Grilled Cheese: Comfort, Grown Up

Perhaps of all the comfort food, a grilled cheese sandwich is the comfiest. What other food evokes memories of childhood lunch like a grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of tomato soup?

There is no “right way” to make a grilled cheese. A cast iron skillet is a great vehicle for creating a yummy grilled cheese. Panini presses are the newest way to make a grilled cheese, but a similar countertop grill created by a retired boxer works just as well. I remember a few desperate college friends resort to an iron to make a grilled cheese.  All the methods will grill a cheese sandwich to crispy, melty perfection.

As far as buttering the bread, I’m in the minority. Most people prefer to butter the bread before grilling.  OK, I’ll be more specific, ALL people except me prefer to butter the bread before grilling.  I think buttery bread paired with melted cheese is just a little too rich. I skip the butter. I find that using a countertop grill or Panini press gives me nice crispy bread and melted cheese without the addition of butter.  Of course, my bread doesn’t get as brown. The choice is up to you.

While we may “beg to differ” on the addition of butter to a grilled cheese, there are a few hard and fast rules for making the perfect grilled cheese.

When possible use grated cheese instead of slices. If you must resort to slices, then use thin slices, like pre-sliced sandwich slices.  Skip the pre-packed American cheese slices and get freshly sliced deli cheese.

Make sure your bread is not sliced too thickly. The thinner the slice, the crispier the sandwich.

If you choose to use butter, then butter the bread and not the pan. Spread a thin layer of softened butter on the outside of the bread and put the sandwich in a hot non-stick skillet or on a hot Panini press.

If your sandwich involves more than cheese and bread, make sure the cheese is always next to the bread; the meat or veggies should between two layers of cheese. Bread/cheese/meat/veggie/cheese/bread.

We craved grilled cheese as children; we existed on grilled cheese as young adults and now, that adulthood has it’s claws firmly in our flesh, we’re finding new ways to make grilled cheese gourmet.

This Old Country Grilled Cheese is just the thing after a long day.  Earthy pumpernickel bread surrounds mild Muenster cheese and sweetly spicy Black Forest Ham. A bit of sauerkraut to cuts the richness.

If an “Old Country” Grilled Cheese doesn’t strike your fancy, try this Turkey Brie Grilled Cheese with strawberry preserves.  Smooth, creamy Brie can be spread on the sourdough if it is soft enough. If you’ve just removed it from the refrigerator, don’t despair. Cut it into small pieces and cover both slices of bread. No need to peel it; the rind is delicious. Deli turkey is best here, low sodium if you can find it.  Adding balsamic vinegar to sweet strawberry preserves gives the perfect tartness and pairs well with the sourdough.

Who says a grilled cheese sandwich can’t be open faced? This California Grilled Cheese is the perfect heavy hors d’oeuvre for any party.  Spread on toasted baguette rounds, this is the perfect hors d’oeuvre for any brunch.

Old Country Grilled Cheese

Yield: 4 sandwiches

  • 8 slices pumpernickel bread
  • ½ pound sliced Black Forest Ham
  • ½ cup sauerkraut
  • 8 slices Muenster cheese
  • Whole grain mustard

If using butter, butter one side of each slice of bread. Build sandwich on un-buttered side.

Spread as much mustard as you like on 8 slices of bread. Divide cheese equally among 8 slices of bread. On 4 slices of bread, divide ham; top with sauerkraut.  Cover with remaining 4 slices of bread.

Grill on a hot Panini press or in a cast iron skillet, heated to medium heat, until bread is toasted and cheese is melted.

Serve immediately.


Turkey Brie Grilled Cheese

Yield: 4 sandwiches

  • ½ cup strawberry preserves
  • 1-teaspoon high quality balsamic vinegar
  • 8 slices sourdough bread
  • ½ pound sliced deli turkey
  • 4 oz. Brie, sliced
  • Butter (optional)

In a small bowl, mix together strawberry preserves and balsamic vinegar. Set aside.

If using butter, butter one side of each slice of bread. Build sandwich on un-buttered side.

Divide cheese equally among 8 slices of bread. On 4 slices of the bread, divide turkey breast. Add a dollop of strawberry preserves on turkey. Cover with remaining 4 slices.

Grill on a hot Panini press or in a cast iron skillet, heated to medium heat, until bread is toasted and cheese is melted.

Serve immediately.


California Open Faced Grilled Cheese

Yield: 16-20 appetizer portions

  • 1 roasted red pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 6 oz. marinated artichoke hearts, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ cup sundried tomatoes, (not packed in oil) coarsely chopped
  • 4 oz. garlic herb goat cheese
  • ½ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 16 to 20 slices of French baguette
  • Place first 5 ingredients in bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process for 2-3 minutes or until mixture is smooth.

Heat broiler; toast bread on one side only under broiler. Remove from oven and turn toasted slices over. Spread cheese mixture on untoasted sides. Return to broiler and broil for 5-10 minutes or until cheese just begins to melt and bubble.

Serve immediately.

Speak Your Mind

*