Friday, April 30, 2010

The Godfather of Grilled Cheese

It's hard to believe that today, the Thirty Days of Grilled Cheese Challenge has come to an end. And what might be even harder to believe is that I actually ate 30 grilled cheese sandwiches throughout this past month and *so far* have yet to experience any strange side effects. (Although, I haven't really had my cholesterol tested or bothered to step on a scale lately.)

With all the excitement and anticipation leading up to the end of April, I knew today had to be an extremely special, culminating grilled cheese experience. What better way to celebrate National Grilled Cheese month (as well as beating this challenge) than to get a grilled cheese sandwich from the newly opened, Catonsville restaurant, Grilled Cheese & Co. Their slogan (and website domain) is "I love grilled cheese!"

So, with this final sandwich under my belt (pun intended), I declare myself the National Grilled Cheese Month Champion with my final sandwich: The Fredo, a whole milk mozzarella with hand pinched Italian sausage, roasted red peppers, caramelized onions and topped with marinara sauce. I may not eat grilled cheese tomorrow but I can promise you I'll be heading back to the Grilled Cheese & Co. for another one soon!

Many thanks to the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board and The Grilled Cheese Academy for recipes and the amazingly delicious basket of fresh cheeses. My appreciation also goes to Cuisinart for making the Griddler - an appliance I couldn't have lived without while testing all of these new recipes. And of course, a final shout out goes to Mr. illegible ink, who ate almost as many grilled cheese sandwiches this month because he loves me. (I promised him even though May is BBQ month, we'll take a break before our next food challenge.)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

An Artisanal Grilled Cheese: Three Cheese & Tomato

When I first started doing research for National Grilled Cheese month, many of that local blogs and newspapers started promoting restaurants around Baltimore with specialty grilled cheese menus. Since there are only two days left of my Grilled Cheese Month Challenge, I decided now is the time to start testing out these places. (Note: Paper Moon Diner has two of the best grilled cheese sandwiches I've had so far in Charm City but I decided for these last two days of the challenge, I had to try sandwiches from new venues. That's the courage of life, my dear.)

Mt. Washington Tavern was featured by a Baltimore Sun blogger as having an artisanal grilled cheese menu. This afternoon, I decided to check out their Three Cheese & Tomato grilled cheese sandwich: Vermont cheddar, Havarti and goat cheese with tomato on wheatberry bread. It was plated with a side of sweet potato fries and a pickle (all for $8.25).

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Charm City Crab Cake Grilled Cheese

Picking freshly steamed blue crabs is a Baltimore summertime tradition. "Charm City" boasts a bushel of great crab houses (from the fancy to the frills-free) and double that number in crab cake recipes. It seemed only natural this month to roll up my sleeves, sprinkle on the the Old Bay, squirt a little lemon and start making a Charm City Crab Cake Grilled Cheese.

I have been waiting all month "to get in on it" with this grilled cheese sandwich!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Real McCoy Grilled Cheese

The idiom, "the real McCoy," is commonly used to mean "the real thing" or "the genuine article." While I secretly hoped I would find some connection to the Hatfield-McCoy feud of 1878-1891 with the phrase, I discovered that it is actually a corruption of a Scottish phrase, "The real MacKay" ("a drappie o' the real MacKay" - later adopted as a slogan to promote G Mackay & Co Ltd's whisky). Dripping with irony, yes?

The Real McCoy Grilled Cheese is definitely the genuine article in terms of delicious grilled cheese sandwiches and it is inspired by the famous family's descendant who has been salivating over my grilled cheese blog this past month. (I got a call telling me that she would be quite pleased if I experimented with smokey BBQ chicken and Gouda.)

So, here it is: a smokey, barbecued grilled chicken breast layered between fresh herbs, tomato and gouda cheese. Served with a pickle and side of coleslaw.

PS - I wouldn't be disappointed if something in a clear mason jar magically appears on my birthday.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Pittsburgher Grilled Cheese Steak

Anyone who has spent a minute in Pittsburgh has heard of Primanti Bros. The historic sandwich shop has been making its trademark French-fries-and-coleslaw-topped sandwich since 1933. The original Pitts-burgher Cheese Steak (#2 best seller) is my favorite sandwich on their menu - grilled sirloin, a vinegar-based coleslaw, sliced tomato and French fries between two pieces of Italian bread. This sandwich is so good it doesn't need anything to make it better but I got to thinking (after some prodding from our 'Burgh relatives) a grilled cheese version of the #2 best seller would definitely enhance my grilled cheese month repertoire!

