When I was growing up, a grilled cheese sandwich meant one thing — Kraft American
singles and buttered white bread. It probably meant that for a lot of us! But here's a reason to shake off your childhood ways and dream up something better: Wisconsin Cheese's contest, The 2013 Grilled Cheese Academy Recipe Showdown! This is your chance to show off your grilled cheese chops. The prizes are pretty grand; the top winner will receive over $4000 in gourmet kitchenware, so do you have a masterpiece to share? Here's mine — grilled cheese with the hands-down best-ever addition: guacamole.
When I was a kid and eating those plain grilled cheese sandwiches I didn't know there were any other options. Even if I did I probably wouldn't have even cared. (I was a very picky eater.) Thank goodness my palate eventually evolved, or this divine Cheddar Jack grilled cheese may have never come into my life.
Good thing I've had countless opportunities since childhood to expand my grilled cheese knowledge. I'll never forget when I first tried one with the addition of tomatoes (in the "heady" parking lot scene of a jam band concert, no less!) or when I discovered I could use mayonnaise instead of butter. (Who knew?!) Needless to say, a truly extraordinary grilled cheese is a skill that must be learned. Lucky for you I was up to the challenge.
I'd like to think I've tried them all and learned some things along the way, and this recipe combines all of my very best tricks into one mind-blowing melted sandwich. Yes, I'm talking about the most delicious grilled cheese you will ever put in your mouth. But alas, let me explain.
A tasty grilled cheese starts with the bread, and I have found that a good sourdough provides the ideal flavor and texture I am looking for. A slather of butter on the bread, not in the skillet yields a crisp, golden brown crust.
When it comes to cheese, it has to melt and it has to taste good. My mind has been opened to a wide range of cheeses now, and even though I'm a Southern girl, I love me some Wisconsin cheddar. The combination of freshly grated—never pre-sliced or pre-shredded!—sharp cheddar and creamy Monterey Jack provide the ideal balance. (To prevent any unwanted grease bombs, I just toss the cheese with a teaspoon of cornstarch. Works like a charm.)
Now that I've found the perfect balance of cheese, it's the addition of charred onions, sliced tomatoes, and creamy guacamole that really makes this grilled cheese shine. Together they take each bite to another grilled cheese dimension! And hey, maybe they even make the sandwich just a teeny, tinsy bit healthier? Yeah, let's go with that.
Cheddar Jack Grilled Cheese with Grill Onions & Guacamole
Makes 4 sandwiches
2 small to medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
4 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated
1 teaspoon cornstarch
8 slices sourdough bread
8 ounces (about 1/2 cup) creamy guacamole
1 large ripe tomato, thinly sliced
In a medium skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter over moderate heat. Add the onions and salt to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and turning golden brown around the edges, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat a large griddle (or nonstick skillet) on medium-low heat or an electric griddle on 325°F. In a medium bowl, toss cheddar and Jack cheeses with the cornstarch.
Spread a thin coat of butter on one side of each piece of bread. Place 4 slices of bread, butter-side-down, on the griddle. Divide the cheese mixture evenly over the slices, followed by the onions. Place 2 tomato slices over each slice.
On the remaining 4 slices of bread, spread 1 heaping tablespoon of guacamole on the non-buttered side and place over the slices on the griddle. Cook, flipping once, until cheese is melted and both sides are golden brown.
Now it's your turn! Ready to enter your own grilled cheese masterpiece?
(Images & Recipe: Nealey Dozier)