Happy National Grilled Cheese Month! (Yes, there really is such a thing.)
What is it about grilled cheese? If you looked up the definition of comfort food, you may just find a picture of a grilled cheese sandwich, because it easily evokes memories of childhood. Just the mention of the words is enough to make your tummy rumble with longing and delight. You can almost smell the melty, hot cheese enclosed between two slices of crispy, buttered bread. To honor this timeless classic, let’s take a look at some of its more interesting facts.
- The Ancient Romans were the first civilization to make a cooked bread and cheese type sandwich. Many cultures since have invented their own take on the dish. In Switzerland it is customary to toast the bread and melt the cheese separately before combining them, while in France the Croque Monsieur (grilled ham and cheese sandwich) is popular.
- When affordable sliced bread and inexpensive cheese became available in the U.S. in the 1920’s, the grilled cheese became a household staple. At the time it was prepared a little differently, open-faced and topped with shredded American cheese.
- In the 1960’s, the grilled cheese as we know it emerged when the second slice of bread became a standard part of the sandwich.
- The actual term “grilled cheese” doesn’t make an appearance in print until the 1960’s. Before then it was all “melted cheese” or “toasted cheese” sandwiches.
- The most popular additions to a grilled cheese sandwich are bacon, ham and tomato.
- In 2012 during a contest in Texas, a Japanese competitive eater ate 13 grilled cheese sandwiches in only 60 seconds.
- In the 1993 movie, “Benny and Joon,” you may recall seeing Johnny Depp use a clothes iron to make a grilled cheese sandwich. Though that is not the recommended method, it does go to show that there is not just one way to cook a grilled cheese. Many use the stove top, but pre-toasting and baking is another method used.
Laura Werlin, author of Grilled Cheese Please!, offers these techniques for making a grilled cheese.
- Instead of slicing the cheese, grate it.
- Butter the bread, not the pan.
- Use a non-stick pan.
- To melt the cheese faster and prevent the bread from burning, cover the sandwich for most of the cooking.
- Before digging in, allow the sandwich to sit for 5 minutes to cool just enough to be able to taste all the flavors.
Grilled cheese can be transformed in innumerable ways, as the only necessary components are the cheese and bread. So get creative! Even at the most basic level you can transform your sandwich by simply substituting a higher-quality cheese and/or bread. Try adding different oils, meats and even vegetables for extra flair. While Fill Your Plate doesn’t have a grilled cheese recipe, we have some classic comfort food recipes you’ll enjoy, here. We’ve also included a couple of recipes from allrecipes.com to help you get started.
Ingredients: (makes 4 servings)
- 8 slices bacon
- 1/4 cup butter, softened
- 8 slices white bread
- 8 slices American cheese
- 8 slices tomato
- Place bacon in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium high heat until evenly brown. Drain, and set aside.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Spread butter onto one side of each slice of bread. Lay 4 slices of bread, butter side down, in the skillet. Top with a slice of cheese, 2 slices tomato, bacon, and another slice of cheese. Cover with a slice of bread, butter side out. Fry sandwiches until golden on both sides.
Ingredients: (makes 2 sandwiches)
- 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
- 4 slices white bread
- 2 slices American cheese
- 1 roma (plum) tomato, thinly sliced
- 1/4th small onion, chopped
- 1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
- Heat a large skillet over low heat. Spread butter or margarine onto one side of two slices of bread. Place both pieces buttered side down in the skillet. Lay a slice of cheese on each one, and top with slices of tomato, onion and jalapeno. Butter one side of the remaining slices of bread, and place on top buttered side up. When the bottom of the sandwiches are toasted, flip and fry until brown on the other side.
Join us in celebrating National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Month by cooking one up your favorite way and serving with a delicious, piping-hot bowl of tomato soup! Mmm Mmm, good!