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An Extraordinary Grilled Cheese Sandwich is... [moved from General Chowhounding Topics]

My concoction is simple - fresh challah bread smothering both sides with good butter (preferably Plugra), stuffing regular good old-fashioned velveeta between the bread & slices of maple cured applewood smoked ham. The success of this extraordinary sandwich is taking your sweet 'ol time grilling it & I use an "exclusive" fry pan that I inherited from my late "Gourmet Grandmother," which is a well seasoned 1974 All-Clad; believe it or not, it's in better shape than most of my alternate (newer) cookware . I use the lowest setting on my Wolf cooktop & the long wait is well worth the oh-so-gooey result !

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  1. sounds good...well except the ham...(ham on challah? my grandmother would roll over in her grave)
    BUT i bet i still burn it...i have never met a grilled cheese i haven't burnt.
    do you think it would still be extraordinary if i used the broiler?

    38 Replies
    1. re: mowarsh

      Margarine on the outside instead of butter doesn't burn as fast. I use margarine when I'm not trying to be all gourmet about it. Maybe clarified butter or ghee would work well.

      1. re: mainsqueeze

        hmmm... i never even thought about margarine...i'll give it a try thanks.

        1. re: mowarsh

          I only use butter, just turn the heat down so the sandwich cooks low and slow and the butter and sugars in the4 bread have a chance to meld and caramelize.

        2. re: mainsqueeze

          Sorry, but I was born & reared with "real" butter. No-can-do the other stuff, i.e.
          mar·ga·rine ... a butterlike product made of refined vegetable oils, sometimes blended with animal fats, and emulsified, usually with water - its own definition on dictionary dot com even is unappetizing - sorry - it's all butter for me & the sad part is, folks actually believe that by not using real butter they're saving money &/or calories, which in untrue. The only loss is taste.

          1. re: mainsqueeze

            Clarified butter is perfect; some ghee is milder than other, a more strongly flavored one might not work with all cheese equally...

            1. re: MikeG

              I'm confused. Ghee is clarified butter. Are you referring to certain brands more strongly flavored than others? Wouldn't that be the same if you made your own with different butters?

              1. re: gourmanda

                All ghee is clarified butter, but not all clarified butter is ghee. Ghee is cooked longer to drive the moisture off, and to some extent to toast the milk solids for added flavor. Imported ghee like other imported dairy is made from "different" milk, but it's also treated differently, cultured differently, etc., - certainly from American butter and different if not as dramatically as some European butter. Clarified butter on the other hand was traditionally made from sweet, not heavily cultured, milk and the butterfat strained off once everything melted, rather than cooking long/hard enough to boil it all off. It was made not for long term storage in a hot climate, but for the practical purpose of high heat cooking with butter instead of or in addition to oil; it doesn't really come up a lot in typical home cooking, most uses for butter would involve wetter ingredients or added liquid, which slow down the browning, or burning, process so the food cooks before the butter burns...

                1. re: MikeG

                  Thank you for such a complete response! My studies of Hinduism never delved that deeply into the makeup of ghee. Thanks!

                  1. re: gourmanda

                    Just FYI, Hinduism is a religion, not a culture or cuisine. Cooks all over the subcontinent (of many different religions) use ghee, not just Hindus. And there are tons of different cuisines within different Hindu communities.

              2. re: mainsqueeze

                one should never replace butter with margarine IMHO. I'd rather have a little char than no butter taste.

                1. re: mainsqueeze

                  If you are burning butter while making a grilled cheese you are doing it wrong. Also, real butter tastes better and doesn't have any hydrogenated fat.

                  And Velveeta!? Processed cheese-like product?... Must, must, MUST use real cheese. How about some mild cheddar, or a mix of a few different cheeses?

                  1. re: Kevitivity

                    I adore real cheese on grilled cheese, but one of the comfort foods I grew up with was velveeta between slices of wonder bread, slathered with butter, fried golden brown and pressed down with a weight my grandfather made specifically for my grandmother at the machine shop where he worked. That plus a bowl of Campbell's cream of tomato soup made with whole milk and a knob of butter added upon serving was the lunch I always got when I was home sick. I have it now and then now, and I still enjoy it. I don't mistake it for fine cuisine, but it's still yummy to me. :)

                    1. re: Morganna

                      Morganna - I couldn't agree with you more. I spend an insane amount of $$$ on cheeses in any market I go in & even more cheese wacky, when I designed my new kitchen, the architect & I worked with the fine folks at Subzero & with all of our minds together, we accomplished what I call "my cheese drawer" (& beneath it a produce drawer) refrigerated, yet separate from my actual refrigerator & in my favorite drawer, you'll find an array of fine cheeses, including none other than the classic "processed" Velveeta; however, I will add, that my NEWEST favorite (cheese) find is ...Tartufello - Tuscan Raw Milk Pecorino with Truffle - it's divine!

                      1. re: JayVaBeach

                        There is a place for both fine artisanal cheeses and Velveeta in the world. I actually feel a bit sorry for those who feel otherwise.

