Grilled Cheese for Snobs

Gourmet versions of non-gourmet foods are all the rage right now, including an update to the American classic, the grilled cheese sandwich.

I will always claim to be an early adopter, possibly even an originator, of this fad.

Years ago, I lived with 3 roommates in a neighborhood of San Diego called “Birdland” – the streets had names like Cardinal Way, Mockingbird Lane, Starling Court. It sounds so serene, doesn’t it? Deceptively so. I don’t remember many birds but I do remember termites, ants, mice, and some serious plumbing issues. When I think back on the Birdland apartment, I mostly remember ridiculous misadventures, like being literally ankle deep in toilet water while my dad attempted to coach me through a clog over the phone, or hosting living room small groups while fearless mice scurried across the kitchen floor in broad daylight. But I guess they were character building experiences, as I also remember how they bonded the four of us girls together in a way that only chronic pest infestation can.

Anyway, it was in the kitchen of the Birdland apartment that I discovered a love of fancy grilled sandwiches. After long days rushing from school to an internship and finally back home, I couldn’t bear to spend more than 10 minutes getting dinner ready. I’m not a college student anymore, but somedays I still find myself just too exhausted to put much effort into dinner. Tonight was such a night, so this is for you, my fellow food snobs who are in a rush to put dinner on the table.

Fancy Grilled Cheese

The possibilities are endless here, you just work with whatever you have in the fridge. And so what I happened to have in the fridge tonight was brie, gorgonzola, figs, and whole wheat bread.

Any sandwich bread will do. Lay your two slices open faced on a plate or cutting board. Slice the brie and arrange a single layer on the bottom slice of bread. Slice the figs (2 per sandwich) and add those as well. Add a drizzle of honey, and some fresh cracked black pepper, then top with an uneven layer of gorgonzola, really just a few crumbles. Top with remaining slice of bread.

Melt a teaspoon of butter in a skillet over medium to medium-low (you can use olive oil, or even non-stick cooking spray). Using both hands, gently place sandwich in the skillet. Press down gently with a spatula – partly to ensure the melting cheese seals in the other ingredients, but mostly to enjoy the sizzle.

Cover the skillet with a lid. (It doesn’t have to fit perfectly, you just want to trap the heat so that the cheese melts faster and you don’t burn the bread.)  Wait 2-3 minutes, or use the spatula to take a peek at the bottom slice. It’s ready to flip when it is golden brown. Add another teaspoon of butter before flipping the sandwich over to cook 2 more minutes.

This sandwich would have been great with tomato soup or a side salad… but I didn’t have the patience for that, so I ate it with some asian pears from the farmers’ market. I didn’t even have the energy to cut the core out of the pears.

Who could say no to a sandwich with creamy melted brie, and that salty and sweet combo to boot? If you think figs are gross, this would also be great with sliced pears or apples.

Not a food snob? Hey, that’s cool. You can stick with cheddar or pepperjack, but adding sliced tomato, avocado, or sautéed mushrooms & peppers might boost your kitchen morale and make you feel like you put forth some real effort. And, in case you didn’t know, cheese is a health food when eaten with fruits or vegetables. Enjoy!

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