By Marsha Fottler –
Right behind America’s favorite sandwich, the hamburger, come two other classics, the BLT and the grilled cheese sandwich. From toddlers to grown ups, these two sandwiches are made in family homes, in casual food chains and in haute restaurants all over the nation. We celebrate these two tasty sandwiches just about every day of the year, but in April we devote the whole month to the official culinary observance of the BLT and the grilled cheese sandwich.
Everyone has his or her special variation depending upon the kind of bacon, bread and spread on the BLT. Maple flavored bacon? Thick slab? Fried green tomatoes and mayonnaise? Thick-cut bread? Plenty of options, of course. I have heard it said more than once that the BLT accounts for the ruination of vegetarian motivation more than any other single carnivorous food.
With the grilled cheese sandwich it’s all about the kind of cheese and thickness of it. Use one cheese or two? What kind of bread? You could use a panini press or put your sandwich in a frying pan with butter and press down with a spatula or a brick wrapped in aluminum foil. And do you serve your grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup? The one constant in a grilled cheese sandwich is that the cheese must melt. So cheese slices can’t be too thick. Some cooks shred or grate cheese when using harder cheese varieties such as cheddar or Manchego. And don’t overheat the pan. Slow and low on the heat gives the cheese time to melt while the bread is turning golden brown.
The chef-secret to making these two sandwiches is to choose the very best and freshest ingredients. Since there are so few things that go into a BLT or a grilled cheese sandwich, quality matters. Here are some recipes for these classic American favorite sandwiches. Make them this month and enjoy!
Muenster and Raisin Bread Grilled Cheese Sandwich
(From 150 Best Grilled Cheese Sandwiches by Alison Lewis. Children will eat this one for breakfast and love it. So will their parents)
8 slices raisin bread (sliced ½ inch thick)
2 tablespoons softened butter
¼ cup honey
8 ounces Muenster cheese, but into 4 slices
Brush one side of each bread slice with butter. Place on a work surface, buttered side down. Drizzle honey over 4 bread slices and top equally with cheese. 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 use a skillet for 3 to 4 minutes or until golden brown and cheese is melted. Serve immediately.
Smoked Salmon and Brie Grilled Sandwich
(From 150 Best Grilled Cheese Sandwiches by Alison Lewis. Serves 4. The saltiness of smoked salmon and buttery Brie make a wonderful gooey combination.)
8 slices sourdough bread ( cut ½ thick)
2 tablespoons butter, softened
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
8 ounces smoked salmon, cut 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 with cream cheese. Top equally with smoked salmon, Brie and red onions. Cover with remaining bread slices, buttered side up and press together. Places sandwiches on preheated panini grill or in a large skillet over medium heat and cook, burning once if using a skillet, for 3 or 4 minutes or until golden brown and cheese is melted. Serve immediately.
Grilled Taleggio Cheese Sandwich With Apricots and Capers
(From the restaurant kitchen of Chef Eric Greenspan. Makes 4 sandwiches.)
15 dried apricots
1 tablespoon nonpareil capers
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
8 slices dark raisin bread
5 tablespoons butter, softened
4 small handfuls arugula
8 ounces taleggio cheese, rind removed, at room temperature
4 pinches fleur de sel
Place apricots in small saucepan and add water just to cover. Bring to full boil and immediately remove from heat. Mix in capers, mustard and olive oil. Pulse in blender to chunky consistency; set aside. Spread one side of each bread slice evenly (to the edges) with 1/2 tablespoon butter. With buttered sides down, top four slices with 2 tablespoons of apricot mixture, handful of arugula and equal portions of cheese. Top with remaining slices, buttered side up. Place large skillet over high heat, and melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Reduce heat to low and add sandwiches. Cook until browned and crisp on both sides, about 2 minutes a side. Transfer to a platter lined with paper towels, and sprinkle each with a pinch of fleur de sel. Cut in half and serve.
(Quality ingredients are everything in this sandwich. Choose the best you can afford. Makes two sandwiches.)
4 slices thick-cut bacon
4 pieces white bread, toasted
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 large heirloom tomato, red or yellow
6 leaves big lettuce leaves
salt and pepper
In a large skillet, fry the bacon over medium heat until it’s crispy. Set it aside on a paper towel to drain. Toast the bread so that it’s golden brown on Let the slices cool briefly, then spread equal amounts of mayonnaise on each slice. Cut the tomatoes into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange the slices evenly on two pieces of the bread. Season with salt and pepper. Top with the lettuce leaves, the bacon and the other piece of bread. Press each sandwich down gently, and cut in half diagonally.
(From Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa. The avocado makes this one California in style.)
6 thick-cut slices smoked bacon
4 thick slices white bread
4 tablespoons good mayonnaise
4 to 8 tender green lettuce leaves, washed and spun very dry
1 ripe avocado
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 large ripe tomato, sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place a wire rack on a baking tray and arrange the rashers of bacon in a single layer. Bake for 15 to 25 minutes, until the bacon is browned and crisp. Drain on paper towels and set aside. Place the bread slices on a sheet pan and toast them for 5 minutes. Turn the slices and toast for 1 more minute, until all the bread is evenly browned on both sides. Place 2 slices of the bread on a cutting board. Spread each slice with about 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise and cover with a layer of lettuce leaves. Peel the avocado and slice it. Toss the avocado slices gently with the lemon juice, and arrange on top of the lettuce leaves. Place 3 slices of bacon on top of each sandwich and then add a layer of tomato slices on top of the bacon. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Spread each of the remaining 2 slices of toasted bread with 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise and place, mayonnaise side down, on the sandwiches. Cut in half and serve.