The world of the Grilled Cheese Sandwich is an exciting place to delve into. On one hand, it’s filled with passionate experimentation and a fearless sense of ‘what-else-can-we-try?’ and on the other hand, there is a fierce loyalty to keeping it simple and classic.
So again I ask you, where do I begin?
And I find myself answering with a yet another question: why not start at the modest and humble beginning?
The Grilled Cheese Sandwich can be traced back to the 1920s, but it wasn’t until the Great Depression that it really took off in popularity. When cheap bread, processed cheese and a little heat were combined, people found they could enjoy a tasty, filling meal when good food was often very hard to come by. The military soon discovered that grilled cheese was one of the easiest and least expensive meals to mass-produce and when it was served along with tomato soup, it allowed them to get in the recommended Vitamin C in-take. And that’s how it all began.
|Simple and delightful grilled cheese and tomato soup.|
It’s pretty amazing how a simple meal meant to provide the bare minimum in taste and nutritional value has really stood the test of time. To kick off National Grilled Cheese Month, I will pay homage to this great sandwich in its most simple, definitive form – grilled straight up on a skillet and served fresh with a side of hot, homemade tomato soup.
I’ve spent a lot of time researching tomato soup recipes and there are as many different versions as the various kinds of grilled cheese, which makes perfect sense. I made a tweaked version of a Jamie Oliver recipe and it paired beautifully with the sandwich. Since timing is important when you’re preparing more than one dish, I recommend getting the soup started first, then making the sandwich.
|Tomatoes, carrots, onions and celery make a great soup.|
Classic Tomato Soup:
1-2 onions, coarsely chopped
1 handful of chopped baby carrots (no peeling required!)
2-3 stalks of celery, chopped
1 carton of vegetable stock (chicken stock works well too)
1 19 oz can of stewed tomatoes
1 container of grape tomatoes, chopped
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
Fresh basil leaves
Salt and pepper
1-In a large soup pot on medium heat, combine the oil, garlic, onion, carrots and celery and sauté for 10-15 minutes, until the veggies have softened.
2-Add the stock and all the tomatoes.
3-Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
4-Add some fresh basil during the last few minutes of simmering.
5-Using an immersion blender, puree the soup to your desired texture (smooth vs. chunky).
6-Simmer on low until ready to serve topped with fresh basil leaves and the grilled cheese sandwich.
|Dijon mustard really enhances this sandwich.|
While the soup is simmering during Step 3, start making the Classic Grilled Cheese Sandwich using:
Sliced sourdough bread
Slices of cheddar and mozzarella cheese
Dijon mustard (optional but I highly recommend it!)
1-Pile the cheese on one half of the bread.
2-Spread a thin layer of mustard on top of the cheese.
3-Spread the butter on the outsides of the bread and carefully place the sandwich on the pre-heated skillet.
4-Cover with a lid and let it grill.
5-Be patient! The trick to stove-top grilling is low and slow to ensure the cheese melts inside and the bread doesn’t burn outside.
6-When you start to hear the bread and cheese sizzle (about 3-4 minutes), it’s time to carefully flip it over. The grilled side should be a nice golden colour.
|This sandwich needs low heat and lots of grilling time.|
7-Press down on the sandwich with a spatula to ensure maximum cohesion of the cheese and bread.
8-Keep flipping and grilling the sandwich until the cheese is melted and the bread is golden brown.
9-Remove from heat, slice and serve with the tomato soup.
There’s a reason why this soup/sandwich combination is so timeless: it’s warm, savory, and so delectable!
I’ve sometimes found tomato soup to be bland and one-dimensional but this recipe really delivers on the flavor. I like the slightly chunky texture of the pureed vegetables and its gorgeous orange colour. Using fresh herbs in any recipe really adds an extra-special element and the fresh basil (literally) tops this one; it makes it so crisp and sweet. Really lovely.
|Golden delicious: grilled cheddar and mozza cheese.|
As for the sandwich, the Dijon mustard was a great addition to the gooey, delicious, melty inside. It gave it a bit of sweetness and tang, plus it’s basically impossible to go wrong with cheddar and mozza. Sourdough bread grills so well and I love that audible crunch when I bite into it. Definitely don’t scrimp on the butter since it adds that special sheen and eliminates stickage during the grilling process.
This meal sticks to the basics - good bread, good cheese and hot soup - and it’s a great way to dive into the Grilled Cheese realm. There will be lots of experimentation this month, I guarantee it.
But right here and now, somethings are just too good to mess with.
|If it's not broke, don't fix it!|
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