ham by rubbing it with salt and other spices.

Emma Christensen mentions at Kitchn that curing times can range from a few months to several years, depending on the desired taste.  

There are many ways to prepare prosciutto, but one of the most delicious combinations is with Greek feta cheese. Liz Vaccariello and Mindy Hermann share a recipe at Rodale’s Organic Life that brilliantly uses this meat and cheese pairing. The ingredients include the following:

  • 1 small (2 ounces) baguette, halved horizontally
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup arugula
  • 3 slices (1 ounce total) prosciutto
  • 2 medium tomato slices
  • 2 teaspoons crumbled reduced-fat feta cheese

Be Bold, Be Daring

When you get right down to it, there is no official way that you have to pair meat with cheese. There’s plenty of room for exploration, and a little adventurousness can have delectable results.

These pairings prove that putting the right meats and cheeses togethers can be game-changing, and your customers just might be delighted to discover a new favorite sandwich thanks to your experimentation.

Images by: Alexander Maasch, juliedeshaies/©123RF Stock Photo, alexraths/©123RF Stock Photo

By | 2017-11-15T09:47:38-05:00 October 31st, 2017|Blog|0 Comments