Thursday, February 24, 2011

Gettin' Cheesy With It--A Trio of Grilled Cheese Sammies & a Review of "Grilled Cheese, Please!" By Laura Werlin

Say cheese! Grilled cheese that is. I have been consuming a lot of warm cheesy sandwiches lately with my visits to the local Melt Grilled Cheese Truck and then a review copy of "Grilled Cheese, Please!: 50 Scrumptiously Cheesy Recipes" by Laura Werlin showed up at my door. Talk about drool-inducing! This little (6 x 7 3/4-inch) book is full of ooey, gooey, melted cheese sammies in all their glory.

Author Laura Werlin is a highly respected authority on cheese, a cookbook author (4 books, including the award-winning "Great Grilled Cheese"), and a proponent of American cheeses so she knows her stuff--not only providing 50 innovative recipes, but also giving a primer on making the perfect grilled cheese. The book's introduction features information on choosing the best bread and cheeses for your sandwich, tips (like the importance taking the extra step of grating the cheese instead of slicing for better meltability), the best pans and methods for cooking, and the proper steps to achieving grilled cheese nirvana.

Recipes are broken down into 8 chapters--Just Cheese, Meat and Cheese, Anything Goes, Veggies and Cheese, Global Grilled Cheese, Grilled Cheese on the Go, Regional American Grilled Cheese and Old Favorites and Modern Sides. So many sandwiches, so little time--I managed to "road test" three different and unique sandwiches and one easy side dish for my review.

Here in Hawaii you can open a refrigerator and usually you will find a jar or container of kim chee, Korean spicy fermented cabbage--pungent with garlic. You'll see it often on menus here too--Kim Chee burgers, Kim Chee fried rice, and even on the occasional sandwich, so I had to try Werlin's Smokey Kim Cheese. (Love that name!) I liked the fact that she paired the spicy cabbage mix with one of my cheese favorites--smoked Gouda, and then added sliced ham because she likes the pairing of smokey foods with spicy kim chee.

This sandwich is made on a mini baguette or sub roll with a slightly hollowed out center to hold the cabbage. It was amazing--the combination of spicy and smokey really does work here and I have made this sandwich three times already and foresee myself making it a lot more. Served with a little extra kim chee on the side (or the Pickled Cucumbers below), it's delicious.

After deciding to make the pimento cheese for my review of "Quick Fix Southern" last week and creating my masterpiece Meatloaf and Pimento Cheese Sandwich, I got to wondering if there would be a recipe for Pimento Grilled Cheese in this book. Yep--it's the first recipe in the Regional American Grilled Cheese chapter so of course I had to try it.

Werlin provides her favorite pimento cheese recipe in the book but my hips did not need another batch of pimento cheese sitting about so I used the one I had already made. Here the pimento cheese is mixed with chopped celery (a nod to the fact it is often served with celery), and it is sandwiched in brioche, challah or egg bread. Unfortunately none of the three grocery stores near me had any of those breads, so I went with a ciabatta roll. Still it was very good with the pimento cheese mixture melting nicely and contrasted by the crunch of the celery. I still like my Meatloaf & Pimento Cheese a little better but I may have to combine the ideas and try the M&PC grilled, just for research purposes of course. ;-)

I don't think you could review this book without trying the unique Chips and Guacamole Grilled Cheese. I mean come on--sourdough slathered with tortilla chip compound butter, housing a mix of Colby, Monterey Jack & goat cheese, crisp bacon and creamy guacamole?!? What's not to love?!? This is the most labor intensive of the three sandwiches I made and it is somewhat messy to eat but just grab a few napkins and let the tortilla crumbs fall where they may--trust me, you won't care once you take a bite. I made my guacamole on the zesty side--with a little jalapeno thrown in and it was genius--so many flavors and textures wrapped up in one cheesy bundle of love. Another make-again recipe for me.

Since you REALLY need to try this one for yourself here's the recipe. It can also be found here at the Andrews McMeel website.

Chips and Guacamole Grilled Cheese
From "Grilled Cheese Please!" --Andrews McMeel Publishing
(Makes 4 Sandwiches)

"In this recipe, tortilla chips are on the outside of the bread to give the sandwich its corn-like flavor and to give you the ability to enjoy all the flavors—guacamole, bacon, cheeses, and corn chips—all at once."

8 slices bacon
8 large tortilla chips (about 2 ounces)
4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
8 slices sourdough bread
½ cup guacamole (recipe follows; or use purchased, preferably one with tomato in it)
2 tablespoons peeled, seeded, diced Roma tomato (see Note)
4 ounces Colby cheese, coarsely grated
4 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, coarsely grated
4 ounces goat cheese

Line a plate with paper towels. In a large nonstick skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until very crisp. Drain the bacon on the paper towels.

