Grilled cheese might just be the king of comfort food. One: it is supremely simple to make. You can make it in the microwave, on the stove, in a toaster, on a grill, on a hot stone on a very hot day, or in any number of other random places where there is a flat surface and a heat source. Two: it is exceedingly cheap to make. All you need is bread and cheese, and if you’re feeling really fancy, some amount of condiments, meat products and/or vegetables to add a little zing to your sammy. Three: It is gooey, melty and delicious despite its simplicity, making it the perfect antidote to even the coldest and most terrible of days. Ergo: grilled cheese = reigning supreme leader of comfort foods.
Kraft singles on white toast will always be aces, but when you’re jonesin for something a little more interesting – or when you’re eager to make a great impression on your lady by whipping her up a nostalgic meal with a contemporary twist –step up your game with a signature ‘wich that’ll leave everyone begging for more.
First, choose your cheese
More important than anything else in your grilled cheese is the titular ingredient: le fromage. The old favorites (cheddar, Swiss, American, et. Al) are good go-to’s for run-of-the-mill sandwiches, but when you want something truly special, it’s time to haul out the Big Guns (anything with an unpronounceable name; anything labeled “extra fancy”). Pepper Jack, Gouda, Brie and Havarti are good beginners’ cheeses, but when you really want your G.C. to stand out from the pack, choose an artisanal cheese to give your sandwich serious flavor… and serious cache. As a rule, cheese is delicious, so you can’t really go wrong in this department (unless you go with something unfortunate like limburger; if it smells like a latrine, then it probably tastes like one too).
Then, ensure that your cheese is safely ensconced between two delicious pieces of bread.
The bread upon which you lay your cheese is seriously vital to the success of your sandwich. Certain criteria must be observed for optimal bread-cheese integration: namely, your bread must be sturdy enough to withstand toasting, buttering and grilling, but not so stiff that it resists melding with your cheese in a seamless synergistic festival of melted deliciousness. Try ¾-inch thick slices of whole wheat, sourdough, rye, or pumpernickel, or get crazy with a biscuit (like a deconstructed breakfast sandwich) or ciabatta roll. Almost all grocery stores have bakeries these days, so don’t commit to something right now; just take a trip to the market, find out what’s what, and build your sandwich from there.
Finally, dress up your cheese all fancy-like for its gourmet debut.
The pièce de résistance of your tricked-out GCS is anything above and beyond the standard triumvirate of bread, butter and cheese. Tomato, avocado and peppers add taste and texture, while bacon, ham and turkey add salty, meaty goodness; you can even go international with prosciutto or mortadella, along with a nice Chianti, of course. To top it off, season your grilled cheese with basil, oregano, pesto, red pepper flakes, or garlic (although, skip that last one of your dinner involves a companion of the female persuasion).
As you can see, the possibilities are endless, so as you work towards becoming the next Grilled Cheese Master, here are some recipe ideas to get you started.
The Tuned-Up Original
Two slices seven-grain toast with herb butter
Two slices Provolone cheese
Two slices beefsteak tomato
Fresh basil as desired
The Garden Grill
One ciabatta roll
Two slices each Colby-Jack and Pepper-Jack cheese
Thin slices avocado and roasted red pepper
Small handful of sprouts
Spicy Dijon mustard
The Fromage de Triumph
Two slices French peasant bread
Two thick slices brie
Two thin slices turkey breast
Four thin slices pear
One buttermilk biscuit
Two slices aged sharp cheddar
Four slices hickory-smoked bacon
Two slices rustic Italian bread
Two thick slices Mozarella di Bufala
Two slices Prosciutto
Two thin slices salami
Two sliced pepperoncini
Sage, basil and/or garlic salt as desired
Two slices rye toast
Two pieces havarti cheese
Two thin slices ham
Ridged potato chips (note: the chips go inside the sandwich. Duh.)
Two slices bolillo
Two slices Chihuahua cheese
Grilled onions and green peppers
Four thin slices avocado
Cilantro as desired
Two slices multigrain bread
Two slices soy cheese
Two pieces soy bacon
Two slices grilled portabella mushroom
Vegan garlic aioli (chop four cloves of garlic and add to one cup vegan mayonnaise; blend until smooth)
The Blue Moon
One large Pillsbury Crescent Roll (bake according to directions on package)
Liberal handfuls crumbled blue cheese
Two slices deli chicken breast
Four thin slices mango or apple
Two slices sourdough toast
Two pieces fontina cheese
Four thin slices turkey breast
Four pieces bacon
Four thin slices granny smith apple
½ cup dried cherries or cranberries