Grilled Cheese and More Than That

Grilled Cheese and More Than That

Cheese, with roughly a history for 7000 years, is one of the most popular, easy to prepare foods for all generations. It’s generally processed, coagulated dairy products from a range of mammals like cow, buffalo, yak, sheep, goat, camel, moose, etc., varying in appearances, flavors, textures, and consistency.

There are so many ways you can deal with cheese, like leaving it uncooked and cut in pieces, slices, cubes, shreds, and more shapes on a big board covered with different kinds of cold or barbecued meat, along with fruits, vegetables, biscuits, etc. Here we will focus more on its cooked version, which can be putting it on a pan, in a baking oven or simply in microwave. However, using a grill to grill the cheese to melt is still unparalleled. It can add to another layer of flavor and bring the pleasure up to next level, more than many other kitchen appliances may do.

When choosing ingredients to go with the cheese, rather than getting stuck on the various options, you may just follow the rule that the best sometimes lies in simplicity. Basic ingredients like bread and butter, when made good use of together with cheese, are more than enough to touch the taste bud and stomach. The most familiar example will be grilled cheese sandwich, and may go with other common elements like bacon, egg, onion, tomato, pickle, olive, and more.
Grilled cheese sandwich is popular not only in North America. Nearly 3 out of 4 people who buy sliced cheese are prone to use it for grilled cheese sandwich. It’s hard to tell the exact inventor of this classic dish because similar recipes were already found in ancient Roman texts. Yet an official form of the dish in recent history, is thought to take shape in the 1940s to 1950s, which is now known as the cheese dream in the US, or what’s called cheese on toast in the UK, presented as an open-face grilled slice of bread, topped, and heated with cheese. It was around 1965 when another piece of bread was added on top, giving birth to the modern notion of a grilled cheese sandwich. The actual term "grilled cheese" appeared in print similar time in the 1960s. Grilled cheese sandwich, to some extent, is just what grilled cheese stands for.

 

HOW TO MAKE GRILLED CHEESE

Let’s just start from grating a cheese block, as grated cheese has more exposure to the heat, thus melts faster, reducing the unwanted possibility that the bread gets overcooked when the cheese inside still has no signs of getting soft. Grabbing a bag of processed cheese shreds or slices can be certainly with ease, but you can tell that grating a bowl of cheese manually is worth the time once you grill with it.

When it comes to the type of cheese, normally we are apt to apply cheese that melts better.  Cheddar falls into this category and it’s infallible in making most food where cheese will join.  Or you may choose a processed cheese product like American cheese, which is also traditional in making grilled cheese sandwich, with a milder taste. Further to that, we encourage experiments on multiple combinations till you find your ultimate blend, like cheddar with mozzarella, gouda, pepperjack, etc., 2 or more types together. If you have some cheese on hand that are not so melty, like feta or parmesan, besides leaving it as a filling or dressing, you may also grate and mix it with more meltable cheeses mentioned above, and you would be pleasantly surprised by their harmonious incorporation.

Coat the entire pieces of bread with plenty of butter. It can be a cold block of butter or preheated liquid butter applied with brush, not limited to salted or unsalted. Don’t be afraid of trying something different---it can even be flavored butter! A thick, even layer of butter is the key to not only a richer, creamier flavor inside-out the bread, but also a beautiful golden-brown finish on its grilled surface. Though sounds to be a necessary step, it doesn’t mean you cannot make grilled cheese without butter---feel free to try some other paste like mayonnaise or margarine.

Then we can move to the key to the show, where heat will work magic. Preheat your grill to 300°F to 400°F. You can further add to smoky, wooden-fired aroma by using certain grill or smoker.

Place the buttered bread pieces on the cooking grates. Top the bread with chopped or sliced onions, tomatoes, pickles, and other easy-to-cook ingredients as you like, and what’s most important, the cheese shreds or slices prepared in the previous step. If there are some meat toppings, which maybe slices of bacon, ham, or thicker ones like patties, they’re expected to have stayed on the grill for a while and get almost cooked. Cover all the toppings with another piece of bread, wait about 2 to 3 minutes for it to get crispy on one side, then flip it over to crisp another side. You will find the grilled part beautifully crusted in golden brown with marks from the grids.

The stuffed cheese should be quite melted when the whole bread turns crispy. If not, turn down or off the heat, cover the bread to sit another 1 to 2 minutes, so the cheese can be still melting to oozy when the bread is not getting overcooked. After the cooking’s done, you may serve the bread in whole or cut it in half. You’ll find the cutting edge creamy and gooey with flowing cheese, which is such heavenly view for a cheese lover.

This pattern has been further extended to many variants, like grilled cheese sandwiches stuffed with chicken BBQ or pulled pork, even cheese bread bowls, etc. If you have limited time and want a simplified version, just omit another bread top and it still tastes delicious.

WHAT TO GO WITH GRILLED CHEESE

Grilled cheese sandwiches are so forgiving that they pair well with nearly all sorts of sides to please the crowd, especially sauce, soups and stews based on tomatoes and/or spices alike materials, due to the sour, spicy flavor that cuts the fat to reduce cloying feel, meanwhile adds contrast to the creaminess and brings liveliness and brightness to the food. In addition, the liquid texture complements the external crispy bread and internal solid ingredients of the sandwiches.

HOW MANY CALORIES ARE IN A GRILLED CHEESE

Calories in a grilled cheese sandwich are estimated to range from 300 to 400. Please be noted that this rough estimation varies from the actual brand, type and portion sizes of cheese, bread, butter or oil, plus other ingredients consumed. Normally a slice of white bread will contain 80 to 100 calories, thus 150 to 200 calories for 2 slices. American cheese in a standard-sized sandwich contributes to approximately 100 calories per serving. A tablespoon of butter for spreading over the bread will be around 100 calories.

Though the calories seem to be not that low, it doesn’t mean that grilled cheese is not healthy. It cannot be ignored that it’s rich in nutrients like protein, minerals and vitamins that promote stronger muscle and bones. It's not always a good idea to choose low-fat or fat-free cheese, since food manufacturers may replace the fat with sugar to make up for the taste. It’s more recommended to add to low content of fiber by adding in more vegetable ingredient, like cucumber/lettuce/spinach, and substituting the regular white bread with whole wheat or whole grain bread, which at the same time levels up the fresh taste and enriches the texture.

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