The Mighty Grilled Cheese
The Mighty Grilled Cheese
Designed by Brenda Hyde
All Rights Reserved
Mmmmm...Velveeta on white bread, grilled to golden brown.
Not Cheddar, or American cheese-no whole grain goodness...
just Velveeta on white. I grew up on grilled cheese sandwiches
made this way during the 1960's and 70's. It's a comfort food
that's only rivaled by the classic macaroni and cheese.
Now that I am older and raising my own children I have a slightly more sophisticated palate. (Don't tell anyone about the grilled cheese on white I just made that inspired me to write this feature.) The years went by, and through experimentation of the highest order I have come up with variations on the basic grilled cheese, which have given me the nickname Queen of the Grilled Cheese.
Margarine or Butter
Velveeta Cheese (*see Cheese Note below)
Lightly butter one side of two pieces of bread, making sure the butter is spread evenly over the entire side, but not too thick-that will cause a soggy sandwich. Place the two buttered sides together, so it doesn't smear all over the plate or counter. Slice the cheese and cover the slice of bread-unbuttered side. Do not cut too thick or too thin, but just a nice thickness. Be sure the cheese goes almost to the edge, even if you have to pretend it's a puzzle, and place odd size pieces around the edge.
Heat your skillet on a high temp, but lower to medium as soon as you place your sandwich in the skillet, with a buttered side of bread face up on both sides. DO NOT place spray or extra butter in the pan. You will have a greasy mess. Watch your sandwich carefully and turn as soon as it's golden brown; repeat on the other side. Burning occurs easily when you are distracted. If you must, tell the kids they are not allowed to fight, tell you stories, wrap themselves around your leg or come near the stove while you are creating the perfect grilled cheese. Transfer your sandwich to a plate, but be sure to turn after a minute or so, otherwise it will steam up underneath and make that side soggy. (Note: this does not happen with paper plates-which of course, I only use occasionally.) Cut into halves, or quarters for the little ones and let cool. I think I have scars from attempting to rush the eating process.
Cheese Notes: Do not attempt to use Velveeta substitutes. They DO NOT WORK. I have tried them all. They brought to mind a substance that did not resemble cheese, but rather soft, mushy plastic.
Grilled Cheese VariationsNow that we have the basics out of the way, we can go on to the variations, which are endless. Let's start with the options that still use Velveeta:
Bread: I no longer use plain white bread. It frightens me that it can be mushed up into a ball, and that we mix it with glue to make pretty miniature roses. Italian or French breads make great grilled cheese sandwiches. You can also use Rye or Pumpernickel, but include a slice of ham with your cheese. Wheat and whole grain breads work great with any variation.
Mexican Grilled Cheese: Sprinkle chili powder or any type of taco/burrito seasoning lightly on each piece of bread before grilling. The jalapeno lover can layer sliced peppers on top of the cheese before grilling too.
Beef and Cheese: Lightly SautÃ© very thin rings of red or sweet white onion. Set aside. Assemble your sandwich as directed, but add a few onion slices, and two to three slices of shaved deli roast beef in addition to your cheese. Cook as usual.
Fancy Ideas and FixingsGrilled Pizza Bread: Using French or Italian bread, add sliced Provolone or Mozzarella and a layer of Pepperoni slices on top of the cheese. Sprinkle the buttered bread with garlic powder if you would like.
Ham and Cheese: Use any of the breads mentioned, but substitute Cheddar, Colby or Co-Jack cheese and include 2-3 slices of ham. I sometimes fry the ham before adding to the sandwich.
The possibilities are endless when you sit and begin to think of the grilled cheese techniques. (I know, I think about cooking and food way too much). Quesadillas are basically Mexican grilled cheese, but made with tortillas. The technique is the same, and you can use shredded cheese, beans and meat that have been spread thinly. Many restaurants serve "Grecian" type sandwiches, which are long buns with sesame seeds on top that have been "grilled" but flattened with a spatula while cooking.
I am sure there are many examples of gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, and more waiting to be developed. All the while, as we get older, we try to cut back on cheese, butter and fried foods, not to mention meat. But every once in awhile I need to savor a simple sandwich that has the power to transport me back to a simpler time. After all, that's what comfort food is all about.
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