published Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

Braly: On hunt for good grilled cheese

The first nip of fall in the air always readies my tastebuds for comfort foods. One of my favorites is a good grilled cheese sandwich.

I'm not talking about American cheese on two slices of white bread with a slathering of margarine on the outside. No, I'm thinking of a hearty sourdough spread with cream cheese and massive amounts of sharp cheddar shredded and sprinkled on the inside. And butter please; no substitute.

Then the artistry begins on the grill. Use a low, steady heat so the bread doesn't burn. Be patient. You have to give it time for the cheese to melt and marry with the bread as it crisps to a golden brown. Yum. Can't you just picture your first bite?

All this got me to wondering what restaurant in town serves a really good grilled cheese. It's not something you can package for takeout. The thought of blanketing a good grilled cheese with plastic or tucking it into a foam container just seems wrong. These sandwiches should be served hot from the grill, not stuffed in a sack.

I can't think of any restaurants that are solely dedicated to grilled cheese sandwiches. A quick Google search did reveal a trend going on in other cities. There's the Melt Bar & Grilled in Cleveland, Ohio; The Melt, a chain in San Francisco; Chedd's, another chain with locations in South Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin and Colorado; and the American Grilled Cheese Kitchen in San Francisco, among others. Maybe one of these will make its way to the Scenic City. I know we'll make room for a restaurant that specializes in one of the world's best sandwiches.

So let me know your favorite place to chow down on a grilled cheese. In the meantime, try this delicious change of pace from delish.com.

Multigrained Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

4 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

1 thyme sprig

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 small clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon thyme leaves

8 slices multigrain bread

3/4 cup shredded Manchego cheese

3/4 cup shredded smoked cheddar cheese

3/4 cup shredded Gouda cheese

Heat the oven to 450 F. In a bowl, toss the tomatoes with the 2 tablespoons of oil, vinegar and thyme sprig; season with salt and pepper. Arrange the tomatoes cut side down on a rimmed baking sheet and roast in the upper third of the oven for 10 minutes, until the skins begin to shrivel. Remove the skins. Turn the tomatoes over and roast for 10 minutes longer, until softened and lightly browned. Sprinkle with the garlic and thyme leaves, and season lightly with salt and pepper.

In the meantime, heat a panini press or grill pan. Arrange the bread slices in pairs; very lightly brush one side of each slice with oil. Turn the bread oiled side down and mound half of the cheeses on four of the slices. Top with the tomatoes, the remaining cheese and the remaining bread, oiled side up. Grill until the bread is crispy and the cheese is melted. Cut the sandwiches in half and serve.

Email Anne Braly at abraly@timesfreepress.com.

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