Hey y'all! It's been a minute! My grandma and I weren't feeling very well this week and just wanted comfort food, so I made us a loaf of bread. She asked for a grilled cheese and I realized that I have never made one before! I realized I needed to do some more research into how to make a good grilled cheese. My first attempt failed because there was too much cheese and most of it was not melted or fell out of the sandwich onto my plate! Hopefully these tips help you rock your grilled cheese on your first try!
When I was considering what to put in my grilled cheese I was not feeling the classic American cheese and pickles. My mom used to make this occasionally served with salsa and I have just never been that into it. I wanted something more interesting and thought about what flavor combos make up a really yummy cheese board. I really love apples and cheddar, salami and mustard, balsamic and olive oil. If my combos aren't what makes you excited about a cheese board then pick what you DO like.
Bread is an obvious need here and you have a ton of options available to you, so feel free to experiment! Sourdough is always a popular choice as is good ol' classic white bread, which is what I used here. I've gotten into making bread, like everyone else, over the course of the pandemic. I really enjoy pulling together a quick loaf for the week since it's a lot cheaper. You're allowed to have "bad" things if you're willing to put the effort in to make them, right? I used Sally's Baking Addiction 'Simply Sandwich Bread' with the addition of another half a teaspoon of salt.
Beyond being inspired by cheese boards, I used left over cheese from previous wine and cheese nights! It's perfect for COVID/quarantine meals as you can use up more of your impulsive cheese purchases. My family loves Coastal Cheddar and always has a huge block around, so that was an obvious choice for me. I love the creaminess of Havarti and am always tempted by the different flavor choices so I usually have some of that on hand as well.
How you prepare the cheese is important. When I first tried this, I cut slices out of the cheese, but it prevented it from melting uniformly and I had way too much cheese on my sandwich. Most of it ran out of my sandwich onto my plate and made a huge mess. I highly recommend grating your own cheese in a food processer or with a handle held grater. My favorite brand of food processor is Cuisinart and they have a 12 cup version that even kneads! Check Costco as well, they sometimes have a great deal on it!
Creative Ingredient Options
Caramelized onions might not be on a classic cheese board, but I love them with crackers and cream cheese! I have to tell you that if you have not caramelized your own onions then you are missing out. It's basically just slow cooking a couple of onions down with oil and salt until all the extra good sweetness comes out. If one of your cheese board staples is balsamic and oil, then this is where you should add that flavor! Add a few tablespoons of balsamic vinegar as the onion start to brown. It's adds an incredible depth of flavor to grilled cheese.
I really love apples with cheddar, so this seemed like an obvious addition to me. I sliced my apples REALLY thinly so they didn't make it hard to bit through. The sweetness of the apples with the saltiness of the cheese really made this a stand out sandwich for me. Of course, if you don't like apples don't put them in your grilled cheese! There are a ton of other cheese board style options to choose from, including pickles!
The Best Way to Assemble
Once you have your onions caramelized and your cheese shredded, it's time for assembly!
First thing to note, you're going to want a lid that fits your pan. This helps trap the heat and melt your cheese without taking so long that your bread is burnt. This also means that you can have your burner turned lower so that your bread slowly toasts and does not burn.
While you can butter the bread before placing it in the pan, I find that this makes it challenging to add condiments to the other side. So, first put whatever condiment your using on one side of the bread. Add some butter to the pan and place the dry side of the bread face down. Then you can start adding other ingredients.
Place about ¼ cup of cheese next, then apples, then onions, then more cheese, then another slice of prepared bread. Having cheese on both sides ensures that your sandwich is all stuck together as the cheese is the glue. Put the lid on top and then wait for 3-5 minutes as the bread toasts.
My first flip I tried to use a small spatula and my sandwich slid apart. I like to add more butter into the pan before placing the sandwich back in, so it is important to have a large spatula. This means you can pick the sandwich up, add butter, then flip the sandwich back down without making a mess. My second sandwich turned out much neater with this change.
Once you toast the other side (lid on) for another few minutes, you're done! For those of you that love soup with a grilled cheese, French Onion would be a great side to this version! I can't wait to hear what combinations you come up with for your grilled cheese. Tag me on Instagram @thatzestlife!
Grilled Cheese with Caramelized Onions
- Cast Iron Skillet
- Lid large enough to cover skillet
- 2 whole onions (sliced)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- butter (as needed)
- 4 slices bread
- 1 cup shredded cheeses of choice
- 1 whole apple (sliced thinly)
- dijon mustad (to taste)
- Caramelize the onions. In a thick bottomed pan, set to medium low. Melt about 2 tablespoons of olive oil or 50:50 olive oil and butter. When oil is shimmering add the sliced onions and sprinkle with salt. Let roast up to 1 hour, stirring occasionally and tasting for salt. When my onions start sticking a bit, I usually add a pat of butter and stir. Once fully cooked down and brown, remove from heat and set aside.
- On each slice of bread, add about a teaspoon of Dijon mustard (or to taste).
- In a clean pan, melt about 1 tbsp of butter. Place one slice of bread in pan, Dijon side up. Top with ½ cup of cheese, then the apple slices, then about 2 tbsp of caramelized onion mixture, then ½ cup of cheese, then another slice of bread Dijon side down. Cover the pan and let toast about 2 minutes or until bread is browned and cheese has started to melt.
- Using a large spatula, flip the sandwich and let toast for about 2 minutes on the other side. I like to add additional butter before placing the sandwich back in the pan.
- You could butter the bread ahead of time and skip adding butter to the pan.
- Use a big spatula or your sandwich will fall apart.
- Cover the pan so the cheese melts
- Put cheese on the top and the bottom of your ingredients so they stick.
If you make this recipe, be sure to tag @thatzestlife in your photo! I would love to see what you made!
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