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Grilled Cheese - favorite variations?

Cooking lunch for some friends this weekend and wanted to try a non-classic grilled cheese. Favorite twists?

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  1. Caramelized onions and blue cheese (Maytags my fave).
    Cheddar and apple or pear.

    Here are some other ideas:

    1. I've found that after buttering the bread, press the buttered side into some grated parmigiano or pecorino before grilling. It totally adds to the texture and flavor. Crispy cheesy salty bread.

      Try stuffing with brie and pears...or taleggio with roasted eggplant or roasted peppers and garlic...or bacon, spinach and white cheddar...etc.

      1. brie and thinly sliced apples or pears
        brie and raspberry jam or fig preserves
        manchego and serrano ham
        really creamy gouda and thin slices of kosher dills
        pepper jack and mango chutney or peach preserves

          1. any meat, or tuna. along with a strong, pungent cheese.

            1. bacon, mayonnaise and pickles with cheddar..

              1. One of the secrets is to use a really tasty bread, like sourdough, multigrain, or even cinnamon raisin bread.

                I also melt the butter in the pan, as I keep it in the fridge and it's cold when I go to use it, so melting it first, then adding the sandwich works really well. Also if you use a press on it guarantees a uniform melt and brown crust.

                I like to use a combo of cheese in one sandwich, like Havarti, smoked fontina and cheddar. Or Swiss, meunster and goat cheese.

                1. American cheese with a few slices of Friederich's or Hebrew National center cut tongue.

                  1. I did something similar about 2 weeks ago (although just for the 2 of us):
                    I made 5 kinds:
                    - goat cheese and honey
                    - raclette and honey
                    - bacon, caramelized onions and blue cheese
                    - apple, walnut, caramelized onions and Manchego
                    - and bacon, salami, apple, and mild cheddar with some sun dried tomato oil

                    They were all great, but my SO liked the apple, walnut, caramelized and Manchego the best... I can't pick.... I loved them all. Just use good quality bread and good quality high end cheese (no prepackaged sliced stuff) and you can't go wrong. I also spread butter and bacon grease (on the ones with bacon) on both sides of each slice of bread for extra yumminess.

                    1. Sharp Provolone and Sopressata (or Genoa Salami)
                      Blue Cheese (any kind) and crisp bacon
                      American Cheese, Bacon and Tomato
                      Brie, really good ham and thinly sliced pear

                      1. Smoked Gouda, grilled ham and frisee.

                        I like the idea of the fresh parm on the outside.

                        1. With a smear of traditional basil pesto, sundried tomato pesto, or olive tapenade (or combination of those). Great for adding flavor. Open-faced topped with arugula, spinach, baby greens dressed with vinaigrette. I had a great one once with a mix of roasted tomatoes and fresh tomatoes, some leafy green, and a garlic aoli type deal.

                          1. I like asiago and kimchi on good multi-grain bread. I always make grilled cheese on multi-grain, because it adds texture.

                            I also like fontina with black olive tapenade (I use a vegetarian version with no anchovies) and arugula.

                            1. Add some roasted red bell peppers that have been dressed with olive oil. If you do not do the roasting yourself, and buy roasted red pepper in a jar, rinse them of the liquid in which they came if it is something other than olive oil.

                              1. some i've played with...

                                -gruyere with yam chips and sage
                                -ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan with sundried tomato tapenade and basil
                                -goat cheese, brie, bacon, tomatoes, roasted garlic, walnuts, and frisee or arugula
                                -mozzarella, cheddar, goat cheese and blue cheese with caramelized onions on pumpernickel.
                                -and simple as best, cheddar, jack and swiss on sourdough or wheat

                                1. Thomas Keller has a "recipe" in Ad Hoc at home for grilled cheese on brioche with gruyere and lots of butter; it's amazing.

                                  I agree with Phurstluv that it's necessary to use good bread; I usually get some from a local bakery here in Chicago. Pesto, tomato, and mozzarella on french bread is probably my favorite.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: caseyjo

                                    That sounds yum city, would you post the specifics?

                                    1. re: Funwithfood

                                      he suggests you make your own brioche... go for it if you like. cut bread into 1/4 inch slices. sandwich with 1 1/2 oz of gruyere. melt butter in pan, brown sandwich on both side, then stick in the oven to melt the cheese. voila.

                                      1. re: Emme

                                        Found the written recipe for anyone interested...

                                        The Grilled Cheese Sandwich
                                        We ran a recipe for Mrs. Citron's "Living to Cook" earlier in a story announcing the Crate fundraiser. Here is one to try from Thomas Keller's "Ad Hoc at Home." It's not quite spaghetti with onions and cottage cheese, nor as challenging as other recipes in his book, but he writes that grilled cheese "was a fixture of my youth and still factors in my cooking." The recipe in the book calls for homemade brioche and sweet potato chips, and gives those recipes, should you want to seek them out.

                                        -- Margi Shrum

                                        12 1/2-inch-thick slices brioche
                                        8 to 10 ounces thinly sliced Gruyere
                                        6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
                                        Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

                                        Lay 6 slices of bread on a work surface. Divide the cheese evenly among them and top with the remaining pieces of bread.

