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Grillled cheese sandwich with tomato soup

I know many people like cheese, but I just adore it.

ALL kinds of cheese. I have never tasted one that I didn’t like – and I pretty much eat cheese every day of my life.

And the grilled cheese sandwich? To me, quite possibly the most perfect edible.

Sandwiches in their own right have a hold very much on my heart, but the grilled cheese is the Mama of them all!

So simple, and yet so satisfying. Three ingredients – butter, bread, and CHEESE! Not fussy, and anyone can learn to make them. In fact, grilled cheese was probably the very first thing that I ever learned to cook.

But did you know that there is a right way to make one for optimal cheesy goodness?

Last month during National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Month (yes, April is National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Month!) I got an invitation to the home of my friend Myra Kohn, also known as Seattle Bon Vivant, for an event organized and hosted by her, to meet Laura Werlin, eat grilled cheese sandwiches and receive a signed copy of her new book, grilled cheese, please! 50 scrumptiously cheesy recipes. A whole book dedicated to grilled cheese?! Only for fear of lost life or limb would I ever miss that!

Laura is known as the “Cheese Lady” and has written several books about cheese, including her first book on grilled cheese (yes, TWO books on the topic! Be still my heart!), Great Grilled Cheese:50 Innovative Recipes for Stovetop, Grill and Sandwich Maker, James Beard Award-Nominated Cheese Essentials: An Insider’s Guide to Buying and Serving Cheese. With 50 Recipes, and The All-American Cheese and Wine Book, winner of the James Beard Award. At the event (and in her newest book) she laid out the steps to the fail-proof, perfect grilled cheese sandwich.

Now, things have been clipping along at a fairly frenetic pace around here recently as I’ve mentioned previously and as is obvious from my lack of posts over the past couple of months. Consequently, grilled cheese has been often on the menu lately as it is a quick and easy go-to dinner for those on the run so I’ve had a few opportunities to try out Laura’s prescription for the best grilled cheese sandwich. I must say – it really is the best basic grilled cheese sandwich I have ever made. You can get the complete recipe here, but here is a look at the essentials:

Most of these steps I had already been practicing, like buttering the bread with salted butter and using a non-stick pan, but a few were surprising to me and really made all the difference.

First, be sure you grate the cheese instead of slicing it – this allows for more even melting of the cheese – this works so amazingly well! What a revelation this was for me!

Thick cheese and thin bread – make sure your ratio of cheese to bread follows this guideline.

Butter the bread and use salted butter – I always use salted butter – I’ve told you before, I’m a savory type of gal!

Use a non-stick pan.

Cook slowly over low heat and cover the pan – I know you’ll want this sandwich fast but I guarantee it’s worth the wait! And the covering of the pan is truly important to evenly browned bread and nicely melted cheese.

Flip twice and flatten slightly after the first flip.

Cool it at least five minutes to allow the flavors to meld together. This is the hardest step of them all – after preparing the most perfect grilled cheese that you will ever make, you will immediately want to taste it, but I learned this one quite by accident many years ago. As any mother to young kids can attest to, we often sit down to a cooled meal, eating our food only after serving up our children and getting this and that ready for them…

The greatest thing about grilled cheese is that it is wonderfully delicious standing on it’s own, but it is also a fine base for any other sandwich that you could dream up. Laura’s book is full of creative, luscious, and sometimes very interesting combinations such as the Hog Island Grilled Cheese that she made for us filled with four different cheeses.

And this lip-smacking Double Cheddar and Tomato Jam sandwich.

It has cheddar butter on the outside (yes! I did say cheddar butter!) so as to create an effect of the cheesy bits that leak out during cooking and get crispy on the edge of the bread, but this coats the entire crust of the bread. And tomato jam – what an invention! Just like a grilled cheese dipped in tomato soup but all compact within the sandwich itself! Heaven!

Really, now I can see how Laura could fill two books on the subject. I decided that I was going to try and seek out my own grilled cheese concoction. So I went in search of some further inspiration this weekend at the Seattle Cheese Festival at the Pike Place Market.

Was this festival created just for me?

Loved this Two-Faced Blue!

Not a big fan of honey myself, but it was so subtle!

Still one of my favorite cheeses! I even served it at my wedding. Go Cougs!

Mushrooms and cheese, together? Oh yes!

They even have a grilled cheese sandwich competition as part of this festival! Okay, I want to judge this contest! What does one have to do to be chosen as a judge?

Here is the recipe for the winning entry. I am so going to make this!

So many great cheeses to enjoy from all around the world as well as the incredible local choices we have!

I had to pick up some of this – it was just such a unique flavor.

I’m thinking it would be a nice addition to a burger cooked outdoors on the grill this summer. Wouldn’t it also go great with beer – or a beer brat? Mmmmm! My mouth is watering!

So I ended up with these ingredients. How do you think these will go together? Stay tuned 😉

Do you have a favorite way of making grilled cheese? Please let me know what your special grilled cheese sandwich consists of.

And if you are a blogger out there with a post about grilled cheese and your own unique recipe please leave a comment and a link to your recipe.

I would love to see what others are doing with this very special sandwich!