This is definitely the time of year when you get to thinking about a hearty bowl of steaming soup and a grilled cheese sandwich for dinner. If you're tired of the same old bread and Kraft slice, cookbook author Alison Lewis may have a solution for you. You may remember Alison from her first book, 400 Best Sandwich Recipes. For her second tome, she has focused on only the best in cheesy goodness, with 150 Best Grilled Cheese Recipes.
I know what you're thinking, "That's a helluva lot of grilled cheese variations." But Lewis actually stretches the definition to include breakfast sandwiches, beef, chicken, pork, vegetarian and even seafood varieties to give you cheese options no matter what your mood or the time of the day. There's also a dessert section that features some nice mascarpone and ricotta recipes.
The book is filled with tips on how to select the best melting cheeses like Colby, Fontina, Gouda, Gruyère and my personal favorite, Havarti. Lewis doesn't shy away from the stinky cheeses either, with some great sandwiches that feature blue and goat cheeses.
Lower fat options are also discussed, as well as ways to involve children in creating one of the easiest dishes for the beginner kitchen. I must admit that I was disappointed that there was no mention of the cooking device that I used to prepare most of my meals in the early 1990s, the Snackmaster. Mmm ... triangle sandwiches. And eggs. And pizza.
Another noted cheese maven, Laura Werlin, was also kind enough to share an outstanding cheese sandwich recipe with us here at Bites recently. I met her at the Cochon BBQ competition last month in Memphis, and she gave me her secret to the pimento cheese at Blackberry Farm. I can't think of many things that would be better than sitting in a rocking chair in Walland, Tenn., looking at the fall foliage while munching on one of these sandwiches, but since that's pretty unlikely to ever happen on a freelance food writer's wages, I'll have to whip one of these up and watch the possums fight over my trash cans in the alley.
Pimento Grilled Cheese
A trip to the magnificent Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tenn., convinced me that as a Californian, I’d grown up without one of the most important yet basic cheese-related foods ever invented: pimento cheese. The Blackberry Farm version uses their flagship sheep’s milk cheese called Singing Brook, but the recipe is no less spectacular with cheddar. The celery is my nod to the oft-found accompaniment to pimento cheese.
¾ cup Pimento Cheese from Blackberry Farm (recipe follows)
½ cup coarsely chopped celery
2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
8 slices brioche (or use egg bread or challah)
1. In a medium bowl, mix together the pimento cheese and celery.
2. Spread butter on one side of each slice of bread. Place 4 slices of bread, buttered side down, on your work surface. Spread the cheese mixture on the bread. Top with the remaining bread slices, buttered side up
3. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat for 2 minutes. Put the sandwiches into the pan, cover, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the undersides are golden brown.
4. Turn the sandwiches, pressing each one firmly with a spatula to flatten slightly. Cover and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the undersides are well browned. Remove the cover, turn the sandwiches once more, and press firmly with the spatula once again.
5. Cook for 1 minute, or until the cheese is warmed through completely and the bread is crisp. Remove from the pan and let cool for 5
minutes. Cut in half and serve.
Pimento Cheese from Blackberry Farm (Makes about 3 cups)
Note: This recipe makes more than you will need for the sandwiches. Serve the extra with celery sticks or crackers. It will keep, refrigerated, for about 2 weeks.
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
6 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons dill pickle brine
1½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Frank’s Red Hot sauce (or use your favorite hot sauce)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup finely chopped red bell peppers (or use red pimentos from a jar, drained)
1 pound cheddar cheese (preferably aged), finely grated
1. In a medium bowl, mix together the garlic, mayonnaise, pickle brine, mustard, hot sauce, salt, and black pepper.
2. Stir in the red peppers and cheese, and mix well.