When I was a kid, a grilled cheese sandwich consisted of two slices of white bread with a Kraft cheese slice in between, fried in butter on the stove. Basically, neither grilled nor really cheese.
But, like me, the grilled cheese sandwich has grown up.
Some Toronto restaurants are taking this most mundane of sandwiches to the next level. These cheese wizards are combining unusual fillings with beautiful cheeses for unique flavour profiles. And the breads work with the ingredients.
At Cheese Werks on Bathurst, you’ll find sandwiches like asiago cheese, barbequed pork, slivered green onion and hoisin on green onion potato bread; or double cream brie with caramelized onions and homemade apricot chutney grilled on walnut raisin bread.
The Construction Site, a grilled cheese spot in the Yonge/Eglinton area offers Provolone, Mozzarella, marinated steak, caramelized onions, roasted red peppers and homemade cheesesteak sauce on red fife sourdough; or Jalapeno Havarti, Feta, red onions and rough mashed avocado with lime on ancient grain sourdough.
Why not do it at home? Start with really lovely bread. Look for cheese that brings its own unique flavour to the table, then look for things to complement that flavour. Cheese has calories, but you can use low fat toppings like grainy mustard or spicy chutney or even salsa to zip up a sandwich without the fat.
You can even make dessert grilled cheese – think mascarpone or goat cheese and chocolate.
Need a little help? Check out Alison Lewis’ practically titled book, 150 Best Grilled Cheese Sandwiches. It’s hard to believe that one could make this many variations on a classic, but she does.
Here are two really good, really easy grilled cheese sandwiches from Alison’s book. She uses a Panini grill, turned to medium or a skillet. I use my old fashioned waffle iron whose sides flip for making grilled cheese. I just share the butter over tops and bottoms.
Grilled Egg, Cheese and Bacon Biscuit (page 33)
Move over Egg McMuffin. This is a Lewis family favourite and it’s a great breakfast grilled cheese sandwich.
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tbsp skim milk
1⁄4 tsp salt
1⁄4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
6 tbsp (90 mL) butter, divided
4 biscuits, sliced
4 slices bacon, cooked and halved
1⁄4 cup (60 mL) shredded Cheddar cheese
In a medium bowl, combine eggs, milk, salt and pepper.
In a skillet, melt 1 tbsp (15 mL) of the butter over medium heat. Add egg mixture and cook, stirring, until scrambled. Set aside egg mixture and wipe skillet clean.
Spread remaining butter equally over biscuit tops. Place on a work surface, buttered side down. Top 4 halves equally with scrambled eggs, bacon, cheese and remaining biscuit half. Place biscuits, buttered side down, on preheated panini grill or in a skillet over medium heat and cook, turning once if using a skillet, for 3 to 5 minutes per side or until browned and cheese is melted. Serve immediately. Serves 4
Black Russian (page 137)
Alison says of this recipe: This idea came to me from a New York friend who said she used to eat this often as a cold sandwich. Either way, I love the rustic combination of ingredients. You can substitute regular Brie for the cracked pepper one. See header photo.
Panini grill or large skillet. If using a panini grill, heat to medium.
1⁄2 cup (125 mL) stone-ground mustard
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp grated lemon zest
8 slices pumpernickel bread (1⁄2-inch/1 cm thick slices)
1⁄4 cup (60 mL) olive oil
8 oz (250 gm) Black Forest ham
1 cup lettuce leaves
4 oz (125 g) cracked pepper Brie
In a small bowl, combine mustard, parsley and lemon zest.
Brush one side of each bread slice with olive oil. Place on a work surface, oiled side down. Spread bread slices equally with mustard mixture. Top 4 slices equally with ham, lettuce and Brie. Cover with remaining bread slices, oiled side up, and press together gently.
Place sandwiches on preheated panini grill or in a large skillet over medium heat and cook, turning once if using a skillet, for 3 to 4 minutes or until golden brown and cheese is melted. Serve immediately.