It’s National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day

In honor of the day, try a new variation of this classic comfort food served with piping hot soup

Grilled cheese sandwiches, often accompanied by piping hot tomato soup, make a satisfying meal.

And this is the perfect week to indulge, since Thursday — April 12 — is National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day.

Grilled cheese is one of the top a comfort foods. Everyone has their favorite grilled cheese recipe, whether the sandwich is made with American, cheddar or another type of cheese on white, wheat or whole grain bread.

According to food historians, cooked bread and cheese is an ancient food enjoyed across the world in many cultures.  The modern version of the grilled cheese sandwich originated in the 1920s when inexpensive sliced bread and American cheese became easily available. 

Originally, grilled cheese sandwiches were served open-faced. U.S. government cookbooks describe Navy cooks broiling “American cheese filling sandwiches” during World War II.

Maybe it’s time to try a variation on your favorite basic recipe. Adding a meat or spread to the sandwich will increase the flavor. Trying different breads will also change the basic sandwich.

There are even variations that create a breakfast sandwich, sweet dessert or snack sandwich.

Author Laura Werlin, who has penned two grilled cheese cookbooks, offers variations on the basic grilled cheese recipe, as well as “go-with” side dishes such as deep-fried pickles.

Werlin, an authority on cheeses who won the World Gourmand Award for Best Cheese Book for her book, “Great Grilled Cheese,” offered these tips for making a grilled cheese:

Grate cheese instead of using sliced cheese on the sandwich. Grated cheese melts faster and more evenly. Choose a cheese that melts easily, such as cheddar, fontina or gouda.

Use salted butter for the sandwich, buttering the bread instead of the pan. Thin sliced bread and soft butter work best.

Don’t rush the sandwich. Grill it over medium heat, watching carefully to ensure the cheese melts and the bread crisps.

Cover the frying pan to lock in the heat and help the cheese melt evenly and quickly.

Use a spatula to press down firmly on the sandwich while cooking. Flip the sandwich twice, pressing down each time, to ensure crisp bread.

Following are grilled cheese recipes from the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

 

Grilled Blue Cheese With Fig Jam and Rosemary Butter

4 rosemary leaves

1 tablespoon butter, softened

Scant 1/4 cup blue cheese, crumbled

2 slices cranberry walnut bread

1 tablespoon fig jam

Finely chop rosemary leaves and mix with butter. Sprinkle half of blue cheese evenly over one slice of bread, then carefully spread one tablespoon of fig jam evenly on top. Cover with remaining blue cheese and top with the second slice of bread. 

Place half the butter into pan and heat to medium. As soon as butter starts to melt, place sandwich on top and move around to absorb butter. When the bread becomes golden brown, in three to five minutes, lift sandwich out of pan with a spatula and place remaining butter into pan. Flip sandwich and brown second side. 

When evenly golden and cheese has started to melt, remove from heat and let rest for one minute. Serve.

 

The Monroe

8 thick slices bacon

1 yellow onion, thinly sliced

Salt

Pepper

2 to 3 tablespoons water

8 tablespoons butter

10 to 12 ounces fresh spinach leaves

4 whole-grain baguettes

4 to 8 tablespoons fig jam or preserves

8 ounces limburger cheese, sliced

Heat large skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add bacon and cook until browned and crispy. Drain on paper towels, then set aside.

Reserve 2 tablespoons bacon grease in pan and return to heat. Add onions and pinch of salt and pepper. Sauté onions for five minutes, stirring regularly. Add 1 tablespoon water, stirring to deglaze pan and incorporate any browned bits. Place onions in a bowl.

Return pan to heat and add 1 tablespoon butter and 2 tablespoons water. Bring to simmer, then add spinach and pinch of salt and pepper. Cook three to five minutes to wilt the spinach. Place spinach in a bowl.

Heat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat. Split whole-grain baguettes. On each baguette bottom, spread one to two tablespoons jam, two ounces limburger, spinach leaves, onions and two slices of bacon, then add baguette top. Carefully turn the sandwiches over and butter the bottoms. 

Place sandwiches, bottom-side down, on hot grill, then butter the tops of the baguettes. When bottoms are golden and cheese starts to melt, carefully flip sandwiches and brown sandwiches tops, melting the cheese.

 

Shredded Chicken and Pesto Grilled Cheese

8 slices whole wheat or sourdough bread

4 tablespoons butter, softened

1/4 cup basil pesto

1 cup baby spinach leaves

2 roma tomatoes, sliced

1 cup cooked chicken, shredded

2 cups Alpine-style cheese, grated

Salt 

Pepper

Spread each slice of bread on one side with butter. Place four slices bread on clean, flat surface, buttered-side-down. Spread with thin layer of pesto, then top with spinach, tomatoes, chicken and Alpine-style cheese. Top with second slice of bread, butter-side-up, and press sandwich together.

Heat large sauté pan over medium-low heat. Grill sandwiches in batches, cooking until golden brown on one side. Flip sandwiches over, pressing down with a spatula and browning. Remove from heat and let rest about two minutes.

Cut in half and serve immediately.

 

Tuscan Grilled Cheese

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes

1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, with liquid

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated

8 1/4-inch-thick slices crusty Italian bread

4 tablespoons butter, softened

1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained

2 cups fontina cheese, grated

Heat olive oil in small skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and red pepper and cook two minutes, until garlic is soft and fragrant. Add beans, rosemary, salt and black pepper to taste. Bring to simmer and cook three minutes. Remove from heat and cool briefly. 

Place bean mixture in bowl of food processor along with Parmesan. Process about 30 seconds to form chunky puree.

