Wait until I tell you all about fancy grilled cheese sandwiches. They are crazy simple, super delicious, and can be modified to everyone’s taste...a DIY experience if you will. Fancy grilled cheese sandwiches are one of those things to turn to when you need a simple dinner, but want to feel like you are eating something special, gourmet even.
Now, how can grilled cheese be fancy? It’s so good the way we all ate it growing up...white bread of some sort, some sort of cheese product in the middle, in a frying pan with butter, greasy diner style. And there is still a time and place for those...
but, that’s not how we make it any more.
The idea was sparked after eating a fancy grilled cheese somewhere in our travels. If I think back, all I can remember is that it had a delicious spread, a few veggies, super melty cheese, all on perfectly grilled piece of really good bread. I can’t remember where I was, but I know that I am always in search of something to measure up.
Since my memory fails me, I decided to come up with a simple version of this sandwich that you can make at home any time. In our house, we like to have it for dinner with either a salad of some sort or with soup and truth be told, if you make it fancy enough, you won't even care what is next to it on the plate!
Before we get deep into the how to make this wondrous and fancy grilled cheese sandwich happen in your house, you'll probably want to go get a snack so your stomach isn’t growling while we talk about it!
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Let’s talk about the cheese…
In order to make this grilled cheese sandwich “fancy”, you’ll want to use something other than the standard diner American cheese, and even something fancier than sliced cheddar. Let me introduce you to my friend smoked mozzarella. That’s right, a smoky, creamy cheese that melts perfectly for this sandwich can be found at many grocery stores in the cheese section, (I tend to pick mine up at Whole Foods).
If you aren’t feeling smoked mozzarella, you could definintely go with another smoked cheese (smoked gouda would be my second choice) or with any other cheese that you really like. Not into the smokey flavor, I would try sliced provolone (I like to use Sargento, not store brand). In any case, you’ll want to stick to cheese that melts well.
And what else makes this a fancy grilled cheese sandwich?
Well, as we just discussed, the cheese is really the star of the show in terms of making this a bit fancier. The other ingredients are really the back up dancers, and really bring the whole experience together.
- caramelized onions: this might be the only thing that is not simple in this sandwich, however, it is something you can make a big batch and then freeze in smaller quantities for when you want to use it. Doing that makes this a simple ingredient to use.
- To caramelize onions, you’ll want to thinly slice them, put them in a pan with either butter or olive oil, a pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar and cook low and slow until they are golden brown and super soft. Here’s a great tutorial for you.
- fresh spinach: for a pop of green and something super fresh tasting, i like to use fresh baby spinach leaves in this sandwich. Stack them up, but not too high, as we don’t want them to inhibit the meltability of the cheese.
- thinly sliced apples: think something crunchy and not super sweet here. Granny smith work great, but really any super crunchy apple you have around will work. I’ve got a sweeter palate, so Pink Lady and HoneyCrisp work for me as well. The apple slices make a great variation in texture.
- sweet spread: most of the year, I use honey as the sweet spread in this sandwich, but in the fall I like to switch it up. Apple butter or pumpkin butter both give this sandwich a little something extra. Right now, I'm totally into pumpkin butter. Trader Joe's (you know I love that place), has a ton of different fruit butters that would all be great on this sandwich.
Let’s talk about the right bread for grilled cheese, shall we?
Oh, the bread. The important outer layer of all that fancy grilled cheese goodness. There are two schools of thought here:
- You want a thick cut piece of bread to really support all the ingredients inside
- You want a thin but flavorful bread that will all the ingredients inside to shine.
I believe there is no right answer. And, I want to give you my opinion on which bread to use for each of these scenarios.
In the first case, I would suggest thinly cut slices of sourdough bread (or any other artisan loaf). This will give you great flavor and will grill up to a sturdy crunchy holder for the rest of the sandwich. My only warning with this type of bread is that when perfectly toasted you’ll want to watch out for sharp edges...bite carefully my friend.
In the second case, I would suggest using a ciabatta roll. It provides great flavor, a study surface, and when pressed in the pan, gets perfectly browned and just the right kind of crispy.
Tips and Tricks:
- You’ll want to be sure to have some soft butter on hand. Be sure to butter both sides of the bread that will touch the hot pan for even browning.
- If you don’t have a panini press (which I don’t), you’ll want to wrap something heavy or use the back of the spatula to press on the sandwich while its cooking to get everything to melt together and for optimal crispness. Think a foil wrapped brick, a small cast iron pan, or a strong armed spatula.
- Want to make these ahead of time? You can! Assemble the sandwiches and wrap securely in plastic wrap. Place them in the fridge until you are ready to cook them. I would suggest no more than 24 hours from making to cooking.
Looking for other simple weeknight dinner ideas? Check these out!
fancy grilled cheese with pumpkin butter
- 2 pieces sourdough or 1 ciabatta roll
- 2 slices smoked mozzarella cheese
- 3 thin slices apple
- caramelized onion
- 2 tablespoons pumpkin butter or apple butter
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- caramelized onions
- you’ll want to thinly slice them, put them in a pan with either butter or olive oil, a pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar and cook low and slow until they are golden brown and super soft. Here’s a great tutorial for you
- assemble the sandwich
- shmear the pumpkin butter (or apple butter or honey) on both sides of the bread
- place a piece of cheese on next
- then layer the apples and caramelized onions
- then layer more cheese
- place second piece of bread on top
- smear the outside of the bread with the butter and place in a pan over medium high heat
- press down on the sandwich with a spatula or heavy pan or aluminum foil wrapped brick...you want to smash the sandwich and get it the outside crispy
- once golden and brown on one side, flip over and smash down the other side, then cover for a few minutes on lower heat to make sure everything is melty and hot on the inside.
Want to make these now? Are you missing some ingredients? Amazon Now can get them to you in a few hours, Instacart can get them to you today. Or add them to your Peapod grocery list and don't be stuck without them again!