Grilled Cheese Day is Friday, and April is National Grilled Cheese Month... who knew? The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board is even throwing a contest for the best-grilled cheese recipe. In case you are thinking of entering (or just want to celebrate the glory of grilled, gooey cheese), I put together some tips on making a Texas style grilled cheese sandwich.
Grilled cheese tips.
1. It is all about the cheese, so make sure you use plenty of it; 50/50 cheese to bread ratio is ideal. When using that much cheese, I find shredded cheese melts better than slices.
2. Make sure you use a soft cheese like American, cheddar or gruyere. Hard cheeses don't melt easily and should be avoided for grilled cheese sandwiches.
3. Thick slices of bread. It is common practice to press a grilled cheese sandwich with a spatula while grilling (you have to make sure everything sticks together), so use thick slices of bread -- unless of course you want a really thin sandwich. I find that good ol' Texas Toast works great.
4. Use a well-seasoned cast iron pan. It browns the bread better. If your pan is not well seasoned, use a non-stick pan instead.
5. Butter the bread and not the pan. This gives you an even distribution of butter on the bread when grilling. Just make sure the butter is at room temperature for easy spreading, then butter one side of the sandwich and put that side down in the pan. Press sandwich with spatula, then butter the side facing up (if you butter the top side before pressing, the top piece of bread tends to stick to the spatula).
6. The thicker the sandwich, the lower the heat when grilling. Medium high heat is good, but if your sandwich is extra thick, use medium heat. That will give you a little extra time to melt the cheese without burning the bread. You can also cover the sandwich while grilling with a lid or pan to trap the heat and help the melting process.
Bacon & Jalapeno Grilled Cheese Sandwich
This grilled cheese sandwich is actually inspired by a traditional Texas snack, jalapeno poppers. If you've never had them, they're grilled jalapenos wrapped in bacon and stuffed with cheese.
For each sandwich:
- 1 cup shredded soft cheese (I used cheddar)
- ¼ stick butter
- 2 slices Texas toast
- 1½ slices bacon
- ½ jalapeno thinly sliced
Set butter and cheese out to get to room temperature. Heat cast iron or non-stick pan to medium high heat and fry bacon slices till crispy. Remove bacon from pan and sauté jalapenos slices in bacon fat for 2 or 3 minutes, remove from pan and turn off heat.
To assemble sandwich, take half a cup of shredded cheese and spread it evenly over one slice of bread. Place 3 half-strips of bacon on top of the cheese, and then cover the bacon with the jalapeno slices. Cover the jalapeno slices with the remaining half cup of cheese and cover with the remaining slice of bread.
Heat cast iron or non-stick pan to medium high heat and wipe any excess bacon fat from the pan with a paper towel. Butter one side of the sandwich. Place sandwich, butter side down onto pan. Press down on sandwich, firmly with a spatula, then butter the top slice of bread.
- Every minute, lift a corner of the sandwich with the spatula to check to make sure the bread is not about to burn. Once the bread looks nice and toasty (around 3 minutes), flip, then press down with spatula and repeat 1-minute checks till done (another 3 minutes).
The grilled cheese turned out great! The jalapeno bacon flavors popped like poppers and really complemented the flavors of the cheese and buttery bread.
Be sure to check out the slideshow above for step-by-step pictures.