Grilled cheese is not my thing.
[I’m talking about your standard couple of Kraft Singles American cheese melted between two slices of Wonder Bread. Or something to that effect.]
I feel the same way about grilled cheese as I do about red velvet. What’s with the hype? What about a grilled cheese is so ZOMGZ amazing? It’s a toasted cheese sandwich, and I don’t really see the appeal of that. Growing up, grilled cheese was my sister Caroline’s kids menu lunch-of-choice, whereas I was partial to chicken fingers. In college, my friend Vanessa obsessed over Grilled Cheese Day, but she’s Swedish and loves every quintessential ‘American’ meal. At Dickinson, Grilled Cheese Day was the single most coveted menu day in the caf. It seemed as though the entire campus planned their week’s meals around Grilled Cheese/Tomato Soup Day, whereas I tried to plan to avoid that day in the caf because a) the caf was bound to be an unnavigable zoo from 11:45am-1:30pm, and b) I wasn’t going to eat grilled cheese anyway.
Last Thursday, I had no idea it was National Grilled Cheese Day until my dear friend Dana excitedly sent this link to me with this enthusiastic declaration of “I bet you could come up with an amazing recipe — I would love to see what you could come up with it! Then blog about it. And I want a shout out!” (All creative inspiration for this post + the consequent meal goes to Miss Dana Halpern.)
As per Dana’s encouragement, I scrolled through the photos of these 40 Amazing Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and drew inspiration from varying elements. Since I’m not a fan of the traditional grilled cheese, my final creation was destined to be as far away from the traditional grilled cheese as possible. Here are a few things I noticed while doing this inspirational research:
- My eyes completely glazed over any recipe that looked like it was made with white bread.
- If it had a bowl of tomato soup next to it, I didn’t give it a second thought.
- I’m partial to the recipes that involve spinach, broccoli, or other green vegetables.
- Sourdough bread or some type of focaccia is 100% superior to the whole wheat/whole grain variety. All in the name of the Crunch Factor.
- Hard cheese (pecorino, gruyere, cheddar) > soft cheese (goat, stilton, feta). Except when it comes to brie. Brie surpasses every other cheese.
Armed with these observations, I began to ponder: what would my ideal ‘grilled cheese’ be? It would have to be a perfect intersection of savory and sweet, with Crunch Factor presiding high on the lists of ‘must-haves’ because there’s nothing worse than a soggy sandwich. Ultimately, the perfect adaptation of a grilled cheese for me would be a combination of elements that you normally wouldn’t throw together between two pieces of bread.
In a perfect world, the sandwich I would have made would have been something akin to brie cheese, toasted sliced almonds (possibly brown-sugared), fig preserves, tomato, and a heaping bunch of arugula grilled between two slices of sourdough. YUM-O.
Alas, we had exactly zero of the aforementioned ingredients in the house, and it was too late to go to the stores and pour over questions like “but which brie is the best brie?” I had to make do with what I had on hand, which consisted of lots of veggies and a less-than-stellar bagel. I have quite the opinion on bagels, said opinion being that bagels from New Jersey are the absolute best, no contest. But I digress.
The result was quite spectacular, if I do say so myself. Toasted whole wheat bagel, pesto spread, tomatoes, onions, fresh spinach, salt, pepper, smoked salmon, and a few slices of pecorino — simple, flavorful, and entirely my interpretation of what it means to be a grilled cheese. So what if it’s on a bagel? So what if it’s open-faced? It’s my grilled cheese creation and I’m sticking to it.
Grab your preferred type of bread, spread your favorite condiment on your vehicle, throw some veggies or meat (gasp!) on top, finish it off with some cheese, toss it under the broiler for a hot minute or two, and violà! Gourmet ‘grilled cheese’ in a flash.
What would your supreme grilled cheese creation be?