So, there you have it. Tonight's Pittsburgher Grilled Cheese Steak features grilled, thinly sliced sirloin, a  alternating slices of Park Provolone from Wisconsin and Havarti cheeses, coleslaw, tomato and French fries between two pieces of Italian bread.

PS - What's the #1 best seller? Why, that's the Iron City!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Au Gratin Potato Grilled Cheese

I've been told eating a good breakfast sets the tone for the rest of the day, and that a healthy breakfast should contain protein and fiber. Protein can come from low fat meats, eggs, beans or dairy (meaning cheese, right?). Fiber can come from whole grains, vegetables and fruits.

So, this morning I clearly set the tone for this Sunday Fun Day by making the Au Gratin Potato Grilled Cheese. What could be more comforting than layers of potatoes and shredded cheese (a blend of Monterey Jack, medium cheddar, Queso Quesadilla and Asadero cheese) baked in a mixture of heavy cream, chicken stock and fresh rosemary? Then take your baked au gratin potatoes and layer them again between slices of crisp bacon and two slices of Colby Jack. I would pick this grilled cheese sandwich over shredded wheat any day of the week!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Wild Buffalo Bill Grilled Cheese

William Frederick "Buffalo Bill" Cody is probably known by most Americans as a soldier, bison hunter and showman. The Wild West showman earned his nickname through his contract to supply Kansas Pacific Railroad workers with buffalo meat - he reportedly killed 4,860 American Bison in eight months during 1867-68! (Ironically, the nickname originally applied to Bill Comstock, but Comstock and Cody competed in a shooting match for the exclusive rights to the nickname and Cody won.)

With all this information, you're probably expecting a bison grilled cheese sandwich but instead I've thrown in a twist and used Buffalo wings. (I just couldn't bring myself to give a shout out to Buffalo right now during NHL Hockey playoffs.) Classic Buffalo-style chicken wings are made with a vinegar-based cayenne pepper hot sauce and butter, and are traditionally served with celery and blue cheese dressing.

Tonight's Wild Buffalo Bill Grilled Cheese has delicious boneless Buffalo-sauced chicken tenders laid on slices of melted Havarti with tomato, lettuce and a ton of Danish Blue Cheese crumbles. The perfect kickoff for a spicy Saturday night!

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Grilled Cheese Hero

Tonight's grilled cheese sandwich is a spin off of the Greek classic, a lamb gyro. (Gyros are made with spit-roasted meat, served with tzatziki sauce and garnished with tomato and onions on pita bread.)

For my Grilled Cheese "Hero," you'll need some thinly shaved leg of lamb with a small mixture of romaine lettuce, red cabbage, carrots, a balsamic vinegar-dressed salad of grilled eggplant, tomato, red onions, a little multi-grain tabbouleh salad (with lemon juice, cucumbers and parsley) and freshly chopped mint. Assemble in layers with thick slices of feta between Mediterranean bread and grill until everything is nice and toasty.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Pain Perdu Grilled Cheese

When I started to think about an appropriate grilled cheese sandwich to celebrate Earth Day, I started thinking about my favorite berries (and then dessert... and then chocolate). I decided Pain Perdu or "lost bread" (a style of French toast from France, Belgium and New Orleans) would also be perfect way to make my dessert grilled cheese sandwich tonight.

I started with four slices of chocolate Babka dipped in a simple egg wash. (I was first introduced to "Babka" in Season 5 of Seinfeld. Jerry and Elaine try to buy a chocolate babka to bring to a dinner party. Another couple going to the same dinner party buys the last chocolate babka. Jerry and Elaine must therefore buy a cinnamon babka, which Elaine describes as a "lesser babka.")

I placed the sliced babka on the heated griddler and followed a basic recipe for cooking French toast. I then mixed up some mascarpone cheese with Bailey's Irish Cream. I sliced some strawberries, blueberries and blackberries for between the layers of cheese. I carefully and quickly assembled all the components and grilled the sandwiches for about 30 seconds. Then stacked and served. Happy Earth Day to me!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Eyjafjallajokull Whiny Goat Grilled Cheese

Everyone knows the volcano under the Eyjafjallajokull (ay-yah-FYAH-lah-yer-kuhl) in Iceland has been busy these last few weeks - shooting ash and smoke four to six miles into the air and throwing magma chunks the size of cars into the air. So, tonight's Eyjafjallajokull Whiny Goat Grilled Cheese sandwich is a tribute to Iceland with lightly battered haddock and melted whiny goat cheese. (In the early 20th century almost 90% of Iceland's national income came directly from the sea in the form of fish and fish products with the majority of Icelanders preferring haddock or ýsa). Why whiny goat cheese? Well, not only is it mild, creamy and delicious but think of all those poor people stuck in airports during the past week.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Provolone Polish Grilled Cheese

There are only ten days left of my Grilled Cheese Challenge so it has become time to try out all my special recipes! And the theme this week has suddenly become International Grilled Cheese Week: a grilled cheese culinary adventure exploring cuisine from around the world. Just like the song, "It's a small world after all."