                        1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                          I'm pretty sure the place for velveeta in this world is in my mouth! Can't have it right now, though. I'd have to report it to the dietitian and she'd have a minor heart attack. Though the wonderful thing is this month's meeting is the LAST one! YAY! :)

                          1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                            I don't feel sorry for anyone loving cheese - to each's own! I thank God that He created us all different, yet equal!

                        1. re: Kevitivity

                          Why *must must* you use real cheese? I love a good quality cheese as much as the next hound, but every ingredient has a time and a place, no matter how god-awful it might be. For example, if I'm barbecuing burgers at home, only a couple slices of Kraft singles tossed on those bad boys will fully satisfy my craving; an aged cheddar might be utterly delicious, but in that case, it wouldn't be my first choice and I'd find it disappointing. It's just like sometimes I want a pitcher of homemade freshly squeezed lemonade with sugar syrup and sprigs of mint, and other times, I would eagerly trade that for a glass of lemon kool-aid mixed up from powder.

                      2. re: mowarsh

                        Yes - your grandmother would be right grinding in her grave as my little concoction certainly isn't kosher, but as a full blown WASPrince here, it goes hand-in-hand in my culture. It's also a Virginian tradition to include ham when indulging.

                        1. re: mowarsh

                          good news is that no MOT has Velveeta in the fridge, blech.

                          all grilled cheese with good bread sauteed to a golden brown, crispy exterior, with beautifully melted cheese is as good as it gets.

                          Add to that ripe tomato, some crispy bacon, good quality ham, etc.

                          but it starts with good cheese and slowly cooked to brown the bread properly.

                          1. re: jfood

                            I get teased all of the time regarding my Velveeta fridge staple, but it's one of those old college staples that I've never given up; however, I'm all so willing to experiment, especially when it comes to CHEESE & that I do!

                            1. re: JayVaBeach

                              jfoods mom made macaroni and cheese with the Big V and then jfood tried as an early newlywed. absolutely disgusted him.

                              like many things, childhood food memories should stay put.

                              1. re: jfood

                                I still love kraft singles on rye with red onions. Terrible, no? A childhood memory that won't go away!

                                1. re: jfood

                                  I disagree jfood, as there are many immature ingredients that make a dish special, i.e. Jif extra crunchy; however, in my Mac & Cheese, only the finest Cheddar, Gruyere & Pecorino Romano all freshly grated will do. No Velveeta in my Mac & Cheese!

                                  1. re: JayVaBeach

                                    jfood thinks we are in agreement. momma jfood made mac and cheese with V and jfood liked it as a little guy. Now V turns his stomach. The three cheeses you describe here sound good, maybe with a little havarti for creminess.

                                    BTW grew up on Jif creamy and now am into skippy lower fat. whodathunkit

                                    1. re: JayVaBeach

                                      I always loved Long Horn Cheese in a GCS. I loved the way it would string when you bit into it. I also adore one made with really good sharp cheddar. A twist I found quite tasty was brie or camenbert on raisin bread and grilled.

                                  2. re: JayVaBeach

                                    I like the finest of cheeses, and I still like Velveeta for some things! You just never mind the snobs. And if it reminds you of a cherished memory, you just cling to it tightly!

                                    Tell me, you do cook the bacon first, don't you?

                                    If you wanted to be bold, maybe try a thin smear of apricot jam?

                                    1. re: JayVaBeach

                                      I've never met a processed cheese food I didn't like, including the kind in the can that you spray at your kids when they bother you at the pool. Cheese is my absolute favorite food and I use it all! Having said that, I like a grill cheese with 8 grain bread, tomato and gorgonzola. In butter.

                                    2. re: jfood

                                      Is velveeta really a 'cheese'? I guess I thot it to be more of a petroleum product, along the lines of cool whip. Surprised that it wd even need refridgeration.

                                      1. re: ElsieB

                                        it's "grilled cheese" cheese <GRIN>

                                        1. re: ElsieB

                                          It doesn't until you open the package. When I was young and inexperienced I went all over the dairy case of my grocery store looking for it, and finally had to ask someone. They directed me to a regular aisle.

                                          1. re: ElsieB

                                            It's cheese with some extra added milk, whey protein and an emulsifier. I know it's cute to look down on Velveeta and all, but the "petroleum product" trope has gotten very old. Ooh, I know, next let's all talk about how Twinkies have a shelf life measured in triple digits! That wouldn't be hacky and smug at all!

                                          2. re: jfood

                                            Slowly cooked.....maybe that is why i burn it....i'm usually in a hurry.

                                          3. re: mowarsh

                                            lol about the challah and ham, my grandma would also be rolling! I still can't get my head around bagels with ham and bacon it somehow doesn't feel right.

                                            1. re: smartie

                                              sorry but I LOVE bacon and cream cheese on a toasted bagel, sorry if it offends anyone!

                                              1. re: chef chicklet

                                                Add some ripe, sliced tomato and lots of freshly ground pepper and I am there! Perfect breakfast for me.

