Grilled cheese and soup, probably one of the greatest of all ‘comfort meals’. I’ve made a lot of grilled cheese in my time, sadly because its so easy and there are times I a just too lazy to make anything else. What’s great, though, is that if I am feeling a bit inspired, I can open the fridge and the pantry and create amazing grilled cheese with the smallest of effort. Not only can one vary the cheese and the bread, but you can add spreads, meats, vegetables and more to create something truly unique and exciting.
One of the most important things to consider when making a grilled cheese is the fat or oil one uses to grill. I typically spread something on the bread, rather than put oil or butter in the pan. For example, I made a grilled cheese the other day with dilled havarti, rye bread and cucumber slices on it, I spread a mix of mayonnaise and dijon mustard on the outside of the bread before grilling. Spreading the oil and fat onto the bread provides a crispy crust without the saturation of oil you might otherwise have.
So of course, the first thing I consider when making grilled cheese is the cheese. It will all start with what I have in the fridge, and build from there. If I have cheddar, my mind immediately goes to adding crisp bacon. If I have gruyere, I consider sour pickle slices, smoked gouda just screams for tomato. The list goes on and on. It really just depends on how complex you’d like to get.
Here are a few of my favorite combinations:
On regular white bread, spread some mayo on the outside, slice some sharp cheddar thin, add some cooked crispy bacon and a sprinkle of chili powder. The smoky crunch of the bacon pairs well with the chile and makes for a great sandwich.
Use a coarse sourdough, spread the outside with a small amount of olive oil, use a strong, grated parmesan, some provolone and thin slices of salami on the inside. This one will impress your friends.
I’ve used a simple whole grain wheat bread, spread it with olive oil and filled it with proscuitto ham, provolone cheese, minced fresh sage and a bit of crushed garlic.
Why not use a marble rye, spread it with butter and use smoked gouda, fresh, thinly sliced tomato and a bit of thinly sliced (chiffonade) basil?
Or how about a bit of crusty french bread, spread honey mustard dressing on the inside, add a slice of turkey, some thinly sliced apple and fontina cheese, press this whole thing down with the palm of your hand and grill it in butter.
Of course, my wife’s favorite is cheddar cheese on white bread with pickle slices and a thin slice of honey cured ham. Spread the bread with mayo on theu outside and grill.
You might consider really stepping outside of the box and using naan or a similar flat bread, spread with a curry mayonnaise and filled with thin slices of yellow squash and a bit of queso fresco.
I’ve even tried focaccia with spanish anchovies, manchego cheese, roasted peppers and olive oil spread.
I often think of a great entree I’ve had and try to figure out how to turn it into a grilled cheese sandwich. Chicken parmigianna is a no brainer, right? Crusty french bread, thinly sliced chicken breast, mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, fresh basil, a little garlic aoili spread, perfect. How about ham, swiss and tarragon with a dijon mustard spread on dense white bread?
As you can see, the permutations are practically endless, there is no reason to be shy with your ingredients. Just keep it thin so everything gets melted and hot. I just think of things that go together well and use them. You really can’t go wrong!
So don’t be afraid of your kitchen, be adventurous and grill up some awesome sandies!