Grilled cheese sandwiches were on the menu a lot in our house when the boys were growing up. Not only is it kid-friendly food of the finest kind (because adults love it too), a grilled cheese sandwich can be made quickly and easily using just a few basic ingredients, perfect for those nights we were rushing to and from school choir, school play, baseball, basketball and piano, with only a short break for a quick dinner.
With a crisp salad on the side, a grilled cheese sandwich is a healthy, hearty and delicious dinner that allows for nearly endless variations. You can even make vegetarian grilled cheese sandwiches using tofu and gluten free sandwiches using carefully selected breads. These are virtues that makes grilled cheese a perfect meal on vacation, too. A mango relish, coriander chutney or even a few pickles are delicious accompaniments that elevate this basic comfort food to an art form.
There are three secrets to making a perfect grilled cheese sandwich:
i) have the butter at room temperature before you start so it spreads easily, without ripping the bread. You want reasonably thin slices of bread (1/2 inch thick is ideal) for your sandwich to cook properly;
ii) use good quality ingredients that complement one another. Real cheese tastes better than processed cheese. A fresh challah or crusty loaf makes a more delicious sandwich than Wonder Bread. Swiss cheese loves smoked turkey and dried cranberries; cheddar loves apples and pears but kielbassa would probably totally overwhelm a delicate flavour like mozzarella.
iii) Cook your sandwich over medium-low heat in a fry pan that has a cover. You want the cheese to melt before your bread burns and you don’t want to brown your butter.
The method is simple:
Butter two slices of bread well and put the first piece in the fry pan, buttered side down. Cover the bread with at least two or three slices of cheese. Add a slice of meat and/or any fruits or veggies that you want, selecting are complementary flavours. Top with another slice of cheese and then crown the sandwich with another piece of bread, buttered side up. Cook covered for 5 minutes, then take a peek to check the progress: When the cheese is starting to melt, and the bottom piece of bread is golden brown it is time to turn the sandwich upside down, gently and carefully, using a spatula. If your cheese is melted, the sandwich should stay together if you are gentle. Continue to grill the sandwich until the second piece of bread is golden brown. Then, serve it up and enjoy your creation!
Bread: Sliced white bread and egg bread are traditional favourites, but you can also try Italian or French crusty bread, ciabatta loaf, rye bread or pumpernickel.
Cheese: Cheddar is great, but so are Mozzarella, Swiss, Brie, Chevre, Havarti, Provolone, Gruyere, Jarlsberg
Optional additions: Slices of apple, pear, mango, tomato, sun-dried tomato, or avocado; portobello or cremini mushrooms, asparagus, caramelized onions, chopped red onions, kale, guacamole, jalapenos (you may want to take out the seeds if you like pepper flavour but don’t want too much heat). Thin slices of kielbassa, chorizo, black forest ham, smoked turkey breast, bacon (make sure it is already cooked).
Serve with chutney or pickles and a crisp salad on the side.
For some great grilled cheese ideas and some very appetizing pictures, check out our Pinterest board.
Then, tell me, what’s your favourite kind of grilled cheese sandwich?