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Raise your grilled-cheese game by making these sandwiches – Orange County Register

Raise your grilled-cheese game by making these sandwiches – Orange County Register

Ah, the joys of the modern melt, updated grilled cheese sandwiches made using a sizzling press gizmo and ingredients that sing in harmonizing tones. Cheese with apples and ham. Cheese with marinated onions and whole-grain mustard. Cheese with olives, bell peppers and capers, plus a leaf or two of spinach. Oozy-goosy delicious.

Almost 20 years ago, my daughters gave me a fancy electric sandwich maker for my birthday. It’s a ridged nonstick-surfaced machine like an Italian panini machine that compresses and grills simultaneously. It has supplied years of scrumptious grilled cheese sandwiches, many of which used recipes from cheese expert Laura Werlin. Her cookbook, “Great Grilled Cheese” (Stewart, Tabori, and Chang, $16.95) broadened my grilled sandwich path.

Now, not only do I make them for fast lunch or supper entrees, I cut them into small portions and serve them with cocktails as appetizers. Or I trim them into fingers and use them as warm crouton-like garnishes on green salads.

Using a sandwich maker requires very little supervision. But other devices and techniques can be employed. A large non-stick skillet can certainly work with attention to timing and temperature. I’m told by friends that a George Foreman grill works, too.

Enjoy!

Grilled Sandwich with Apple, Ham, Cheddar on Sourdough

Yield: 4 sandwiches

INGREDIENTS

2 tablespoons butter, room temperature

8 (1/4-inch-thick) slices sourdough bread

1/4 pound ham, cut into 4 slices (or buy pre-sliced ham)

1 small green apple (about 5 ounces), such as Granny Smith, cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices

6 ounces medium or sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated

Cook’s notes: Werlin prefers grating cheese rather than slicing, because she contends that it melts quicker.

PROCEDURE

1. Butter 1 side of each slice of bread. Place 4 slices on work surface, buttered side down. Place slice of ham on each bread slice, folding to fit if necessary. Top with 4 to 5 apple slices per sandwich, followed by cheese. Place remaining 4 bread slices on top, buttered side up. If sandwich seems quite thick, press it down to compress ingredients slightly.

2. To cook using sandwich maker, preheat sandwich maker and cook according to manufacturer’s instructions. To cook using the stovetop method, heat large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat 2 minutes. Put sandwiches in skillet (in batches if necessary), cover and cook 2 minutes, or until undersides are golden brown and cheese has begun to melt. Uncover and turn with spatula, pressing firmly to flatten slightly. Cook 1 minute or until undersides are golden brown. Turn sandwiches again, press with spatula and cook 30 seconds, or until cheese melts completely. Serve immediately.

Source: “Great Grilled Cheese” by Laura Werlin (Stewart, Tabori, and Chang, $16.95)

Grilled Two-Cheese Mediterranean Sandwiches should ideally be made with pain au levain, which is tangy and slightly more dense than conventional sourdough. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Grilled Two-Cheese Mediterranean Sandwiches

Yield: 4 sandwiches

INGREDIENTS

2 ounces crumbled feta cheese

1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, rinsed, coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon drained capers, rinsed

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, colored part only

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons butter, room temperature

8 (1/4-inch-thick) slices pain au levain or sourdough bread; see cook’s note

4 ounces Gruyere cheese, or Emmentaler or Monterey Jack, coarsely grated

4 whole roasted red bell peppers (from jar or roasted at home), peeled, seeded, drained, cut in half

1/2 cup fresh baby spinach leaves

Cook’s note: Pain au levain is made with a sourdough starter. It is tangy and slightly more dense than conventional sourdough.

PROCEDURE

1. In small bowl, combine feta, olives, capers, lemon peel and pepper; set aside.

2. Butter 1 side of each slice of bread. Place 4 slices on work surface, buttered side down. Spread feta mixture evenly over 4 slices. For each sandwich, press Gruyere into feta mixture and top with bell pepper half; top that with spinach. Press again. Top each with bread, buttered side up.

