Thursday, April 12, 2012

Grilled Triple Cheese Sandwiches

Today, April 12th, is National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day. When I was growing up, our dad had only two meals in his repertoire, and one of them was grilled cheese sandwiches served with tomato soup. His version involved Wonder bread, Kraft singles, margarine, and Campbell's condensed (with Goldfish crackers swimming on top). As I've gotten older, my tastes and skills have moved on a bit, and while I still enjoy a good Goldfish cracker, the rest of those brands have fallen by the wayside.

So in honor of this very important holiday, I present a recipe and some tips for grilled cheese sandwich success.

1. Heat nonstick pan over medium heat. Pile chosen cheese evenly onto two slices of bread. Top with remaining bread.
2. With pastry brush, coat top piece of bread on each sandwich with melted butter. Sprinkle Parmesan loosely onto buttered bread. Turning sandwich upside-down and holding both sides carefully closed, place into hot pan.
3. Brush melted butter over new top of sandwich and sprinkle Parmesan loosely onto buttered bread. Cover pan and cook over medium heat, checking bottom of sandwich often to ensure it doesn't burn.
4. When bottom of sandwich is golden, flip sandwich carefully with spatula. Cook, uncovered, until new bottom of sandwich is golden and center cheese is melted through.

Robyn's notes: I didn't use exactly as much cheese as I prepared, but close to it. Because the bread comes from a mini-loaf, if the sandwiches aren't served alongside anything else, a single sandwich won't be enough for each person. In that case, double this recipe and make two sandwiches per person. This was served, of course, with Quick Herb-Tomato Soup.

The above is all pretty standard; I think most of us know how to make a basic grilled cheese. The following tips, however, should help with making the most of the meal. First: grate your chosen cheese. Cheese is easiest to grate (and slice) when it's cold, but easiest to work with (and melt) when at room temperature. So grate the cheeses early on, and then allow them to come to room temperature or close to it (being careful not to just leave cheese lying around for too long, for safety's sake). Grated cheese will melt faster and more easily when making the sandwich. Second: do not slice the bread too thickly. The general rule of thumb is no thicker than 1/2inch, especially if the bread is particularly dense. The heat has to get through it to melt the cheese, after all. When you're piling the grated cheese onto the bread, don't be afraid to give it a good mush with your (clean) fingers. This helps in getting enough cheese into the sandwich, and also keeps it from falling out during the all-important flip. Third: use a non-stick pan. Cast-iron has its place, but not with grilled cheese. Start heating up that pan in advance, so that you place the prepared sandwich into a hot pan to begin with. Fourth: use real butter, not margarine or spreads. Salted butter supposedly has a nice flavour to it for this use, but I don't keep it in the house, so I can't confirm that. Butter the bread,
not the pan. In the case of the recipe above, you must butter the bread in order to give the Parmesan something to stick to, but in all cases you want the sandwich holding the fat, not the pan. I've recommended brushing the butter on in melted form, because it's easier than trying to spread solid butter across bread without tearing the bread, and because it helps the butter coat the bread so that it cooks evenly. If this is not an option (no brush, for example), bring the butter to room temperature before beginning. Soft butter is easier to spread. Fifth: cover the sandwich as it cooks the first side, but not the second. Covering the sandwich helps retain heat to melt the center cheese before the bottom bread burns. The second side will cook faster, so it's best not to cover the sandwich after the flip as it may cook too fast to catch. Sixth: press down on the sandwich with the flat of the spatula after the flip, it helps the center cheese spread evenly. Finally: don't be in a rush. There is no reason to ever heat the burner to "high", keep it at medium or below.

**** 4 Stars: Very Good. Enjoyed by us both, I will make this frequently

Quick Herb-Tomato Soup

  • 1 (14.5 oz) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/4 C roasted garlic hummus
  • 1 tsp crushed dried rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning blend, crumbled
  • 1/2 tsp pepper (coarsely ground preferred)
  • 1 Tbsp snipped fresh parsley (optional)
1. In a small saucepan, stir together all the ingredients except the parsley. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Carefully pour into a blender and process until smooth (or remove from the heat and use an immersion, or handheld, blender).
2. Return to the pan. Heat over medium-low heat for 2 to 3 minutes, or until just simmering. Ladle into bowls. Garnish with the parsley.

Robyn's notes: this was far too strongly herb flavoured. If making this again, I'd actually halve the amount of all of the herbs. It was quite easy and quick, though. Shown with Grilled Triple Cheese Sandwiches.

** 2 Stars: Acceptable. At least one of us liked this enough for me to make it again, if I make changes

Nutritional Facts: Exchanges = 1/2 Starch, 2 Vegetable, 1 Fat. Calories 125; Calories from Fat 55; Total Fat 6g; Saturated Fat 1.1g; Trans Fat 0g; Polyunsaturated Fat 2.4g; Monounsaturated Fat 2.7g; Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 200mg; Total Carbohydrate 16g; Dietary Fiber 5g; Sugars 7g; Protein 4g