There’s something about winter that makes you crave comfort. And in the comfort category, few meals can top the combination of melted cheese and perfectly toasted bread. Not to mention that the grilled cheese is one of the easiest (and cheapest!) sandwiches to make at home. It’s the perfect lunch on a chilly day; or add a bowl of soup and have dinner ready in a flash. And with these creative takes on the old standby, you never have to get bored!
1. The Classic, Upgraded
• Sourdough Bread
• 3 Cheeses
• Caramelized Onions + Tomato
This is the grilled cheese of your childhood, all grown up. Start by caramelizing half an onion (or do the quick and dirty version where you sauté it until browned, then add a bit of water and cook covered for 5 minutes). Next, assemble your sandwich like so: bread, cheese, onions, tomato slices, cheese, bread, and grill. We like the combo of American, Cheddar and Gouda, but use your favorites, this sandwich is all about indulging.
Suggested Beer Pairing: English Pale Ale
2. The Green Goddess
• Silver Hills Sprouted Grain Bread
• Field Roast Creamy Original Vegan
• Chao* + Green Goddess Pesto + Avocado
No meat? No dairy? No one will even notice in this vegan-friendly stunner of a sandwich. Start by making the green goddess dressing: puree 1 clove garlic, 1/2 a small shallot, 1 tsp. lemon juice, 1/4 cup olive oil, and a handful of herbs and greens of your choice (parsley, chives, basil, kale, spinach, etc.) in a food processor ’til smooth. Spread 1 Tbsp. of the pesto on one slice of bread. Add chao in lieu of cheese if going vegan; or use your favorite cheese, sliced avocado and more cheese/ chao before closing it with the other slice of bread. Grill to perfection.
Suggested beer pairing: Kolsch
*What is Chao? Field Roast Chao Slices make a great vegan cheese substitute and are a take on chao tofu, a fermented soybean curd popular throughout Asia.
3. The Savory Seasonal
• Rustica Fruit & Nut Bread
• Brie + Brussels Sprouts
• Apple + Bacon
Rustica Bakery’s Fruit & Nut bread is the perfect backdrop to this sandwich, which is literally spilling over with late-fall goodness. Thinly slice some Brussels sprouts and sauté them in a bit of butter until browned. Fry up your bacon and drain on paper towels. Thinly slice your apple-choose a tart variety like Granny Smith. Then layer like so: bread, brie, Brussels sprouts, apple, bacon, brie, bread and grill.
Suggested beer pairing: Althier or Brown Ale
4. The Sweet Surprise
• Challah + Mascarpone
• Nocciolata Organic Hazelnut Spread
Who says you can’t have a sandwich for breakfast? Or dessert for that matter?
Use challah (available every Friday at the Wedge and Wedge Table) or another rich bread. Spread one slice with 2 Tbsp. mascarpone and the other with 2 Tbsp. of chocolate hazelnut spread. Assemble sandwich and grill ’til done. Finish with a sprinkling of powdered sugar and fresh fruit.
Suggested beer pairing: Sweet or Oatmeal Stout
5. The Wheatless Wonder
• Wedge Made Gluten Free bread
• Feta + Red Pepper Jam + Arugula
Spread one slice of bread with red pepper jam and then layer in the cheeses and grill. Split open the sandwich and add the arugula right at the end so it maintains its fresh flavor.
Suggested beer pairing: Indian Pale Ale (IPA)
This Way to Your Best Grilled Cheese Yet
Whether you’re trying these recipes or striking out on your own, here are five tried-and-true tips to ensure grilled cheese perfection.
Work with the right ingredients. That means choosing a bread that can stand up to the process. A toothsome, country-style loaf works best. And make sure to use cheeses that melt well; goat cheese and blue cheeses are too crumbly, Parmesan too dry. But they’ll work if you pair them with a melty cheese-like a Cheddar, Swiss or Brie.
Choose a nonstick skillet. You won’t have to use as much fat, which means no more soggy sandwiches!
Use butter, oil and salt to coat your skillet before adding the bread. The combo of oil and butter keeps the pan from smoking, and the salt gives you a perfectly seasoned sandwich. (You can skip it if you use salted butter).
Moderate heat is key. The best grilled cheeses are brown and crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside. The way to achieve this without burning the bread is to cook over medium heat, swirling the sandwich every now and then to get that perfect, deep-brown color.
If you need to, finish it off in the oven. Your bread is browned but the cheese isn’t perfectly melted yet? Stick it in a 400-degree oven for a few minutes. Voila! Grilled Cheese Nirvana.