Let’s face it, when it comes to comfort food, a grilled cheese sandwich is pretty much the perfect food. Carbs + Fat = Awesome! The gooey center paired with crispy bread makes for one of the most sought after sandwiches in America.
Though it only contains three ingredients (bread, butter, and cheese), this uber-sandwich is quite versatile. It can be made in a frying pan, oven, outdoor grill, or toaster oven. It can also be eaten by itself or paired with soups such as tomato or chicken noodle.
This was one of a handful of dishes my mom could cook – untra traditional with cheese, butter, and white bread. Given our station in life (ie: industrial bricks of government cheese) this was a common menu item, often for days at a time, lol, but I never got tired of it.
Later, I lucked out a married a gal who made an even better grilled cheese (sorry ma!) and that, coupled with a bowl of her Basil Cheddar Tomato Soup, may be the perfect pairing in my personal culinary experience.
The recipe for a grilled cheese sandwich comes from the French recipe for Croque Monsieur (a grilled ham and cheese sandwich). This satisfying sandwich has been on French bistro menus for over a hundred years. American grilled cheese sandwiches became popular during the 1920’s. However, they were made with only one slice of bread! It wasn’t until the 1960’s that the top piece of bread was added which became the standard for grilled cheese sandwiches.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for bread
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese, plus 8 slices
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
8 thick slices rustic bread
12 slices ham
Dijon mustard, for bread
Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour. Add milk; bring to a simmer.
Cook, whisking frequently, until sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Add grated cheeses. Whisk until melted and smooth.
Butter bread. Arrange half the slices, buttered side down, on a rimmed baking sheet. Top each with 2 slices Gruyere and 3 slices ham. Spread mustard onto unbuttered sides of remaining bread. Place on top of ham, buttered side up.
Preheat broiler. Heat a grill pan or skillet over medium heat. Cook each sandwich until golden brown and cheese melts, about 5 minutes per side. Return to baking sheet. Spoon 1/3 cup sauce over top of each sandwich. Broil until tops are bubbling and golden brown, about 3 minutes.
If this seems a bit labor-intensive for you, celebrate National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day by enjoying a grilled cheese sandwich cooked your favorite way!
Here’s my favorite:
2 slices of Texas Toast (Five Cheese if you can find it, regular if not.)
Single think layer each of Aged White Cheddar, Pepper Jack, and Gruyere or Smoked Gouda cheese.
1 tsp sweet hot mustard
1 Tbs sweet cream butter, divided and softened
(If you really like the head, sub the regular pepper-jack with Tillamook Habanero Jack cheese…yummo!)
Spead the butter evenly on the outside of each slice of Texas Toast. This is one of the secrets to a prefect grilled cheese sandwich – butter the bread, not the pan.
In a pre-heated pan, over medium-low head, lay one slice of toast, buttered side down, and top with cheeses.
Cover pan and allow to cook until cheese is melty, and bread is golden-brown. Smear the unbuttered side of the remaining slice of toast with mustard, and place it mustard-side down on to op the melted cheese.
The reason you don’t want to just assemble the whole sandwich in advance is that the heat of the covered pan will melt the butter on the top slice, allowing it to soak down into the toast. You want this butter to stay on the surface so that it browns and crisps the bread when it comes in contact with the hot skillet.
Flip the sandwich, raise heat to medium, and grill until second side is equally browned.
Removed from pan to paper towels and allow to rest a minute or two before serving. (I like mine slices on an angle, like Mom used to do.)
Tomato slices, ham, bacon, and/or avocado all make nice additions to this sandwich. If I’m having it with soup, though, I prefer is as is.
Happy Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day…you know what we’re having for lunch!
PS – Any secret tips or toppings on your favorite grilled cheese sammy?