The American fast-food chain, Wienerschnitzel (not to be confused with the Austrian dish, Wiener Schnitzel) specializes in hot dogs but their menu features a "Polish Sandwich," with kielbasa, sauerkraut and mustard on rye bread. So, tonight's internationally-themed sandwich (minus the rye) is the Provolone Polish Grilled Cheese.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Grilled Cheese Quesadilla

I've been dreaming of how to make the perfect Grilled Cheese Quesadilla (and a margarita) and I found one you can order as well! Jerry and his team from Taco Fiesta offer a grilled cheese quesadilla, stuffed with melted Monterey Jack cheese and your choice of meat (steak, pork, char grilled chicken or shrimp). It is served with tomato, guacamole and sour cream. Estupendo!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Billy Goat Grilled Cheese

Not only was Spring Bada Bing fun for the whole illegible ink family (the pups even got to take in the trails and dog parks of Richmond) but today was where I found one of my favorite "restaurant grilled cheeses." For $5.95, you can order the "Billy Goat" grilled cheese sandwich from the Plant Zero (PZ) Cafe. This Billy Goat is far from being gruff. It's toasted goat cheese, drizzled with honey and topped with organic balsamic greens and sprouts. All this goodness is sandwiched between two slices of billy bread. (I asked one of my customers what billy bread was and they explained it is a Richmond local favorite from the Billy Bread Bakery.) I can't wait to head back down to Richmond for another one!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Five Guys Grilled Cheese and Fries

Sunday, April 18th is Spring Bada Bing in Richmond, VA. It is the BOSS of all indie craft shows so of course, I was up before dawn this morning putting the final touches on my prints. Ok, actually, I was still printing... I knew this was going to be a rough day to take time to research an appropriate grilled cheese sandwich (let along make one) but I am incredibly lucky because Mr. ink brought me home a huge bag of fries and a Five Guys Grilled Cheese stuffed with pickles, tomatoes and shrooms (yes, the receipt did indicate shrooms). Yum!

Friday, April 16, 2010

The "Everything but the Kitchen Sink" Grilled Cheese

In a 1958 Wall Street Journal article, General Trudeau said the military services often slow down development of new weapons "because we are such perfectionists that we want everything but the kitchen sink in a weapon." Tonight, I applied the same reasoning when making my grilled cheese sandwich.

I had the heat nice and even on the griddler, got all my ingredients (everything but the kitchen sink) out and then spent 10 minutes deciding how to appropriately layer them. In the end, I decided on Colby Jack, Black Forest ham, Sopressata, provolone, marinated grilled vegetables (tomatoes, onions, green peppers, portabello and button mushrooms, cucumbers and spinach), Havarti, Genoa salami, avocado and then another slice of Colby Jack. And that is how I ended up with perfection!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Grilled "Apple Pie" Brie Sandwich

Everyone always says there is nothing more American than apple pie. Well, I think if you make this version of a grilled cheese, you'll agree there is nothing better than a "Grilled Apple Pie Brie." I mean, what's not to love when combining grilled cheese and apple pie? To spice things up tonight, I used my grandmother's cookie cutter to cut out flower-shaped cinnamon raisin bread and stuffed my dessert grilled cheese with slices of brie and Granny Smith apples (gently sautéed in butter after being dusted with cinnamon and sugar). Mmm...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Grilled BATC

The tomato seeds have been started to sprout this week in their little peat pots which means I am "this much closer" to summertime BLTs. And that prompted me to think about what is the best thing in the entire world? I guess, "True love is the best thing in the world, except for a nice MLT. Mutton, lettuce, and tomato sandwich; when the mutton is really lean." (Sorry, I couldn't resist a Princess Bride reference.) Well, what's a close second? It has to be a Grilled BATC. Bacon, avocado, tomato and cheese (colby jack to be exact).

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Grilled Saltimbocca Cheese

A simple, breaded veal cutlet, sopressata and provolone cheese with sage garnish. Grilled to perfection and served with a side of sautéed garlic and spinach. Oh, and a glass of white burgundy!

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Green Acre Grilled Cheese

You know you want to sing it with me: "Green Acres is the grilled cheese for me!"