                                          4. One of my favourite grilled cheese sandwiches consists of aged cheddar, red grapes (halved) and slices of apple.

                                            6 Replies
                                            1. re: mainsqueeze

                                              The secret my mom gave me was to use mayo instead of butter. Easier to spread and no really difference in taste I can tell. Of course, that's with kraft singles of course.
                                              I also like prosciutto and gruyere on sliced ciabatta. Brush with olive oil, stick in the oven until golden. YUM!

                                              1. re: wanderluster

                                                I've heard of folks replacing butter with Mayo for grilling cheese sandwiches & possibly I would do it if I were in a pinch; however, Plugra (butter) is something I'm never out of. I do try to stock Duke's mayo at all times as well, as there's nothing better than a summer sandwich of fresh vine ripe tomatoes sliced thinly on fresh Pepperidge Farm original white with Dukes mayo, sea salt & freshly ground black pepper.

                                                1. re: JayVaBeach

                                                  Mayo gets it more crisp and it does not get as greasy as with butter. It is a trick I once heard of and tried. Works really well, although today when I went home for lunch I grilled me up (on Farmer's Market Rosemary Bread) Muenster, Prosciutto with that Trader Joe's margarine in the yellow tub. Came out dee-lishus!
                                                  That tomato sandwich you mention is my absolute fave, too. Except I put it on lightly toasted sourdough (open faced) with Best Foods (slathered on!). Bring out the Best Foods, and bring out the best!! ;-)

                                              2. re: mainsqueeze

                                                YUM! I've made something similar with smoked gouda, sliced green apple and a smear of honey mustard. I must try with grapes next time... that sounds wonderful.

                                                  1. re: mainsqueeze

                                                    After a "Ham on the Street" episode on Food Network extolling the virtues of jam on grilled cheese, I decided to try it. After all, I do eat Monte Christo sandwiches which have cheese, meat, and jam. "Ham" argued that any bread combined with any cheese and any jam/jelly was delicious. Except for a few strange concoctions, he proved himself correct with the average taste tester. Since then, I have tried several concoctions of cheese and jams and have LOVED everyone of them. I try and stay with cheeses that are more subtle like mild/medium cheddars, brie, provolone, mozzerella, and my favorite Babybel.

                                              3. My kids kept insisting that my grilled cheese sandwiches weren't as crunchy as they liked. I finally figured out what I needed: butter the bread and then fry in a hot pan w/ veggie or olive oil. Much crisper exterior while preserving that buttery soft interior! I so love a cheddar and garden tomato grilled cheese! Loaded w/ s&p. ;-)

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: lynnlato

                                                  If you bake them, the outsides get all crunchy and the insides all melty, yum! I know it's not "grilled", but you can also make several sandwiches at once. I make the sandwiches, butter the outside of the bread, place on a cookie sheet, and bake at a fairly high temp (400-425 F. or so) for about 10-15 minutes, until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is melted, flipping the sandwiches half-way through the cooking time. Works great!

                                                2. Pain de Mie from Dean & Deluca, very liberally brushed with olive oil (or, pour olive oil on a plate and press pieces of bread into it), heat skillet until quite hot, place one piece of bread olive oil side down, add grated very high quality gruyere and fontina, in a liberal amount. Add other piece of bread, olive oil side up. Put heavy skillet on top to weigh it town. Check and when bottom piece is nicely browned, flip over and sprinkle some sea salt on top. Weigh down again. When bottom piece is done, sprinkle with a little more sea salt. Cut in half - diagonally. Enjoy.

                                                  I think I gained five pounds in about a week before Christmas after hosting a holiday party that left me with these leftover ingredients.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: MMRuth

                                                    That sounds delightful & I've used a similar method for a more sophisticated version. I do love good gruyere (freshly grated). I live 3.5 hours from the closest Dean & Deluca (Georgetown, DC), so I'm limited to usually ordering from them, which I do often or for physically shopping, it's my neighboring Williams-Sonoma for good quality EVOO. I stock Olivier mostly. I recently used Laurent du Clos Mustard for a Croque-Monsieur, again, we Virginians love our ham & coated the outside with Ina Garten's mornay sauce. It was heavy, yet delicious & my guests enjoyed them & of course Olive Oil Potato Chips on the side.

                                                    1. re: MMRuth

                                                      mmm. I like your grilled cheese sammy! But I have a really bad habit of dipping my grilled cheese sandwhich in ketchup.....ooops.

                                                    2. I use delicious local polish-rye (no caraway), Vermont sharp cheddar, thinly sliced red onion, cilantro sprigs, and sriracha. Its awesome. Bread is buttered on the outside and grilled on a cast iron grill pan, under a weighted frying pan. Pure awesomeness.

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: MaspethMaven

                                                        I think pressing the sandwich is a great idea. I have noticed a marked difference regardless of type of cheese, breads from putting weight on top.

                                                        1. re: MaspethMaven

                                                          Amen on the sriracha! Nothing like the contrast of fire and cream.

                                                          1. re: MaspethMaven

                                                            If you don't want it so squished, grilled cheese comes out perfectly in a cast iron pan with a cover, rather than a weight..