I can’t think of a more American staple than a grilled cheese sandwich. Ok, maybe a hamburger, with special sauce sandwiched between a sesame seed bun… But I’d like to think that grilled cheeses are more appropriate for everyday living. Strangely enough, every ethnicity has one version of this classics, give or take some specially additions. I personally love the French take of a grilled cheese, Croque Monsieur.
I admit, my history with grilled cheese sandwiches has been fairly abysmal. I remember my dad making a rather humble grilled cheese consisting of two thin slices of Wonder Bread, two slices of Kraft American Cheese, and pickle on the side. Why the pickle? Who knows, I hated pickles growing up. That should give you an idea of my dad’s involvement in my childhood…
It wasn’t until I got to high school till I knew the wonder of a perfect grilled cheese. Coincidentally, this was the same time that I befriended my trusty gal pal, Julia. I’ve mentioned her before, the lover of toast, Diet Pepsi, and cookies. She’s one class act and I owe her many thanks for introducing me to the fine world of grilled cheese.
After boring days in school, we’d run to her house, hop in the pool, and after a couple of hours soaking up the rays, we’d wander in to the kitchen, starving. She’d quickly assemble our saving grace: the grilled cheese. Two long slices of sourdough bread, slathered in butter, with three slices of hearty sharp Tillamook Cheddar Cheese. A couple of minutes on each side, with a pan slammed on top (this was pre-pannini grill days) and our dinner would be served.
I don’t know if it was the chlorine in our hair, the impending sunburn on my nose, or the smell of the buttered friend bread, but I can’t remember a more perfect way to spend my afternoons. Julia is also responsible for the many grilled cheese tasting parties we had in college. We’d make three different kinds of grilled cheeses and cut them up into little pieces and taste. The combinations we ended up loving were the ones with sharp cheeses with sweet jams. I still prefer the sharp Tillamook Cheddar Cheese, but I’d slather some Strawberry jam or grape jelly in between. The sweet fruit brings out the flavor of the sourdough bread and tasty cheese. I’d consider this version a more grown-up grilled cheese. Reminiscent of your carefree childhood days, it’s perfect for long days out in the sun when you need a quick, hearty meal.
Grilled Cheese and Jam Sandwich
Yield: 2 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 5 minutes
● 4 slices Tillamook Sharp Cheddar, American
● 4 slices sourdough wheat bread
● 2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
● 2 tbsp strawberry preserves
Spread butter on one side of each bread slice and turn slices over. Divide and spread jam on 2 slices of bread. Divide cheese between remaining 2 slices. Season with salt and pepper, then assemble sandwiches.
Heat a dry heavy skillet over medium-low heat until hot but not smoking. Cook sandwiches, pressing down with a spatula so the cheese and jam melt together. Flip the sandwiches over Once the sides are golden, flip the sandwiches over and cook the other side until bread is golden and cheese is completely melted.
Remove from the pan and slice in half. Enjoy sandwich warm.