Three words came to mind when I took my first bite of tonight's grilled cheese sandwich: sassy, sexy and spicy. This Green Acre Grilled Cheese is one of the prettiest grilled cheeses I've made this month with the dark pumpernickel bread, oozing Jalapeño Monterey Jack, and piled high with sautéed spinach and garlic, balsamic-soaked portabello and button mushrooms, tomatoes and squash. Totally unheard of but I seriously might need to make a second sandwich tonight. Wow!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Grilled Cheese n' Waffles

One of the Grilled Cheese Academy recipes I've been salivating over is the "Lisa Marie" with peanut butter, bananas and Wisconsin Butterkäse. But my first issue was finding Butterkäse here in Baltimore. So, in my tribute to Elvis, I decided I would use peanut butter, bananas, bacon, chocolate sauce, bacon and Marscapone (with a teaspoon of vanilla). And since I'm finding grilled cheese sandwiches are as much about the bread as the cheese inside, I knew Elvis would appreciate grilled Belgian waffles. Oh, this Grilled Cheese n' Waffles is a big hunk o' love!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Grilled "Shrimp Alfredo" Cheese

When I returned home this evening from Washington, DC (totally exhausted from the Arts Education Partnership's recent forum), I knew I had to kiss my dogs, put on my pajamas and have some grilled cheese as soon as possible because I was (am) about to collapse. And even though I was tempted to just make a simple, plain ol' colby jack grilled cheese with tomato soup, I also knew I needed to try a recipe totally out of the norm.

So, tonight I grilled some shrimp, parmesan and mozzarella cheeses, homemade Alfredo sauce (we had saved from earlier this week), basil, and two slices of Italian bread. This was a little nod to the disappointed manager I met last night outside a little Italian cafe - he tried to convince me that grilled ravioli would count for my challenge. As tempting as that offer was, this grilled cheese was definitely worth the wait.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Try the Tryst Grilled Cheese

So, the first thing I have to say is I apologize for the grainy quality of this grilled cheese photo. (Somewhat a pleasantly ironic statement since the grilled mozzarella cheese sandwich with red pepper pesto and sliced tomato was on a whole grain bread.)

It took close to a mile to find this grilled cheese concoction but it was totally worth the five restaurant stops, one disappointed Italian restaurant manager who tried to convince me that ravioli would count and then a short trek across the bridge to Adams Morgan where we found this vegetarian delight. I'm happy I survived my out-of-town grilled cheese adventures and must confess I'm looking forward to heading back to Charm City to fire up the griddler tomorrow night!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

DC's Open City Grilled Cheese

For the next three days I'm at the Arts Education Partnership Forum, States of Change: New Leadership in Arts and Education. While I'm looking forward to soaking up all the inspirational knowledge from the likes of Arne Duncan and Rocco Landesman, I've been secretly stressing out about the next opportunity to get a grilled cheese sandwich. (I contemplated bring the griddler to the hotel with me but it seemed like a lot of extra weight and without it, I get the chance to taste what grilled cheese these DC restaurants have to offer.)

So, today's grilled cheese was from Open City, a coffeehouse, diner and bar. What luck that this is right across the street from the hotel! Their aged white cheddar grilled cheese with applewood smoked bacon was the perfect afternoon starter. The dill pickles and homemade potato chips were the perfect tangy, crunchy and salty sides.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Grilled Cheese Chicken Parm

It was only a matter of time before the Grilled Cheese Chicken Parmigiana made it's way onto my grilled cheese menu. Thickly sliced, garlic-rubbed bread, breaded chicken tenderloins, chunky tomato and pesto marinara sauce, and two slices of melted provolone. Delizioso!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Grilled Cheese Eggs Ellen

In an interview in the "Talk of the Town" column of The New Yorker in 1942, Lemuel Benedict, a retired Wall Street stock broker, claimed that he had wandered into the Waldorf Hotel hoping to find a cure for his morning hangover. He ordered buttered toast, poached eggs, crisp bacon and hollandaise sauce. My kind of guy! The famed maître d'hôtel, "Oscar of the Waldorf," was so impressed with the dish, it was added to the regular menu.

According to Wikipedia there are at least 26 variations of Eggs Benedict and now I can add another one, that I have lovingly named the "Grilled Cheese Eggs Ellen." To make the Grilled Cheese Eggs Ellen, you combine two of my other favorite variations, Eggs Blackstone (slice of tomato) and Eggs Florentine (spinach), with mushrooms and Swiss cheese.*

 *I must note Eggs Ellen should also include crisp bacon but alas, I used it all up on Saturday morning when making the Bacon, Egg & Grilled Cheese (a true crime and misstep I won't repeat).

