April 12, 2013 at 7:28 AM ET
If you’re in need of comfort, look no further than the grilled cheese sandwich. April is National Grilled Cheese Month, and April 12, specifically, is National Grilled Cheese Day – as if we needed a reason to glorify sandwiches fried in fat and filled with gooey melted cheese.
But it’s time to get out of our comfort zone, and go beyond the Wonder Bread and American cheese creations of our youth. Look to fresh herbs, fruit and fast-food fusion for inspiration and make some of these truly inspired versions of the humble grilled cheese.
If you can stop drooling at Jessica Merchant’s mouthwatering photography long enough to actually make this recipe, you won’t be disappointed. The fontina and blackberry basil smash grilled cheese sandwiches are gooey, buttery, tart with blackberries and fragrant with basil. The sandwiches are rich but not heavy and also multilayered with flavor. They are stunning to look at and tasty to eat.
What can make cheese on carbs even better? Try more carbs …with a side of bacon. That is certainly what Bob and Carlene Deutscher of BS in the Kitchen thought when they invented their baked potato grilled cheese sandwich. Pan-fried potato slices are layered onto cheese and bread, and then piled with sour cream, bacon bits and scallions. It’s creamy, it’s crunchy, and to quote the blog, it’s “SOO GOOODD@#$*!!!”
Mac and cheese grilled cheese
Putting mac and cheese into a grilled cheese sandwich would just be comfort food overload, right? Russell Warnick of Endless Simmer clearly thinks it’s the ticket to food nirvana. He ups the ante by preparing the cheese sauce with roasted garlic, thyme and truffle oil. To make the grilled cheese, he simply takes leftover mac and cheese, piles it onto bread, and grills it in a panini press. The cheese sauce oozes pleasantly into the nooks and crannies of the bread and the pasta is crunchy in some places, soft in others. This may just be the best use for leftovers ever!
Taco grilled cheese
Remember all those times when you couldn’t decide if you wanted tacos or cheeseburgers for dinner? Art and the Kitchen’s taco grilled cheese sandwich is the perfect combination of those two foods. Spiced taco beef, avocado, shredded lettuce and – of course – shredded cheese are all stuffed inside two slices of bread, and then grilled until the cheese is melted and the sandwich is delightfully sloppy. Creator Laureen King says that this would go nicely with tomato soup, but it would work just as well with chips and salsa or some cumin-spiced sweet potato fries.
Dark chocolate and parmesan grilled cheese
Hold onto your hats and get ready to rock your tastebuds. This isn’t the normal sweet-and-salty pairing that you might expect. These seemingly odd bedfellows are actually scientifically engineered to work well together. A technology called Foodpairing is used by chefs to create unique and new recipes. Using the analysis, dark chocolate and parmesan cheese are perfectly matched. In fact, The Huffington Post says that ,“The salty and savory (umami) flavor of Parmesan cheese pairs exceptionally well with the depth of flavor in dark chocolate.” Try it for yourself, if you don’t believe it –and pair it with red wine to bring out the fruity side of the chocolate.
As a lover of In-n-Out, my own favorite grilled cheese sandwich is this animal-style version. Both sides of the bread are spread with homemade Thousand Island dressing, then layered with sharp cheddar, fresh jalapenos and grilled onions. The result is so meaty, spicy and salty that you could swear that you were eating a burger. It’s my ode to the best fast food on the planet.
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