Updated: April 22, 2013 at 12:00 am
A grilled cheese sandwich requires little forethought: slap two slices of American cheese between two pieces of buttered bread and grill until the cheese is melted.
But turn the concept over to creative chefs and prepare to be amazed at what they dream up.
Jeff Richard, owner of Crave Real Burgers, takes the toasted sandwich where it rarely has been before, using two to stand in for buns in his Fatty Melt burger. And grilled cheese is the base for his version of the Slopper — an open-face burger smothered in green chili, a sensation made popular in Pueblo.
“We must have had 100 people from Pueblo come to Crave when we opened in Castle Rock telling us we had to make a Slopper,” he said. “We had never heard of it. Once we figured out the concept, it was a natural to put our grilled cheese sandwich on the bottom to hold up to the chili.”
Richard is particular about the type of bread he uses. He uses a sourdough bread that is more dense and firm than store-bought white bread. He also cuts the slices thicker to hold up to the juiciness of his burgers and toppings.
Crave also offers what Richard calls “the ultimate grilled cheese sandwich.” It’s the Virginia, which starts with the sourdough bread and is topped with thick slices of grilled ham and Swiss, provolone and cheddar cheeses.
Scarlett Farney (full disclosure: she’s my daughter), executive chef at Mozaic restaurant at the Inn at Palmer Divide in Palmer Lake, took home bragging rights from the Colorado Springs Chorale Chefs’ Gala in February for her grilled cheese creation. The dish — Chipotle Cherry Cheddar Cheese Grilled Sandwich with duck confit on homemade brioche with onion-bacon marmalade served with romesco sauce — took second in the appetizer category.
Think of this dish as fat on fat. The duck confit is duck legs that have been simmered slowly in duck fat until the meat falls off the bone in velvety strands. It’s combined with the gooey goodness of creamy cheddar cheese bookended with butter-toasted brioche. The sweet-savory marmalade plays nicely with the cheese and butter sandwich flavors.
So grilled cheese doesn’t have to be a simple sandwich. It can ooze with surprising combinations, and can even involve dessert.
In honor of Grilled Cheese Sandwich Month (who knew?), we offer a couple of easy recipes that take grilled cheese to the next level.
Contact Teresa J. Farney at 636-0271, Twitter @tffoodie, Facebook Teresa Farney
The French Connection
Yield: 2 sandwiches
4 slices of French bread
4 ounces blue cheese
10 strawberries, quartered
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
8 basil leaves
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1-2 tablespoons granulated sugar
A half-hour before making sandwich, clean and quarter the strawberries. Combine the strawberries, balsamic vinegar and sugar in a bowl and gently toss. Let ingredients sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
To make sandwich, butter sliced bread with room temperature butter. To construct sandwiches, place bread butter-side-down and layer 2 ounces blue cheese, basil leaves and top with half of strawberry mixture on each sandwich.
Transfer to hot skillet and cook until cheese is melted and bread is nicely browned.
Source: Adapted from Vermont Farmstead Cheese Co.
The Vermont Sunrise
Yield: 4 sandwiches
1 can of biscuits
12 slices cheddar
12 slices of bacon
1 Granny Smith apple, sliced
4 tablespoon butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons maple syrup, warm
Bake the biscuits in the oven as directed while cooking the bacon in a skillet. Set bacon aside.
When baked, cut the biscuits in half and butter the outsides of each biscuit. To construct sandwiches, layer cheddar slices, then apple slices, and top with bacon.
Drizzle each sandwich with ½ Tbsp. warm maple syrup, close with top half of buttered biscuit. Place sandwich on skillet and grill until heated and cheese melts.
Source: Adapted from Vermont Farmstead Cheese