Lay bread slices on work surface. Spread one side of each slice with butter and turn over. Spread bean mixture equally over four bread slices. Distribute tomatoes over bean mixture, followed by fontina. Place remaining bread slices on top, butter-side-up and press together gently.

Heat non-stick griddle pan over medium-high heat. Place sandwiches, butter-side down, on pan, in two batches if necessary. Press down with heavy skillet or sandwich press. Cook two to three minutes, until golden brown and crisp, then flip and repeat on other side. 

When both sides are golden brown and cheese has melted, remove from pan. Slice each sandwich in half with serrated knife. Serve hot.

 

Breakfast Grilled Cheese

1/2 pound crumbled hot breakfast sausage

6 eggs

1-1/2 teaspoons water

1/2 teaspoon Jane’s Krazy Mixed-up Salt, optional

4 tablespoons butter, softened

1 cup shredded colby cheese

1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

1/2 cup crumbled cotija cheese

8 slices sourdough bread

Fresh baby spinach

Cook sausage in a large skillet over medium-high heat until no longer pink. Drain sausage on paper towel and wipe out skillet.

Whisk eggs, water and salt, if desired, in bowl. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in skillet over medium-high heat, swirling to coat bottom of pan. Add egg mixture, cook and stir until eggs are almost set. Add sausage. Cook and stir until eggs are set. Remove from skillet and keep warm. Wipe out skillet.

Combine cheeses in a bowl. Layer one-quarter egg mixture on four slices of bread. Sprinkle each with cheese mixture. Top with spinach leaves and remaining bread. Spread the outsides of sandwiches with remaining butter.

Toast one sandwich, covered, in a warm skillet over medium heat for four minutes. Flip sandwich and cook, uncovered, four to five minutes longer, until bread is lightly golden brown and cheese is melted. Repeat with remaining sandwiches. Serve immediately.

 

The Heartland

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

5 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

1 vidalia or other sweet onion, thinly sliced

Kosher salt 

Ground black pepper

1 tablespoon water

2 large beefsteak tomatoes or 16 cherry tomatoes

8 slices whole-grain bread

4 slices aged cheddar cheese

4 slices baby swiss cheese

For caramelized onions, heat large sauté pan over high heat, then add olive oil, 1 tablespoon butter and sliced onions. Stir to coat and cook without stirring for two minutes. Add pinch of salt and pepper, lower heat to medium and continue to cook five to eight minutes. Add water and stir to remove any brown bits from the bottom of pan. Transfer onions to a bowl. 

Slice tomatoes 1/4-inch thick or halve cherry tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.

Heat skillet or large sauté pan over medium heat. Butter one side of each slice of bread. Place one slice, butter-side down, in pan and top with a slice of cheddar, then a slice of tomato, some of the reserved caramelized onions, then a slice of baby Swiss. Top with another slice of bread, butter-side up, and grill in skillet until bottom bread is lightly browned and cheese begins to melt. Carefully flip the sandwich over and brown.

Grill remaining three sandwiches.

 

Pepper Jack Grilled Cheese Skewers and Tomato Soup

8 1-ounce slices pepper Jack cheese

4 slices whole grain sandwich bread

3 tablespoons butter, softened

1 15-ounce can tomato soup, heated according to directions, for dipping

 

Divide pepper Jack slices evenly over two slices of bread. Top with remaining slices of bread.

Heat half the butter in large skillet over medium heat. Spread remaining butter over top slices of bread. Place sandwiches, unbuttered-side-down, in skillet and cover. Cook about three minutes, until underside is golden brown. 

Carefully flip sandwiches and continue cooking, uncovered, two to three minutes, until cheese is melted and underside is brown.

Remove from skillet. With large sharp knife, trim crusts from bread and cut sandwiches into quarters to make eight square mini-sandwiches. Position wooden skewer through center of two stacked mini-sandwiches. 

Serve with tomato soup for dipping.

 

Grilled Ham and Brie

4 tablespoons butter, room temperature

4 tablespoons Dijon mustard

4 tablespoons raspberry preserves

8 ounces brie cheese, thinly sliced

8 slices Black Forest ham, thinly sliced

8 slices multigrain bread

Heat skillet over medium-low heat. Place eight slices bread on large cutting board. Coat four slices with Dijon mustard. Coat remaining slices with raspberry jam. Top these with brie and ham. 

Place mustard-coated slices over, mustard side down. Spread butter on outside of top bread slices. Place sandwich in heated skillet, buttered-side-down. Butter remaining side of bread. Cook about two minutes, until bread is toasted and cheese begins to melt. Flip sandwich and toast two minutes longer.

Slice in half and serve immediately.

 

Inside-Out Grilled Cheese With Red Onion Jam 

For red onion jam:

2 red onions, peeled and cut in very thin, match-sized strips

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup rice vinegar

1/4 cup grenadine syrup

Juice of 1 lemon

1/2 cup golden raisins

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

For sandwiches:

12 slices seeded, whole-grain bread, such as sunflower seed, cut into two-inch square slices 1/8-inch thick, crusts removed

6 tablespoons butter, melted

24 slices queso blanco cheese or queso blanco con frutas cheese, cut into two-inch squares 1/4 inch thick

For jam, sauté onions in oil about 20 minutes, cooking slowly until wilted. Do not brown. Add remaining jam ingredients and cook about 20 minutes, until thickened.

Brush bread slices on both sides with melted butter. Toast until golden brown.

Heat a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly grill the cheese squares until golden brown on both sides.

Place 12 cheese squares on a cutting board. Top each with a teaspoon of red onion jam and then a slice of the toasted bread. Top the bread with another teaspoon of jam. Top each sandwich with a slice of the remaining cheese. Press the sandwich together.

If preparing ahead, warm the sandwiches in a 350ºF oven just before serving.

 

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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