Grilled Cheesy Goodness

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As a child, I was always disappointed when my mom said we were having grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch. I wasn’t distraught and ready to cry, the way I was when she announced that we were having tuna sandwiches, or downright nauseated and hysterical the way I was when she served that HORRIBLE tuna casserole made with some creamed soup and potato chips. (I always knew canned tuna was unfit for human consumption, even before studies revealed that it contains all these horrible toxins like mercury, and it occurs to me every so often that whatever the difficulties of adulthood, one very nice benefit of being a grownup is that, barring some torture scenario, no one can ever again force me to consume a meal made with canned tuna.)

I didn’t think grilled cheese sandwiches tasted bad; I just didn’t think they tasted good. They were so bland, like a bowl of unsweetened corn flakes. Why ever eat them? OK, I know they were cheap and easy, but so were plenty of other things that tasted way better in my opinion, like Cap’n Crunch, or frozen green beans, or popcorn, or zucchini, or peanut butter and honey on saltines, or bacon and eggs, or a can of ravioli, or oatmeal with lots of brown sugar, or a big dish of ice cream. Fact of the matter is, I still feel that way about a few thin slabs of bright orange longhorn cheddar melted between two slices of white bread slathered with margarine. Why eat such a thing? I think I went four full decades without ever cooking myself a grilled cheese sandwich, though I ate a hell of a lot of cheese crisps, as we called quesadillas--something about substituting a flour tortilla for white bread and dumping plenty of salsa on top just made the cheese taste better.

A few years ago, after I started trying to eat like a vegetarian, I one day had a hankering for a cheeseburger, but as I was trying to live without meat and don’t much care for those veggie burger things, I tried to imagine how I could have a meat-free cheeseburger. “If I melt good cheese on good bread, that might satisfy this craving,” I thought, and realized that what I was imagining was simply a fancy-schmancy grilled cheese sandwich. And I began experimenting with different breads and different cheeses, and a old staple entered my diet in a new form.

As far as bread goes, I like a white sour dough with enough body that it crisps up nicely when grilled. I’m fond of a nice sharp cheddar, though I don’t like the way it looks as much if it’s really orange. I’ve tried various holey cheeses (like swiss) and even a few soft cheeses--a sweet bread with a nice spreadable goat cheese is pretty yummy.

Yesterday I had an exceptionally tasty grilled cheese sandwich. Lately Wegmans has had this really wonderful sourdough bread studded with walnuts and dried cranberries; I paired it with an imported genuine gruyere. When I grill a sandwich, I put butter in the pan rather than on the bread; it seems less greasy that way. And when it this particular sandwich was done cooking, it was so gorgeous I just had to take a photo.

grilled cheese 2.jpg

Yumm! I’m hungry just looking at it.

7 Comments

Not sure if it would make good grilled cheese bread, but you really should check out Wegman's rosemary/olive oil bread. It is to die for......

Hi Mr. Nighttime--I've had that rosemary olive oil bread and you are right--it's to die for. I can't believe I never tried it in sandwiches. I LOVE rosemary--it's one of my favorite herbs--so this really is a lapse I need to take care of right away. Thanks for the suggestion.

I had grilled cheese for lunch yesterday. My new panini press has something to do with that. I keep wondering how much stuff I can stick in there and not end up having it declared a disaster zone. That does look tasty.

My groaner meal was finding out my mother was making creamed peas on toast. I think it was just a can of cream of something with peas mixed in. Nothing says love like a bunch of paste on bread.

In grad school, I thought that bad grilled cheese sandwiches (toast the bread in the toaster, put nasty cheese slices between, microwave for a few seconds) with canned tomato soup were a feast.

Now we make them with interesting cheese and nice bread, with the plates in our "foreman" grill brushed with just a little olive oil. And thinly sliced tomatoes. Gotta have the tomatoes, now.

My friend's mom used to make creamed tuna and peas on toast. She insisted that you had to have a certain gourmet kind of canned pea and "good" canned tuna for it to be palatable. But, yuk.

My mom's disaster meal was spaghetti. Even today, even at nice Italian restaurants, I can't get excited about spaghetti.

I love grilled cheese sandwiches, I'm not as harsh a judge. But that photo just made me super hungry.

The meal I hated while growing up was salmon patties. To this day, I can't even get a whiff of that fish without experiencing nausea. Whew.

In France they do a grilled/toasted croissant with cheese and ham. It took me a while to reconcile the sweetness of a croissant with savoury cheese and ham, but I have been won over!

My mother didn't seem to inflict any dreadful meals on me, as far as I remember. I would eat anything, and in those days I was as thin as a rake. Things have changed though I'll still eat almost anything.

Hi everyone--thanks for stopping by.

I may have to invest in a panini press or a foreman grill like Dale or Juti. The older I get, the more I love melted cheese, and all the different ways to melt it. One of these days, I'm going to ask my mom for her old fondue pot.

But--creamed peas? On toast? Sounds dreadful--and I even like peas, as long as they've never been near a can. Add tuna, like Juti's friend's mom did, and.... I have to stop thinking about this, or I'll be sick.

My mom made really great spaghetti--it was one of my favorite meals, and the first meal I learned to cook. Even today, I don't like anyone else's spaghetti as much as hers.

LG, if those salmon patties were made with canned salmon, I'm there with you. I have never had canned salmon and never will--in part because one of my elderly relatives was found dead in her home grasping a can of it--she'd had a heart attack while preparing to make dinner. That detail has always bugged me.

A, you are lucky to have grown up with a mother whose cooking you liked. As for the idea of sweetness on a savory cheese sandwich.... You've made me wonder about adding a little bit of jam next time I grill a sandwich. I think it could be pretty great, like sweet and sour sauces or a barbecue sauce that has plenty of salt and also plenty of sugar.

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This page contains a single entry by Holly published on February 21, 2008 7:10 PM.

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