Not Your Average Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Not Your Average Grilled Cheese; peasant bread, grilled mushrooms and onions, fontina cheese, served with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

I grew up eating tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. The tomato soup was Campbell’s and the sandwiches were my mother’s, basically 2 slices of bread buttered on the outside of the sandwich, a slice of American cheese (2 if I was really lucky) tucked inside, then pan fried to perfection. As a kid, I could think of nothing better, especially on a cold winter’s day.

Now as an adult, I still think of grilled cheese as a comfort food but I’ve expanded my horizons. I prefer a grilled cheese with a little more personality. Call me a food snob, but I no longer eat American cheese and white bread left my house long ago. Instead, this is how I make Not Your Average Grilled Cheese Sandwich:

First, we choose the cheese – good quality cheese that melts would work well so anything you find pre-sliced in the deli section of the store qualifies, even American cheese if that’s what you enjoy. But don’t limit yourself. You can also slice brie or camembert (keep the white rind on, it is edible). My favorite is a creamy, pale Italian cheese often used for fondues, Fontina. And fresh mozzarella melts to perfection – a smoked mozzarella adds a meaty touch without adding any meat.

That said, if you want to add a protein, feel free. My kids love bacon, precooked. Ham is also a nice addition. But how about seafood? Baby shrimp, especially Oregon pink shrimp, is delectable. Crab, left over flaky fish, all of it is okay as long as you like the flavor combination you are building. I haven’t yet tried Tempeh but why not?

Grilled onions and mushrooms for the sandwich du jour.

You could ditch the meat and replace it with a grilled vegetable or splurge and do both. Our favorite veggies are mushrooms but zucchini,  peppers, or eggplant make great grilled addition. Don’t have time to grill? Check out your refrigerator for left over vegetables – steamed broccoli, sauteed asparagus, roasted carrots and parsnips, cooked greens? All are game. You are only limited by your imagination.

So, break out your griddle or favorite saute pan. Grill your vegetables and meats you want warmed up, then remove them from the griddle. Turn to medium-low heat if it isn’t already there. Grab a couple of slices of great bread… don’t skimp here. The better the bread, the better the final sandwich. A hearty peasant loaf with air pockets in the loaf makes for some pleasant surprises as the cheese fills the holes and browns along side the bread. Yum!

Then butter both slices of bread on one side. (I’ll tell you a secret; we save bacon fat and I sometimes replace the butter with a thin layer of it.) (Secret number two; If you want to be French or Italian for the weekend, brush your bread with olive oil.) Lay a slice of bread buttered side down on the griddle, lay your cheese, protein, and veggie, then the second slice of bread buttered side up. Cook until the bread is well browned then flip. Cook until the second side is browned. The cheese should be melted and will help hold the sandwich together.

Cut in half, serve, and enjoy! Remember the napkins.

Flipped and cooking on the second side.

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