We stopped buying sliced American cheese or any other processed cheese “food” several years ago. It probably is more like ten years ago, but you know how time flies. I think it started when Calvin was a toddler and was subsisting on grilled cheese sandwiches and cheese melted over pasta. We figured if he was eating so much cheese, it should at least be the real thing. Well, Calvin has grown up a bit and eats (a few) more things, but we never went back to processed cheese.
Grilled cheese sandwiches have a whole new taste profile when you use sharp cheddar, Fontina or another mild cheese, homemade or bakery bread and a teeny bit of crushed garlic on the inside of one slice of bread. I think we started making them this way after we saw one of those shows on the Food Network talking about a restaurant’s special grilled cheese sandwiches. We figured we could do the same thing, and not have to pay gourmet prices for them.
It takes a couple more minutes to make a sandwich, if you have to grate or slice the cheese, but the pay off is well worth it. And you certainly don’t have to use homemade bread to make them. Just using real cheese brings the sandwich up to a whole new level.
Feel free to change up the cheese to use what you have. Havarti is wonderful because it melts so nicely. A little fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano adds a nice nuttiness. Mozzarella is a little stringy and stretchy and almost too mild. Go ahead and use it if you want mild, just go easy so you don’t have cheese stringing all over your plate and chin while you are trying to eat it. A combination of at least two different kinds of cheese makes for a more interesting sandwich, but use what you have in your fridge.
Grilled cheese sandwiches will never be the height of gourmet meals, but they are wonderful comfort food, no matter how you make them. Try them my way once and see if you want to toss the Kraft singles out the window.
Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Makes 2 sandwiches, easy to double, triple or cut in half (pun intended)
As you can see, this is more of a guideline than a recipe. Feel free to tailor the cheeses to your taste, or what you have in the fridge.
4 slices good quality bread (homemade, bakery or good quality store bread, skip the Wonder Bread for this, if you can)
1 tablespoon butter, approximately
1- 1½ ounces, approximately, Cheddar cheese, sharp or mild, shredded or sliced thinly
1-1½ ounces, Fontina or mild Swiss, shredded or sliced thinly
½-1 ounce, approximately, Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated or sliced paper thin, use a vegetable peeler to get really thin slices (optional)
Chopped garlic (optional)
Start a skillet heating over medium heat. Spread butter (thinly or thickly, depending on your preference) on one side of one slice of bread and place in the pan, butter side down. Or you can just drop a pat of butter in the pan and let it melt a bit before you put the bread in. Spread a tiny bit of garlic on the bread and top with half of each kind of cheese. Aim to cover the bread evenly with cheese, but don’t go too thick or you will have cheese oozing out all over. The leaking cheese does make tasty browned cheese bits, but there really is such a thing as too much cheese in the sandwich. Spread butter on a second piece of bread and place it on top of the cheese. Repeat with remaining bread and cheese. Cook about 5 minutes, or until the bottom bread is golden brown and the cheese is starting to melt. Regular cheese doesn’t melt quite as readily as processed cheese, so be patient. Steady the top slice of bread to hold the sandwiches together as you flip. Cook the second side for 3-5 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is melted. Serve hot, of course.