Step Up Your Grilled Cheese Game!

Friday, April 12th is National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day! Photo: DepositPhotos

THE KITCHEN DIVA

By Angela Shelf Medearis

    I love a grilled cheese sandwich for breakfast … and lunch, and dinner, and snacks. OK, I love grilled cheese sandwiches anytime of the day! I’m not the only one who adores a little cheesy goodness from time to time. Grilled cheese sandwiches are one of the top comfort foods in the United States. Research provided by some food historians states that cooked bread and cheese is an ancient food that has been enjoyed across many cultures, and is found from ancient Roman texts to the more recent French croque monsieur sandwich. Originally, this cheese and bread combo was made as an open-faced sandwich.

    The modern version of the grilled cheese sandwich originated in the United States in the 1920s. James L. Kraft, of Kraft Cheese fame, invented and patented the cheese pasteurizing process. This prevented Kraft cheeses from spoiling when transported long distances across America.

   If you’ve ever used the expression “the best thing since sliced bread,” thank Otto Frederick Rohwedder of Davenport, Iowa. Rohwedder invented the first single loaf bread-slicing machine, but the prototype he built in 1912 was destroyed in a fire. It wasn’t until 1928 that Rohwedder had a bread slicing machine that made distributing white bread easy and affordable. With the availability of processed cheese and sliced white bread, the American-style grilled cheese sandwich gained popularity!

                The beauty of grilled cheese sandwiches is the ability to mix and match cheeses, bread and seasonings according to taste. Adding sauteed vegetables or condiments enhances the flavor of the cheeses.Using hearty breads like country white bread, ciabatta, multi-grain, pullman, pumpernickel, potato and sourdough will take your grilled cheese game to a new level! Since National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day is observed annually on April 12, I have a few recipes to help you step up your grilled cheese game!

GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICH

    Spreading mayonnaise on the bread and using melted butter to cook the sandwich adds flavor and a crispy texture. Go traditional or try the variations below for a delicious, grilled cheese twist!

    * 2 slices (1/2 inch-thick) Pullman or other white bread per sandwich

    * 2 tablespoons mayonnaise per sandwich

    * 1 tablespoon unsalted butter per sandwich

    * 2 ounces (about 4 slices) thinly sliced American or Cheddar cheese, or combination of both per sandwich

    * 1/8 teaspoon pepper, per sandwich, optional

    1. Place bread on a cutting board and spread mayonnaise over top side of each slice.

    2. Place a small skillet (nonstick or cast-iron) over medium heat. Add in 1/2 tablespoon of butter. When the butter is melted, place 1 slice of bread, mayonnaise side down, in skillet; top with cheese or filling of your choice (see below); season with pepper, optional.

    3. Top with second slice of bread, mayonnaise side up. When underside is golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes, turn sandwich and add remaining butter to skillet. Press down gently on sandwich for even browning and to help melt cheese. Cook, 1 to 2 minutes until second side is golden brown and cheese is melted.

STEPPED-UP GRILLED CHEESE

    Spicy Diner Grilled Cheese Sandwich: Mix 2 tablespoons mayonnaise with 1/4 teaspoon Sriracha. Spread mayonnaise over top side of each slice. Prepare for cooking according to instructions above.

    Southwestern Grilled Cheese Sandwich: 2 slices white bread with 1 slice Monterey jack, 1 slice Pepper Jack cheese, 1 slice Cheddar cheese, 4 to 6 pickled jalapeno slices. Prepare for cooking according to instructions above.

    Grilled Cheese With Pesto: Spread pesto on 1 slice white bread. Top with 1 slice each provolone and mozzarella. Top with another slice of bread. Prepare for cooking according to instructions above.

    Grilled Cheese With Roasted Tomato: Toss 4 halved plum tomatoes with 1 tablespoon olive oil, and thyme, salt and pepper to taste. Roast at 350 F for 1 hour; mash. Spread 2 slices sourdough bread with one-quarter of the tomato mixture and sandwich with 2 slices cheddar. (Use the remaining tomato mixture for more sandwiches.) Cook, following recipe instructions above.

    Cajun Muffuletta Grilled Cheese Sandwich: To 2 slices country white bread place 2 slices provolone and 1 tablespoon deli olive salad between the cheese, and season with 1/8 teaspoon Cajun seasoning. Cook, following recipe instructions above.

    French-Style Grilled Cheese Sandwich: Spread 2 slices sourdough bread with Dijon mustard and brie (remove the rind), and add some caramelized onions. Cook, following recipe instructions above.

    Spanish-Style Grilled Cheese Sandwich: Spread the bread with fig jam. Build the sandwich by placing 1/4 cup grated Manchego cheese and 1 tablespoon sliced green olives between 2 slices white bread. Cook, following recipe instructions above.

   Angela Shelf Medearis is an award-winning children’s author, culinary historian and the author of seven cookbooks. Her new cookbook is “The Kitchen Diva’s Diabetic Cookbook.” Her website is http://www.divapro.com. Tosee how-to videos, recipes and much, much more, Like Angela Shelf Medearis, The Kitchen Diva! on Facebook. Recipes may not be reprinted without permission from Angela Shelf Medearis.

(c) 2019 King Features Synd., Inc., and Angela Shelf Medearis

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