Could it possibly get any better than grilled cheese? I don't think so. And while it's hard to beat the perfection that is ooey-gooey melted cheese between two crisp pieces of bread, we do have some ideas to help you take it to the next level. Ideas like caramelized shallots. Or sliced pear. Or sage-infused grilling oil ....
Let's start with the grilled cheese at Lucques. Gary from Oxnard requested the recipe, writing:
One of my favorite late-night meals has been sitting at the bar at Lucques on Melrose, snacking on the grilled cheese sandwich and washing it down with a gin gimlet. I can make the gimlet but can never duplicate the combination of crispy bread and several cheeses. Help.
For its take on the classic, Lucques starts with a gentle, buttery Cantal, a mild semi-firm cheese with a fantastic creamy consistency when melted. Caramelized shallots punctuated with a little fresh thyme add another dimension. Put all that between two crisp slices of country-style bread and raise a glass.
Love blue cheese? For a slight twist on the comforting classic, put crumbled blue cheese between slices of raisin brioche, along with thinly sliced pear. Cook until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is soft and oozing, 3 to 4 minutes on each side. If you have enough self-restraint to keep from eating the sandwich over the stove (I totally understand if you don't), plate your creation, drizzled with a little chestnut honey. Grilled cheese never looked so good.
Or wedge some grated fontina cheese between slices of country white bread, the simple sandwich brushed with fresh sage-infused olive oil before grilling. The smooth, slightly nutty cheese pairs well with fragrant herb, making for a sandwich that is perfect for dinner, or any time of the day.
For more ideas, click through our easy dinner recipes gallery and check out our Dinner Tonight page, devoted to recipes that can be made in an hour or less. Looking for a particular type of recipe? Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
LUCQUES' GRILLED CHEESE WITH SHALLOTS
Total time: About 30 minutes
Servings: 1 or 2
Note: From chef-owner Suzanne Goin. She recommends serving the sandwich with an arugula salad dressed with lemon juice and best-quality olive oil.
2 large shallots
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves
2 slices country white bread, sliced 1/2 -inch thick
5 ounces Cantal cheese, sliced 1/8-inch thick
1. Cut the shallots in half lengthwise and peel them. Place the shallots cut-side down. Slice lengthwise into about one-eighth-inch wedges. In a small sauté pan, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and thyme and season lightly with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook gently, stirring often until the shallots are caramelized, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
2. Heat a cast iron or heavy-bottomed sauté pan over medium heat. Add the remaining butter and swirl in the pan until it is melted. Place the two slices of bread in the pan and toast for a minute or two until just beginning to color. Divide the cheese evenly between the two pieces and top with the shallots.
3. Place the pan in a 400-degree oven and cook 5 to 6 minutes until the cheese is melted and the bread is golden and crispy. Remove to a cutting board and carefully assemble the sandwich, placing together the two slices of bread. Cut in half on the diagonal and serve immediately.
Each of 2 servings: 705 calories; 26 grams protein; 53 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams fiber; 43 grams fat; 26 grams saturated fat; 120 mg. cholesterol; 1,026 mg. sodium.
GRILLED BLUE CHEESE AND PEAR SANDWICH
Total time: About 25 minutes
Servings: Makes 2 sandwiches
Note: Raisin brioche is available from La Brea Bakery; you can substitute any good-quality raisin bread. Bleu des Basques cheese is available from Nicole's Gourmet Foods in South Pasadena, the Cheese Store of Silverlake and the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills.
4 slices raisin brioche
2 tablespoons salted butter, melted
4 ounces firm but mild blue cheese, such as bleu des Basques, crumbled
1 pear, slightly under-ripe, cored and thinly sliced
Chestnut honey for drizzling, optional
1. Heat a cast-iron pan or griddle over low heat. Brush one side of each bread slice with melted butter.
2. Spread half of the cheese evenly over the unbuttered side of two slices of the bread. Place a single layer of the pear slices over the cheese, then top with the remaining cheese. Place the remaining bread on top of each sandwich, buttered-side up.
3. With a spatula, place one of the sandwiches into the heated pan and weight it with a second heavy pan or a steak weight. (If your pan is large enough, cook both sandwiches; otherwise, cook them one at a time.) Cook until golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes. Flip the sandwich, weight it with the pan or steak weight, and cook until golden brown, another 3 to 4 minutes.
4. Remove the sandwich to a cutting board and cut it in half or quarters. Serve immediately with a drizzle of chestnut honey, if desired, on the plate.
Each sandwich: 524 calories; 18 grams protein; 48 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams fiber; 31 grams fat; 18 grams saturated fat; 73 mg. cholesterol; 1,122 mg. sodium.
FONTINA AND SAGE GRILLED CHEESE
Total time: About 20 minutes, plus pressing time for the sandwiches
Servings: Makes 2 sandwiches
Note: Adapted from "The Zuni Cafe Cookbook" by Judy Rodgers.
3 tablespoons best-quality olive oil, plus a few drops for the pan
1 dozen fresh sage leaves, chopped (about 1 tablespoon)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces Fontina cheese, rind removed and coarsely grated
4 slices country white bread
1. In a small saucepan over low heat, heat the olive oil, sage and pepper until warm to the touch. Turn off the heat and let it infuse while you assemble the sandwiches.
2. Place the cheese, divided evenly, on two slices of bread. Take care to bring the cheese all the way to the edge of the crust. Top each with a second slice of bread and press flat. Lay a heavy or weighted cutting board on top of the sandwiches for 10 to 20 minutes.
3. Use a pastry brush to spread the sage oil lightly on both sides of the sandwiches. Make sure you go all the way to the edges, and try to distribute the sage and pepper evenly over the bread.
4. Heat a cast-iron pan or griddle over low heat. Sprinkle with a few drops of olive oil, then rub it over the whole cooking surface with a paper towel. Add the sandwiches and cook, weighted with another heavy pan or a steak weight, until golden, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Keep the heat low so that you don't burn the sage or pepper.
5. Remove the sandwich to a cutting board and cut it in half or in quarters. Serve immediately.
Each sandwich: 565 calories; 20 grams protein; 31 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 40 grams fat; 14 grams saturated fat; 66 mg. cholesterol; 804 mg. sodium.