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Philly "Grilled Cheese" Steak

This morning as I headed to work, the major news story was Donovan McNabb is heading to DC to play for the Redskins. So, what better day to try what I'm calling the Great Philly Grilled Cheese Steak?

I sautéed onions, green peppers and mushrooms in a little olive oil with salt and pepper. Then I cut up some crusty bread, slathered it with butter, added slices of provolone and a little tangy zip of mayo. While I was in the kitchen doing the prep work, Mr. illegible ink was busy grilling a NY Strip Steak (or maybe it was a "Philly" Strip?). Assemble and put on the griddler until the provolone melted. There were no crumbs left for the dogs from this grilled cheese creation!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Sunday's Sweet Cheese Treat

What do you get when you mix butter, cinnamon raisin bread, fresh strawberries, Mom's raspberry sauce, Mascarpone mixed with vanilla extract and a little caramel sauce? One heck of a grilled cheese sandwich - and quite a delicious dessert!

I doctored up this recipe but you can find the original online at the Grilled Cheese Academy (The Bianca). So, hop to it and get grilling.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Bacon, Egg & Grilled Cheese

Have you seen the recent Burger King commercial where the King has broken into McDonald's and steals the sausage, egg and cheese McMuffin?

Well, I've locked the door and set the security alarm so he doesn't try to break in to steal our version of the bacon, egg and grilled cheese! Maybe to save the King some trouble, I'll just share our simple recipe: eight scrambled eggs, five slices of American cheese, and as much slab bacon as your heart can stomach on a buttered baguette. Assemble and press on the griddler.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Fireside's Italian Grilled Cheese

I woke up this morning thinking, "How the heck I am going to eat a grilled cheese sandwich today - especially since we're on our way from Baltimore to Deep Creek this weekend." But don't worry, The Fireside Deli & Wine Shop answered our grilled cheese prayers with the Italian Grilled Cheese: Capacolla and prosciutto hams, Genoa salami, provolone cheese, roasted red pepper and basil pesto on grilled toast.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

An Ode to the 'Burgh: The Carnegie

In honor of National Grilled Cheese Month, the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board launched the Wisconsin Grilled Cheese Academy website and it is a site everyone who loves cheese should visit. The site features 30 grilled cheese sandwich recipes with photographs of each (photos that would probably make Martha Stewart's food editors drool).

April 1, 2010 (Day 1): I give you The Carnegie, a Captain of Flavor featuring Swiss cheese, smoked ham, dill pickles and spicy brown mustard on a baguette. We served ours with a side of Tuscan Tomato and Basil soup.

So, there you have it - success on the first day of the Thirty Days of Grilled Cheese Sandwich. Only 29 more days to go. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go call Morgan Spurlock and weigh in.

Thirty Days of Grilled Cheese

I really do love grilled cheese sandwiches and when I found out April was National Grilled Cheese Month (who, by the way, decides these things?), I immediately joked with friends that I would do a "Thirty Days of Grilled Cheese Challenge." No surprise to them as I once wrote an essay (adding fuel to a longstanding cafeteria debate) claiming "forget mustard and ketchup, cheese is the ultimate condiment." So it only seems natural to put my money (or the cheese) where my mouth is, right?

Here are my self-imposed rules for this Iron Chef/Throwdown/Dinner Impossible Challenge:
  1. The Grilled Cheese Challenge runs from April 1-April 30, 2010.
  2. For 30 consecutive days, I must have at least one bite of a grilled cheese sandwich. (I didn't want to say I had to finish the entire sandwich or say I had 30 minutes to eat the entire sandwich. That would just be insane!)
  3. To successfully complete the challenge, I must try 30 different types of grilled cheese sandwiches. (No grilled cheese sandwich recipes or orders can be repeated.)
  4. Grilled cheese sandwiches may be made at home, at family and friends' homes as well as at restaurants. (I am not a grilled cheese snob and I'm also not a millionaire.)
  5. I must write a blog post each day with a description of the grilled cheese sandwich (can include title and ingredients if applicable), where I ate it, and post a picture of the sandwich. (I was going to try to rate all the sandwiches but this is Rule #5 and I think I might already be over-doing it.)
Well, the not-so-secret-ingredient is cheese, so "Allez cuisine!" (PS - Vegas has the odds of me beating this challenge at 30-1. You may also want to check the odds of whether I become lactose intolerant or my cholesterol over-under or how many pounds I'm going to gain this month.)
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