Other than macaroni and cheese (which I also like “fancy”), my favorite comfort food is grilled cheese. You already know I like bread and I like all kinds of cheese, so bringing them together in a melty-crispy-buttery sort of way is just sublime. Much to the Mister’s dismay, I don’t actually like cold sandwiches or other hot sandwiches, for that matter. I know, it’s kind of weird. My tastes run exclusively to peanut butter and jelly and grilled cheese, so I have eaten a lot of grilled cheese over the years and have some definite opinions on what makes it good.
I guess I should stop here and define what I mean by “fancy.” I pretty much mean anything that is not a too-small, too-thin slice of processed cheese enclosed in dry, white sandwich bread and toasted or (gasp) microwaved until the bread is barely colored or the cheese is barely melted. Fancy means fresh bread filled with generous amounts of flavorful cheese(s) and other ingredients and lovingly buttered and toasted until deeply colored and oozy.
The Mister had too many of the plain, “non-fancy” grilled cheese sandwiches growing up and now has a real aversion to any grilled cheese that hasn’t been, in his words, doctored up. So to kick off a series of my three favorite fancy grilled cheese sandwiches, I bring you the Mister’s favorite: grilled provolone with pesto and roasted red peppers.
I made focaccia the other day so I used that as the base of the sandwich, sliced in half and layered with delicious ingredients. Generally I try to make everything from scratch, but in a moment of weakness I recently bought a jar of pesto from Costco so I used that and I have to say, it’s better than most pesto I’ve had.
- 8 slices fresh bread or squares of focaccia
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- 4 ounces white cheddar cheese, sliced
- 4 ounces gruyere cheese, sliced
- 1. Heat a wide, shallow frying pan, griddle, or grill pan over medium heat.
- 2. Lay out four slices of bread and evenly divide one-fourth of each cheese between each piece. Make sure the cheese covers the bread all the way to the edges.
- 3. Top each slice of bread with another slice of bread and butter the top of each sandwich all the way to the edges.
- 4. Place as many sandwiches as will fit without crowding in the pan, butter side down. Butter what is now the top of the sandwich. Cook until cheese is starting to melt and the bottom of the sandwich is golden, about 5 minutes. Flip the sandwich and cook another 5 minutes and then remove from pan.
- 5. If cooking in batches keep an eye on the temperature and adjust to prevent the bread from browning to quickly before the cheese melts.
- 6. Cook remaining sandwiches and serve while hot.
!Provolone, Pesto, and Roasted Red Pepper Sandwich: substitute all cheese for provolone. Spread 1 tablespoon pesto on each of four slices of bread, top with patted-dry and sliced roasted red peppers (jarred), and then top with provolone cheese and remaining bread slices. Proceed as usual.
!Brie, Caramelized Onion, and Balsamic Vinegar Sandwich: substitute all cheese for brie. Prepare brie by trimming of rind and thinly slicing. Place slices on each of four slices of bread, top with 1 heaping tablespoon caramelized onions and drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Top with remaining bread and proceed as usual.
!Brie and Blackberry Jam Sandwich: substitute all cheese for brie. Prepare brie by trimming of rind and thinly slicing. Spread each of four slices of bread with blackberry jam and then top with brie slices and remaining bread. Add a thin slice of prosciutto, if desired, and proceed as usual.
The recipe for fancy grilled cheese is below and you may not need to know how to cook a grilled cheese sandwich, but I will list the variations to make my favorites and that’s worth downloading right there. Just click to download and you’re good to go.
Are you a sandwich lover? What’s your favorite?
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