By Anna Dantoni –
As the days and nights turn cooler, I think about a golden grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of tomato soup for lunch. Or dinner. And, I wouldn’t be against enjoying it on a chilly Saturday morning for breakfast either. Everyone has a favorite kind of cheese, bread and spread to make the absolutely perfect grilled cheese sandwich. And then there’s technique. I grill mine slow and low so the cheese melts but the bread doesn’t burn. To compress the sandwich, I use a brick (one that I bought new and scrubbed immaculately clean) that I’ve wrapped in aluminum foil. I lay the brick on top of the sandwich in the frying pan and the weight and stability of the brick does the rest. More advanced folk use a panini press, but I’ve become attached to my brick.
Do you crave grilled cheese sandwiches so much that you’d like to experience some unusual concoctions? Then you’ll want to buy 150 Best Grilled Cheese Sandwiches by Alison Lewis, when it’s published next month by Robert Rose Press. $24.95.
This soft-cover book, with tantalizing color photos, includes grilled cheese sandwiches suitable for breakfast, lunch and dinner for one person or a crowd. Additionally, the author supplies a short history of the modern grilled cheese sandwich (in America its popularity dates to the 1920s when it was called a “cheese dream”), tips for buying the right kinds of cheeses and breads, tips for storing cheese, and suggestions for what to serve with various grilled cheese sandwiches to make a full meal.
The book is divided into sections for breakfast, appetizers, healthy, meatless, meat, seafood, condiments and desserts – all starting with melted cheese on bread. But, in order to come up with 150 different recipes, the author had to stretch some commonly agreed upon definitions – bread, for instance. Consequently, in chapters of this book you’ll find recipes using biscuits, bagels, croissants, tortillas, pita bread, English muffins and even fruit breads. You’ll never want for variety and elaborate riffs on one of America’s top comfort foods when you use this new book as your ticket for culinary travel to new worlds where an old favorite flourishes. Now you can be a grilled cheese sandwich connoisseur.
Here are three recipes to get you started until the book is published in October.
Grilled Smoked Salmon and Brie
Serves 4. Lovely for brunch. Serve with thick slices of heirloom tomato on the plate.
8 slices sourdough bread cut ½-inch thick
2 tablespoons butter, softened
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
8 ounces smoked salmon, but into thin slices
4 ounces Brie, thinly sliced
1 cup sliced red onions
Brush one side of each bread slice with butter. Place on a work surface, buttered side down. Spread 4 bread slices equally wit cream cheese. Top equally with smoked salmon, Brie and red onions. Cover with remaining bread slices, buttered 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.
Roast Beef with Asiago and Watercress
Makes 16. A great appetizer.
8 slices whole-grain bread but ½ inch thick
¼ cup butter softened
¼ cup Dijon mustard
12 ounces sliced roast beef
1 cup watercress leaves (and a few more for garnish)
4 ounces Asiago cheese, thinly sliced
Brush one side of each bread slice with butter. Place on a work surface, buttered side down. Spread 4 bread slices equally with mustard. Top equally with roast beef, watercress and cheese. Cover with remaining bread slices, buttered side up and press gently. Place sandwiches on preheated panini grill or in a large skilled over medium heat and cook, turning once if using a skillet, for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown and cheese melted. Slice each sandwich into s slices for appetizer servings. Arrange on a serving tray garnished with more watercress and serve immediately.
Provencal Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Serves 4. Add a Caesar salad to make this a delicious vegetarian meal.
8 slices of white or whole-grain bread but ½-inch think
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil, drained
¾ cup sliced kalamata olives
4 slices mozzarella cheese
½ cu[ freshly grated Parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon hot pepper flakes
Brush one side of beach bread slice with olive oil. Place on a work surface, oiled side down. Top 4 bread slices equally with tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, olives and mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Sprinkle equally with hot pepper flakes. 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 3-4 minutes or until golden brown and cheese melted. Serve immediately.