In Search of Comfort & Good Grilled Cheese


(I have a feeling that I’ve written about this sort of thing before…)

Last week was a little rough around the edges: new schedules, unfortunate news, changing weather and a lot of things up in the air. When the going gets rough, the rough start craving foods that make them feel safe, warm and cuddled.

Remember, everything is fine in moderation: even comfort food.

So when it was my turn to grocery shop this weekend I loaded my list with comforting food that fit the change in the weather and were sure to sooth. Dishes including pot roast with potatoes and carrots, sausage with peppers and onions, chicken and broccoli roulade and stuffed meat load with glazed carrots will grace our table this week and  get us through the bumps in the road.

But to start things off, Sunday was soup and sandwich night.

I pulled out a container of the Borscht I’d made too much of while testing the recipe for Raiding Party and left it to defrost and simmer on the stove while I prepped the sandwiches. (This borscht, by the way, is based on a medieval Russian sour soup recipe and features 3 types of meat, lots of vegetables and a wine broth–it’s very hearty!) I can’t fully explain why (other than the general craving for comfort foods), but I’d been wanting a good grilled cheese sandwich for a couple of weeks.

Grilled cheese sandwiches are fairly simple, right? Butter both sides of two pieces of bread, place cheese between and cook until golden brown and melty.  Still, sometimes the simplest things can use a few tips…

Grilled Cheese Confidential

  • Make things easy on yourself, soften your butter first. Or, if you prefer, use a butter spread (we like Brummel & Brown yogurt spread). Point being, if you’re fighting with the bread there could be holes and holes mean the cheesy goodness can spill out (the horror!). Just 20 seconds in the microwave can soften a stick of unsalted butter, it’s worth the effort.
  • Speaking of bread, use a nice bakery bread. If you don’t want to bake your own, that’s fine, but some nice Italian sandwich, potato or honey wheat can really bring the sandwich up a bit, not to mention handle a wider variety of cheeses.
  • White bread and American singles might be what we were raised on, but there’s a lot of cheese out there deserving of the Welsh Rarebit treatment. Choose a cheese that melts well and has a good flavor. Stouter breads (such as rye or pumpernickel) can stand up to a good sharp cheddar or even a blue cheese while Havarti melds almost seamlessly with Italian or French breads (that’s what we had Sunday–delicious!).
  • If you like grilled cheese but think it might need just a little something extra, spread a thin layer of Dijon mustard on the inside of one of the buttered slices. You don’t need much, just a little will impart a tang that’s better than salting your sandwich.
  • Keep the heat low and slow to allow the cheese to melt as the outside of the bread turns golden. Too high a heat will scorch those butter solids and turn your toast black before the cheese has had a chance to get nice and gooey! I like to use our electric griddle set at 200F-250F since it’s much easier to control the temperature plus you get a larger surface than the usual frying pan.
  • Finally, if you’re prone to include anything else in your sandwich (crispy bacon, deli ham or tomatoes), keep a half-inch border of cheese around any inclusions so that the edges will seal and your sandwich won’t go to pieces in your hand when you try to eat it.

How do you like your grilled cheese?