Welcome to my new weekly feature! Each Tuesday I will present an idea, recipe, pattern, activity or other item I deem to be worth trying. In all cases, I will let you know whether I have personally tried it myself or if we will be guinea pigs together. I would love to hear back from you how it went.
Nothing Humble About It
For me there are few things that evoke feelings of comfort, home and childhood revisited more than a simple grilled cheese sandwich. My Mum made them open-faced with processed cheese on white bread, placed under the broiler just long enough to melt and lightly brown the cheese, but not burn it, or at least not often. I liked
when the little browned areas could be peeled off and eaten, exposing the gooey meltedness beneath. The bread was soggy on its underside and crispy on top. For a special treat, sometimes there were little strips of bologna artfully arranged on top before broiling. Though the thought of this version gags me as an adult, my siblings and I loved them as kids. They were almost always served with dill pickles, quartered lengthwise. This remains to this day the correct way to slice a dill.
The humble grilled cheese sandwich has evolved. There is no limit to the ingredients that can be added to this perennial favourite, and Food Network and food bloggers have seen to it that the connected public is aware of the possibilities. There are food trucks and blogs dedicated to the elevation of the cheese sandwich. So why do I think this is something new and worth trying? I know it is not new, but am willing to bet there are folks who still cling to tradition, who feel that grilled cheese is a comfort food not to be meddled with. I would win that bet, as I live with one who prefers the four-ingredient sandwich: bread, butter, cheese and onion. I hesitated for years, but my eyes and palate have been opened. Didn’t pizza start out as simple cheese on a bread base with a little tomato sauce? Well, pizza has come a long way, Baby, and so has grilled cheese.
What I challenge you to try this week is an elevated grilled cheese sandwich. Whether you have been adding ingredients to yours for years or keeping it minimal, I challenge you to change it up a little. Add an ingredient you have never done before, add a number of flavours or a combination that is new to you, or change the type of cheese or bread. Just expand your own concept of grilled cheese in some way. Consider dessert, even. And please let me know how it went.
Here is what I had for lunch yesterday, and how it came together:
I roasted my Peppers directly over the gas flame, but it could as easily be done under the electric broiler, or even over coals if cooking outdoors. When they are looking disturbingly black, crusty and blistered, take them off the heat and enclose them in a paper bag until cooled, anywhere from ten to twenty minutes, depending on their size. I normally use sweet red peppers, but have always made my meals from whatever is at hand, so jalapenos it is. When cool, use your hands to gently (or not) rub off the blackened skin, then rinse and pat dry.
I love fresh cilantro, but had this cilantro paste in my fridge, and spread that on my bread. I happened to have some day-old home made semi-whole wheat bread at hand, though anything from white to pumpernickle to artisanal whole grain bread will be delicious. I used a cheese labelled “old cheddar” in the supermarket and some pre-grated parmesan. Again, anything from Brie to Bleu will do. Preferences vary, of course. I love them all, but this is what I had. I also had about two tablespoons of leftover coleslaw with a lovely lime juice vinaigrette, which had been marinating for over a week. Obviously that had to go in, as did “a few” spinach leaves. I’d sliced the roasted peppers and distributed them in a scant layer over the cheese.
Then the sandwich was assembled, both sides buttered, and the whole thing transferred carefully to a grill pan that had been preheated to a medium heat. Use butter, olive oil or a combination if you prefer. Don’t be tempted to go too hot with your pan, as you risk your bread burning before your cheese melts. I like to press my sandwich with a spatula to help it hold together on the pan and off. If you don’t have a ridged grill pan a flat griddle or regular skillet will be fine.
The Rest of the Story:
I had the temperature right.The cheese was perfectly melted to my taste, and the heat was just right with just that little skiff of peppers. The coleslaw added a sweet touch with a tiny bit of tartness. What I was missing was salt. Next time I will add a salty ingredient, such as feta cheese, a slice of ham or pickles, or failing that, I will salt and pepper the thing before assembling. I also would have loved a grainier bread, or even a nice foccaccia.
So there you have it, fellow food lovers; an off-the -cuff grilled cheese to get you started on your own grilled cheese adventure. Plan and shop for favourite things to include or make a “clean the fridge” version with whatever you have on hand.
For more ideas on the possibilities, check here, or for some intriguing variety, Buzzfeed Life has a post called 31 Grilled Cheeses That Are Better Than a Boyfriend.
For some unknown reason I have been unable to link directly to the Buzzfeed compilation so, nothing daunted, have provided links to 28 of the 31 recipes noted.
- Kitchen Tested (pumpkin grilled cheese with apples and cheddar)
- Last Call For Corn (grilled cheese with mozzarella, kale and prosciutto)
- Grilled Cheese Social looks like a treasure trove of yumminess! (feta, roasted red pepper relish and baby spinach grilled cheese)
- Aaand…Taste Spotting! (smoked salmon, asparagus and goat cheese grilled cheese with fried egg)
- Cooking Stoned (roasted cranberry and brie grilled cheese)
- Bless Her Heart (mascarpone, nutella and banana on grilled ciabatta)
- Taste Spotting is busy! (doughnut grilled cheese)
- Closet Cooking (bacon double cheeseburger grilled cheese)
- Mountain Mama Cooks (grilled cheese with spicy havarti, cilantro pesto and roasted tomatoes)
- Closet Cooking (Cuban grilled cheese)
- BS in the Kitchen (baked potato grilled cheese)
- Three Hundred Sandwiches (brussels sprouts and fontina grilled cheese)
- Barefoot and Baking (turkey and pesto grilled cheese)
- Taste Spotting does it again! (fig, manchego grilled cheese on olive bread)
- Ambitious Kitchen (dark chocolate, raspberry and brie grilled cheese)
- Closet Cooking (BBQ pulled pork grilled cheese)
- Cooking Classy (chile relleno grilled cheese)
- Nutmeg Nanny (dulce de leche and mascarpone dessert grilled cheese!!)
- The Endless Meal (grilled cheese and apple sandwich with Sriracha butter)
- Iowa Girl Eats (Monterrey chicken grill cheese)
- That Was Vegan? (Don’t skip reading this – the vegan pear, raspberry and tempeh “bacon” grilled “cheese” will surprise you.)
- Taste Spotting the blog (yes, again) (French onion soup grilled cheese)
- Joy the Baker (Lasagna grilled cheese)
- Amanda K. By The Bay (balsamic blueberry grilled cheese)
- The Delicious Life (pulled short rib grilled cheese with pickled red onions)
- Taste Spotting the blog (bratwurst, sauerkraut and meunster grilled cheese on a soft pretzel)
- Simply Scratch (jalapeno popper grilled cheese)
- The Pescatarian and The Pig (peach port salut and pepper jack grilled cheese)
Try This, food lovers, and have fun!