Remove the bacon fat from the pan and wipe the pan with a paper towel, but do not wash it. Set aside.

To make the tortilla chip butter: Put the chips in the bowl of a food processor and process until the texture is very fine, similar to sand. Alternatively, place the chips in a sturdy plastic bag. Using a meat mallet or other heavy object, pound the chips until they are the texture of sand. Put the butter in a medium bowl and add the ground chips. Using a fork, work the chip “sand” and butter together until well mixed. The mixture will be somewhat stiff.

To assemble: Spread the butter mixture on one side of each slice of bread. Place 4 slices, butter-chip mixture side down, on your work surface. Spread 2 tablespoons of the guacamole on each slice of bread. Sprinkle the tomato on top of the guacamole. Follow with the colby and Monterey Jack cheeses. Dot with small pieces of the goat cheese. Finish by placing 2 bacon pieces on each sandwich. Top with the remaining bread slices, buttered side up.

For stovetop method: Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes. Put the sandwiches into the pan, cover, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the undersides are golden brown. Watch carefully because the chips in the butter can burn easily. Turn the sandwiches, pressing each one firmly with a spatula to compress the filling slightly. Cover and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the undersides are well browned. Turn the sandwiches once more, press firmly with the spatula again, cook for 1 minute, and remove from the pan. Let cool for 5 minutes. Cut in half and serve.

For sandwich maker method: Use your sandwich maker for this sandwich only if it has variable heat settings. Otherwise, it will cook too hot and burn the chips on the bread without melting the cheese. To use your sandwich maker, follow directions for assembly above. Cook according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Note: There’s no need to use the tomato if your guacamole already has tomato in it.

I tried a quick batch of the Pickled Cucumbers, one of the handful of side dishes in the book. A basic recipe, the cucumbers are marinated in cider vinegar, water, sugar, salt and dill. They are great to snack on and as Werlin pints out--they are refreshing and cut the richness of a grilled cheese. I have been happily munching on these--liking their sweet/salty flavor.

Excuse the bad blurry photo--I took about 10 and for some reason they were all burry
but I was too lazy to go back and take more. :-)

As you can see these are not your standard grilled cheese sandwiches--they are modern, unique and as the title of the book claims "scrumptiously cheesy" too. With so many delicious sounding recipes like Spinach, Egg and Manchego, Mozzarella with Crispy Prosciutto and Broccoli Rabe, Cheese and Cherries a la Lynne, Pizza Grilled Cheese, Artichoke Dip Grilled Cheese, The Greek, Harvest Melt, and Erika's PB & Cheese, there is a little something here for everyone. The recipes I tried were all very tasty, the recipes were easy to follow, with some great tips and the book has quite a few gorgeous pictures (far better than mine!) of many of the sandwiches that make you want to jump up and get cooking.

"Grilled Cheese, Please!" would be a great gift combined with a pan, or some gourmet cheese and bread for your favorite cheese lover, foodie, college student, etc. Since my visits to the Melt Truck cost me roughly $7-$9 for the sandwich, plus soup, (yikes!) you can bet that I'll take the tricks and tips learned from Werlin and do more of my occasional cheese indulging at home! A fun book to add to the cookbook shelf.

Obligatory Disclosure Statement: I was sent "Grilled Cheese, Please!" by the publisher free, to review if I chose to, but I was not compensated for my review and of course as always my thoughts, cooking experiences with the book and opinions are entirely my own.

So what's your favorite grilled cheese addition/ingredient?


  1. Great review. I'm getting this!

  2. A whole book devoted to one of my favorite sandwiches...I'm enamored.

  3. yummy! I am going to try making the kim cheese sandwich :)

  4. Melted cheese is my favourite substance on earth. I love it more than bacon! But I can't have this book; I just couldn't be trusted.

  5. Is there anything more comforting than grilled cheese? What a fabulous "line up" you've created.

  6. Beautiful! We are all about the grilled cheese here - we love it too for an informal dinner or just for fun. Great sammies!

  7. Nice roundup of all those recipes!! Nice blog you have here too :)

  8. Wow, all these grilled cheeses sound awesome, I especially want to try the Pimento grilled cheese, yum!

  9. These all look so good - especially the tortilla chip one! Love it. I like a little bit of mustard on my grilled cheese.

  10. Pam--it is a fun book! ;-)

    Joanne--You'll be amazed at all of the different recipes in it. ;-)

    Kat--it is pretty darn yummy! I totally thought of you when making it. ;-)

    Foodycat--It can be a dangerous book--each recipe sounds better than the next! ;-)

    Arlene--thanks! It is truly comfort food. ;-)

    Natashya--grilled cheese is good any time. ;-)

    Dharm--thank you for stopping by!

    Natasha--It is a good one! ;-) I have a new found love for pimento cheese from my last two cookbook reviews. ;-)

    Reeni--mustard is a great addition!


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