                                        Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter and cook to brown the butter. Add half the sandwiches and cook until browned on the first side, about 1 1/2 minutes. Turn the sandwiches over and brown the second side for 30 to 45 seconds. Transfer to a baking sheet, and spread 1 teaspoon of the remaining butter over the top of each sandwich. Put the baking sheet into the oven to finish cooking and melting the cheese, about 2 minutes. Cook the remaining sandwiches the same way and finish in the oven.

                                        Transfer the sandwiches to a cutting board, cut off the crusts and cut each sandwich into quarters. Stack on a serving plate and serve with the chips.

                                        Serves 6.

                                        -- "Ad Hoc at Home" by Thomas Keller (Artisan, $50)

                                        Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09323/...

                                  2. The Penguin restaurant in Charlotte does a Pimento Grilled Cheese sandwich that is simple but fantastic. Favorite cheese grated (cheddar, jack or comb), diced roasted peppers (jarred or home made), crisp bacon, sliced tomato (optional), and grilled on texas toast.

                                    Gotta serve it with Tomato soup though (IMHO).

                                    1. I usually use different sheep cheeses for my grilled cheese sandwiches, but here a few favorites:
                                      1. Canestrato Pepato (an aged sheep milk cheese with whole pepper corns) with roast beef
                                      2. Sila Peperoncino (a sheep cheese with crushed red pepper) on ciabata bread- goes great with a creamy tomato soup
                                      3. Aged pecorino (such a Pecorino Sardo Maturo) with fig or quince jam
                                      4. Prosciutto with Sila Peperoncino on sourdough bread

                                      1. Ham and cheese and tomato and avocado, grilled sourdough. Fine without the ham as well.

                                        1. I like crispy fried bacon, drained on paper towel of course. 2 slices rye bread, 1-2 slices swiss cheese, add bacon..Butter both sides of sandwich..grill in fry pan..um-m-m good..

                                          1. Last time I made one, I used a ciabatta roll with chevre and some blue cheese (bleu d'Auvergne). Of course, I managed to blacken the roll. It still came out pretty well. Just had kind of a smokey taste to it. :)

                                            1. My secret for amazing grilled cheese is slathering a bit of mayo and mustard on the cheese side. The cheese melds with the flavors and keeps everything all gooey.

                                              1. When I'm in a damn-the-calories mood and have the wherewithal it's cheddar on both sides and liverwurst in the middle on buttered sourdough. A less life-threatening variant is very sharp cheddar and peanut butter. When I was young and thought I'd be that skinny forever I used to get a big fat grilled cheese sandwich from the snack bar near the barracks (in the Air Force at the time) and an order of their fat greasy fries, take it all back to my room, and stuff as many fries into the sandwich as it would hold. Oink oink. But aside from that I stay away from inserting any but the principal ingredients into a GC sandwich. Thin slices of tomato between cheeses might be nice, though …

                                                1. smoked turkey, gouda, thinly-sliced pear, with a mango chutney blended with mayo and grainy mustard in roughly equal parts, on bread of choice (we liked toasted multi-grain). butter the outside to grill, and keep the sandwich pressed down with a weight so all ingredients really get squished together (forgive the heady technical language here).

                                                  1. Branston pickle and bacon
                                                    Coriander chutney, tomatoes and onions

                                                    1. Simply, good sharp cheddar or gruyere and smoked ham, whole grain mustard, on raisin bread, "buttered" with bacon fat.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. I infuse some EVOO with chopped garlic. Then I brush two slices of Borodinsky bread on both sides with the garlic infused EVOO. Borodinsky is a hearty Russian rye bread flavored with coriander. I then add Havarti dill cheese and grill the bread till the cheese oozes out.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. Mix of smoked cheeses (gouda, mozzarella, whatever), honey mustard, and sauteed mushrooms (thyme and white wine, last time) on sturdy wholegrain bread.

                                                          1. The Irish pub lunch menu staple "cheese and onion toastie" is simple and delicious. Use a good Irish cheddar, finely diced sweet onion and good white bread (a nice multigrain is a fine and healthier alternative). The toastie is also touted for its hangover-curative powers.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: EM23

                                                              LOL, EM23! Being of Irish descent, I was lead to believe that ANY food, other than spaghetti & meatballs, was a hangover cure!

                                                            2. To me, the most important thing is plenty of butter. I sometimes even brown the butter a bit first before the sandwich goes in.

                                                              Smoky is good. Smokey horseradish sauce is great on a grilled cheese, as is my old teenage favorite- mayo on one side, Dijon mustard on the other. Another superb one for grilled cheeses (and the absolute best for BLTs) is Durkees Famous Sauce.

                                                              I think Thomas Keller's idea of browning the outside first and finishing in the oven is marvelous- one of those simple things that make me say, "I should've thought of that myself!"
                                                              They say true genius is having the idea so good that it seems obvious once it's been suggested. Keller's the real thing.

