There’s so much to love about making gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. Once you factor in the basic requirements of the holy trinity of butter, bread, and cheese of the classic grilled cheese sandwich, one only needs a little imagination to take these sandwiches to the next level to unleash their true gourmet potential.
Looking to make something a bit more fancy than your typical everyday grilled cheese? Substitute a rustic, grainy whole wheat or flax seed bread for the standard commercial loaf bread that’s commonly used. What about trying a good sourdough or crusty French baguette, a yeasty beer cheese bread, Italian focaccia, or a dark pumpernickel?
Next, it’s time to look at your choice of cheese. In the case of grilled cheese sandwiches, the cheese you choose will be be the culinary soul of your sandwich. Many people making a traditional grilled cheese sandwich regularly rely on mild cheddar or American cheese, but such cheeses as mozzarella, manchego, gruyere, brie, Jarlsberg, Swiss, camembert, Emmental, gouda, Maytag Blue, (or my personal favorite lately, Mexican cotija cheese) also work well.
The addition of such soft cheeses such as Boursin or even flavored cream cheeses can lift an average grilled cheese sandwich to new heights.
Better yet, experiment by shredding and/or mixing together two or more cheeses until you find just the right combination to achieve your own version of grilled cheese nirvana.
In addition to using flavored cream cheese spreads, many people enjoy the sweet / salty deliciousness of including fruit preserves, jams, honey, and jelly spreads in their gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. Others prefer to nudge their cheesy creation to fit more in the savory category by using a little flavored or classic mustard (ie. dijon, honey-mustard, or horseradish), vegetable chutney, salsa, and/or sauces like sriracha, steak sauce, Buffalo wing sauce, Tabasco, etc.
Meat eaters may favor adding crumbled bacon bits, ham, chicken, or turkey to their grilled cheese sandwiches, but mushrooms, onions, sprinklings of seeds and nuts (ie. walnuts, pecans, sunflower or pumpkin seeds), eggplant, spinach, sprouts, dried fruits (think apricots, raisins, cranberries, figs), fresh pesto, chopped olives, and lettuce also work well for adding more crunch, texture, and flavor.
Finally, for extra credit, you may want to explore frying, toasting, or baking your grilled cheese sandwich in something other than ordinary butter. Olive oil (from extra-virgin to herbal flavored olive oil), Plugra (a high butterfat variety of butter), and flavored compound butters are all wonderful alternatives to try.
Making your own compound butter is very easy and surprisingly inexpensive. You can find out more about making your own flavored fresh herb compound butter here. Alton Brown also has a wonderful recipe for Avocado Compound Butter.
Best of all, when you make a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich, it’s a great opportunity (and excuse) to affordably experiment with a wide variety of cheeses, spreads, sauces, and additions you might not otherwise get to try.
Now that National Grilled Cheese Month is over, we thought we’d spotlight some of the best grilled cheese sandwich recipes we’ve come across to help you celebrate its spirit throughout the year…enjoy!
By the way, here’s an easy tip to help you keep your grilled cheese sandwiches crisp and avoid sogginess if for some unfortunate reason you can’t eat them right away.
Please join us tomorrow to enjoy our new gourmet grilled cheese recipe on HuggingtheCoast.Com, Southern Style Crab Grilled Cheese Melt.
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