Introduction: Grilled Cheese for Every Occasion
What's not to love about gooey, melty cheese and crispy, soft bread? Together they are the perfect pair.
But I think it's time to give the classic cheddar and white bread a break.
I've logged here some tips and ideas on how to make simple, classic combinations of flavors amazing by adding the GCF (that is, the grilled cheese factor). They're delicious, versatile, and incredibly easy.
Don't worry: it's normal to want to eat these for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!
Step 1: Chocolate Grilled Cheese
Ok, I'll admit that this may be called stuffed french toast, and isn't anything new to some people.
But I found that out AFTER I made up the idea and created this sandwich. So, I deserve some credit for trying to be original, right?
This is a sweet sandwich perfect for breakfast, and will please practically anyone who likes chocolate (and seriously, who doesn't?!)
Anyway, you start with the bread. I found some amazing bread at my local farmer's market, but you can use bread from wal-mart if you want to. It just decides the quality of your sandwich at the end, and since these are pretty simple, the key is to use higher quality ingredients for a better product. I used oat bread because it is slightly sweet and tastes similar to white bread, but has a chewiness to it that works well in this sandwich.
You'll also need chocolate- any variety will work (milk or dark, you could even try flavored chocolate!) chopped up or in chip form. Mix it with cream cheese: softened to room temperature for spread- and melt-ablity, just enough to bond the chocolate pieces together and create a spread. Spread the spread onto the bread (Dr. Suess, anyone?) and top with another slice to make a sandwich. Easy, right?
Now mix together an egg, a few teaspoons of sugar, and some cream (~1.5 tbsp) in a bowl wide enough for the bread. Dip both sides of the sandwich in the mixture, making sure it soaks some of it up and wiping off extra. There will probably be enough egg mixture to make two sandwiches, depending on their size.
Melt butter in a pan over medium or medium-high heat and fry the sandwich as you would french toast on both sides, until the egg is cooked and slightly browned.
Lastly, I like to serve the sandwich with powdered sugar and cocoa powder or shaved chocolate on top. Bon appetit!
Step 2: Take 2: Mozzerella, Tomato, & Pesto Sandwich
This is a twist on the classic deli sandwich with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and pesto. Trust me, if you like it cold, you'll love the warm version where the cheese is melty, the bread crispy and it's all cooked into perfection. This may be my favorite sandwich yet.
The other type of bread that I have is called "veggie bread", which means it is a whole wheat dough with onions, garlic, carrots and all sorts of savory vegetables in it that give it a great, mild flavor. This kind of bread is best toasted or, as the bread salesman at the farmer's market told us he preferred, as grilled cheese. That's actually how I thought of making this instructable in the first place ;) Any type of artisan bread or baguette will work, such as tomato basil.
So, you slice fresh mozzarella* and tomatoes- home grown or locally grown would taste great. I used store bought pesto that is very flavorful when purchased through a good brand, but you can use homemade if you like. Layer the mozzarella first on the bread, then tomatoes and pesto (I would be generous with the pesto- that's where most of the flavor comes from), then more mozzarella.
You can cook this sandwich in a panini press or on a grill, but I chose to use a skillet and olive oil. I pressed it down once in a while to meld everything together. If you try the grill or press, I would suggest brushing a little oil on the outside of the bread to make sure it crisps well and doesn't stick. Delicious!
*a handy tip for slicing mozzarella super thin, for pizza or other uses, is to pat it dry, wrap it and put it in the freezer for 30 minutes. The cheese can also be stored in the freezer as long as you use it on something melted.
Step 3: The Bacon, Parmesan and Spinach Grilled Cheese
I'll admit it, I used to hate bacon. It just never did it for me.
Maybe that was because I had never tried the quality kind, eaten the right way. Now I love using bacon for that smokey flavor and crunch, like I do in this sandwich. Plus, the grease can be used to fry the sandwich in! What could be better? That's right. Not much.
So fry the bacon and gather your ingredients. Don't forget to use a good-quality pan to make grilled cheese like this in- a cheap nonstick pan can give the bread a metallic, no-good flavor. Other ingredients are roasted red peppers, which you can chop up and add to the sandwich, and an egg. These are optional but very tasty and therefore recommended.
Shave the Parmesan and crumble the bacon. You can saute the spinach in a pan or microwave it for about 30 seconds until it wilts. Squeeze excess liquid from the spinach if there is any and chop it roughly. Layer the items the same way as the pesto sandwich was- cheese on the outside to hold it together and melt easily.
Now cook the sandwich in the bacon drippings or however you want, making sure to press the sandwich in some way as Parmesan is a hard cheese and doesn't melt easily. I made it work with a heavy skillet on top over medium heat. Another option is to put a lid over the pan, on a lower heat, to let the heat circulate and melt the cheese.
I didn't forget about that egg! Just fry it up over-easy and serve it on top. The soft yolk will add another yum factor to this sandwich, but it's good on it's own, too. Enjoy!
Step 4: Extra Fun!
I don't know about you, but I love to experiment. And once I get an idea, I can't get it out of my head until I try it. So here's a couple extra experiments that turned out pretty well.
First, I tried lox. The classic open faced pumpernickel sandwiches were too tempting to ignore. I made grilled cheese versions with cocktail bread, chopped capers, dill, and chive-and-onion flavored cream cheese (from laughing cow, but regular cream cheese is fine too). You could also use red onion or tomato slices, according to your preference.
Saute it in a generous amount of grapeseed or other light-tasting oil; the dry pumpernickel bread soaked up more than I thought it would. My salmon was grilled- using real smoked salmon would definitely amp up the flavor, but the result was still wonderful. Creamy cheese, salmon and the tangy flavors from the capers and dill. Even my pet parakeet couldn't stay away from it!
Second, a harvest grilled cheese sandwich. You can use pretty much any fresh vegetables that sound good or that you have on hand, and some pepper jack or sharp cheddar cheese. Try mushrooms, squash, tomatoes, onion, peppers, or corn. Just saute the vegetables and use them as fillings to the sandwich. If you use too much they will fall out the sides or may end up with a regular sandwich rather than a grilled cheese, but if you're OK with that then go for it! I encourage you to experiment with other fillings and flavorings, including spices as well. Have fun!