3. To cook using sandwich maker, preheat sandwich maker and cook according to manufacturer’s instructions. To cook using stovetop method, heat large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat 2 minutes. Put sandwiches in skillet (in batches if necessary), cover and cook 2 to 3 minutes, or until undersides are golden brown and cheese has begun to melt. Uncover and turn with spatula, pressing very firmly to flatten slightly. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, or until undersides are golden brown and spinach wilts. Turn sandwiches again, press with spatula, and cook 30 seconds, or until cheese melts completely. Serve immediately.

Source: “Great Grilled Cheese” by Laura Werlin (Stewart, Tabori, and Chang, $16.95)

Grilled Cheese with Marinated Onions and Whole-Grain Mustard is made with thinly sliced Gruyere cheese. (Photo by Cathy Thomas)

Grilled Cheese with Marinated Onions and Whole-Grain Mustard

Yield: 4 sandwiches

INGREDIENTS

Marinated Onions:

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar, plus more if needed

2 teaspoons coarse salt

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

2 medium-sized yellow onions, halved top to bottom, cut into crosswise 1/8-inch slices

Sandwiches:

8 white or whole-wheat sourdough bread; see cook’s notes

Butter, room temperature for spreading

1/4 cup whole-grain mustard

8 ounces Gruyere cheese, cut into thin slices, about 1/16-inch thick

Optional: 4 thin slices of ham

Cook’s notes: I often use Trader Joe’s Sourdough Whole Wheat bread for grilled cheese sandwiches. The center slices are very long, and when using the center portion, I cut the sandwich in half after its cooking time. I figure each half equals one sandwich. I consider the smaller end slices as the makings for a single sandwich.

PROCEDURE

1.  Marinated Onions: In a medium nonreactive bowl, such as glass or ceramic, combine vinegar and salt; stir to combine and dissolve salt. Stir in olive oil and pepper. Add onion slices and toss, coating all the onion slices. Allow them to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding a little more vinegar or salt if necessary.

2. Butter 1 side of each slice of bread. Place 4 slices on work surface, buttered side down. Spread an even layer of mustard over bread and cover with half of the cheese slices, folding them back towards the center if they extend past the edges of the bread. Scatter with marinated onions, using tongs so that any excess marinade stays in the bowl. Top with remaining cheese in a single layer. If using, top with ham. Top each with bread, buttered side up and gently press down with a hand.

3. To cook using sandwich maker, preheat sandwich maker and cook according to manufacturer’s instructions. To cook using stovetop method, heat large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat 2 minutes. Put sandwiches in skillet (in batches if necessary), cover and cook 2 to 3 minutes, or until undersides are golden brown and cheese has begun to melt. Uncover and turn with spatula, pressing very firmly to flatten slightly. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, or until undersides are golden brown and spinach wilts. Turn sandwiches again, press with spatula, and cook 30 seconds, or until cheese melts completely. Serve immediately.

Grilled Brie Sandwiches with Apricot Jam

Yield: 4 sandwiches

INGREDIENTS

1 baguette, preferably not sourdough, 1 inch cut off each end

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons apricot jam

6 ounces Brie cheese, rind removed, cut into 12 slices; see cook’s note

Cook’s note: It is easiest to remove rind from cheese when it is very cold. Bring cheese to room temperature before grilling.

PROCEDURE

1. Cut baguette into 4 pieces; cut each piece in half lengthwise to make 8 pieces (each measuring about 5 inches long). Pull out some of center of each piece to create troughs.

2. Brush outside of each piece of bread with melted butter. Place 4 pieces on work surface, buttered side down. Spread jam evenly over 4 pieces and distribute cheese on top of jam. Place remaining 4 baguette pieces on top, buttered side up.

3. To cook using sandwich maker, preheat sandwich maker and cook according to manufacturer’s instructions. To cook using stovetop method, heat large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat 2 minutes. Put sandwiches in skillet (in batches if necessary), cover and cook 3 minutes, or until undersides are golden brown and cheese has begun to melt. Uncover and turn with spatula, pressing very firmly to flatten them slightly. Cook 2 minutes, or until undersides are golden brown in places. (Shape of baguette prevents it from browning uniformly.) Turn sandwiches again, press with spatula, and cook 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until cheese melts completely. Serve immediately.

Source: “Great Grilled Cheese” by Laura Werlin (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, $16.95)

Cooking question? Contact Cathy Thomas at [email protected]