Grilled cheese sandwiches have become a fast food and food truck trend that are bringing one of the all-time great comfort foods to more and more people and an even higher level of recognition.
These sandwiches are easy to assemble and simple for the home cook to perfect. Since the variety of ingredients that can be incorporated into a grilled cheese sandwich is only limited by the number ingredients available where you live and shop, the variations of grilled cheese sandwiches to be made are limited only by the imagination of the cook.
Worldwide there are many varieties of sandwiches that can be considered a grilled cheese, including the well-known pannini. In this “Bite” I am going to focus on the more Americanized versions using white breads like sourdough, ryes and whole-grain wheat breads.
Different cheeses melt at different temperatures and some cheeses lend themselves to being cooked in a sandwich better than others. Among the best cheeses to use are cheddar, Monterey, Colby, swiss, muenster, havarti, provolone, American, goat cheese or feta, brie, and fontina. There are, however, hundreds of other cheeses to that can be used.
Meats, vegetables, and condiments can be added to the bread and cheese ingredients in various forms and combinations.
Thinly sliced lunch meats work best because the fairly quick skillet grilling process effectively warms these meats. Raw or prepared vegetables such as tomato, onions, mushrooms, peppers, and herbs provide additional flavor and consistency. Condiments can include the more common pickles, catsup, mayonnaise and mustard or more exotic items like pestos, hummus, olive salad, cranberry sauce or sauerkraut.
To make a grilled cheese sandwich you will heat a tablespoon of butter in a heavy-based skillet over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, place the assembled sandwich into the skillet, pressing it slightly, and cook until the bottom of the bread is golden brown. This should take 3 – 5 minutes. Flip the sandwich over (you may need to add more butter depending on how absorbent the bread is) and cook until the other side is golden and the cheese is melted, about another 2 – 5 minutes.
Much as with any simple meal, one of the keys to making a good grilled cheese sandwich is limiting the ingredients to just a few very good quality items. Experimenting with different ingredients is fun and it can be especially rewarding when you hit on a great combination. If you have a limited amount of time to experiment and try one of the recipes below.
Bacon, Cheddar and Tomato
Using a sourdough bread, add two slices of crisply cooked bacon and a slice of tomato with two slices of medium cheddar cheese.
Pesto, Provolone and Mozzerella
Using a heavy-bodied white bread, spread a thin layer of pesto on the inside of the bottom and top slices of bread and place a slice of mozzarella and a slice of provolone between them so the pesto and cheeses melt together when cooked.
Swiss, Mushroom and Onion on Rye
Using a dark rye bread, spread a thin layer of mayonnaise or Thousand Island dressing on the inside of the bottom and top slices of bread and place two slices of swiss cheese along with sauteed mushrooms and onions between them before cooking.
Feta, Pancetta, Basil and Tomato on Wheat Bread
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Using a whole-grained wheat bread, brush a light coating of 1/2 olive oil and 1/2 balsamic vinegar on the inside of the bottom and top slices of bread and place two large basil leaves, one large slice of tomato, a thin slice of pancetta, and generous amount of feta cheese between them before cooking.