                                                              Muenster is my favorite melting cheese. Makes a great grilled cheese. Of course, it's difficult to make a bad grilled cheese. Many's the time I've had American on cheap foamy white bread.
                                                              I do most often prefer just cheese, but on good bread with mayo. Cheddar, Provolone, Gruyere (try Comté sometime!), Jack or Pepperjack, Gouda, all work very well solo for the purists (and as I've said, usually I'm one of them). They all also combine well with raw onion, browned onion, or slices of apple or pear.

                                                              A few of my other favorite combos (some already suggested):
                                                              Provolone with some prosciutto is great; plenty of cheese and just a bit of meat.
                                                              Cheddar , bacon and apple.
                                                              Smoked Gouda and turkey with apricot mustard.
                                                              Pepperjack with a thin smear of guava jelly.
                                                              Brie with a little seedless raspberry jam.
                                                              Bleu cheese toasted open-faced with ripe pear and a little orange marmalade. (Does that still qualify as a grilled cheese, though?)

                                                              And I've got to try Novelli's suggestion of Parmesan or Romano on the outside of the sandwich. Brilliant.

                                                              1. Make it how you like but add ...

                                                                I like to toast the bread with fresh garlic in olive oil on both sides then begin to make the sandwich. Instead of using butter or margarine. Possibly add a bit of crispy bacon for flavor to the inside with the melted cheese it doesn't take much only a few bits to add lots of flavor. With the bacon and cheese I would like oven-dried tomatoes (the moisture has been partially removed intensifying flavors with salt and pepper maybe a bit of oregano and sweet basil on top).

                                                                Much more than that and it would no longer be considered grilled cheese.

                                                                Born on Saint Patrick's day Love Rubens but that is another story ...

                                                                ~ SMaki

                                                                1. Bread-Balthazar miche
                                                                  Mustard-Mr Mustard, or Maille whole grain unpasteurized
                                                                  Cheese-Emmi cave-aged gruyere
                                                                  Tomato- In season only

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. Buttered challah, yellow mustard, Swiss cheese, ham, roasted pork and dill pickle slices. Press down on when "grilling". Slice on the diagonal and serve hot.


                                                                    Add Genoa salami for a Tampa variation.

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: CDouglas

                                                                      Sounds like a media noche (Cuban sandwich) to this Miami ex-pat.

                                                                    2. A hearty whole wheat that has body, when buttered becomes a wonderfully crunchy toasty bread with the best crunch. I love Fontina, the best cheese for meltiness, perfect ooziness.
                                                                      Now if you wanted to add some interesting components, a few thinly sliced scallions with prosciutto.

                                                                      1. One hint I read here that I have used ever since is to use mayo on the outside of the sandwich. Slip in pan and then mayo the other side before turning. It makes the bread nice and crisp.

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Siobhan

                                                                          The bread gets crisp because the vegetable oil in most mayo has a decently high smoke point. Compare using melted bacon fat in the pan with garlic almost smoking and may find can get it crisper faster with more heat and better flavor (without worry about cancer for you and the family from fumes cooking at home using smoked vegitable oil of any kind without a good ventilation hood). High heat frying if want it crisp fast should be done with saturated fat because unsaturated vegitable fats given too much heat turn into polymers (plastic) at their smoke point which can result in lung cancer in people like us.

                                                                          1. re: Siobhan

                                                                            I do the mayo on the outside of the bread along with the grated parmesan that somebody mentioned above. Yum. Inside - usually some combo of cheddar / mozzarella / bacon / onions. Sometimes some roast beef or pastrami and provolone. Tuna and cheddar is also good.

                                                                          2. Jalapeno popper grilled cheese. Made it this weekend, and wow - so yummy.
                                                                            Lots of interesting grilled cheese on this blog.

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: sgogo

                                                                              Wow indeed. That looks amazing. And served with Guacamole, brilliant ! I know what my next grilled cheese is going to be...

                                                                              Thanks sgogo.

                                                                              1. re: PoppiYYZ

                                                                                No prob. And judging from your username, the blogger's a local for you too!

                                                                            2. i have two favorites: cheddar and thinly sliced granny smith apple on a hearty whole wheat wiwth mustard, one slice with grainy mustard, the other, dijon.

                                                                              tomato (plum, if out of season), fresh mozzarella and pesto on ciabatta.

                                                                              1. I had a really good one the other day...smoked gouda, Morningstar veggie bacon, Trader Joe's Sweet and Hot mustard, and arugula on sourdough. It was pretty spectacular.

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. Grilled pimento & cheese with sliced d'mater.....

                                                                                  1. My grandmother's specialty: homemade dark bread + homemade pesto + thickly-sliced tomatoes (from her garden) + super sharp cheddar; open-faced, broiled.

                                                                                    So, so, so good.

                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: sfumato

                                                                                      Sounds very good, but without the buttered bread seared on the flat top or pan, I think you are in a different category... ;-)

                                                                                      1. re: PoppiYYZ

                                                                                        Naw, "grilled cheese" is such a loose term! Also, you can put it together and sear it, then open it back up, if that suits you better ;).