American Icon: The Grilled Cheese Sandwich

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Grilled CheeseLaura Werlin is the author of Great Grilled Cheese: 50 Innovative Recipes for Stove Top, Grill, and Sandwich Maker and is an authority on American cheese.

The Best Grilled Cheese Sandwich

8 1/4-inch slices sourdough
2 Tablespoons butter, softened
6 oz cheddar cheese, coarsely grated

To assemble: Butter one side of each of the bread slices. Place 4 slices of bread, buttered side down, on your work surface. Distribute the cheese over the bread slices. Place remaining bread, buttered side up, on top of the cheese.

For stovetop method: Heat a large nonstick pan over a medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Put the sandwiches into the pan, cover, and cook for 2 minutes. Remove the cover and turn the sandwiches, pressing each one firmly with a spatula to flatten slightly. Cook for 1 minute or until underside is golden brown. Turn the sandwiches once more, press with the spatula again, cook for 30 seconds, and remove from the pan. Cut in half and serve immediately.

For sandwich maker method: Preheat the sandwich maker. Assemble as directed above. Cook according to the manufacturer's instructions.

For outdoor grill method: Brush the grill rack with oil and preheat to medium-high. Follow directions for stovetop method.

Chocolate-Hazelnut and Goat Cheese Melt

You'll love how quickly this elegant and rich dessert sandwich can be made.  My faithful recipe tester Annette says it's kind of like a chocolate-hazelnut cheesecake, only much simpler to make.  Usually, it's important to press grilled cheese sandwiches with a spatula to flatten them, but with this one, it's important not to press it, or the filling can squirt out.

8 Tablespoons (about 1/2 cup) Nutella (or other hazelnut-chocolate spread)
4 oz fresh goat cheese, at room temperature
8 slices country white bread (1/4 inch thick)
2 Tablespoons butter, at room temperature

In a small bowl, stir the Nutella and cheese together.

To assemble:  Butter one side of each slice of bread.  Place 4 slices on your work surface, buttered side down.  Spread the cheese mixture evenly over the 4 slices so that it is about 1/4 inch thick (if it's any thicker, the sandwich will be too gooey).  Place the remaining 4 bread slices on top, buttered side up.  Cut off the crusts (this helps pinch the bread together to create a tight seal).

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes.  Put the sandwiches in the skillet (in batches if necessary), cover, and cook for 2 minutes or until the undersides are golden brown and the cheese has begun to soften.  Uncover, and turn the sandwiches with a spatula.  Cook for 1 minute of until the undersides are golden brown  Turn the sandwiches again, and cook for 30 seconds, or until the cheese is soft and creamy.  Serve immediately.

Music Break: Mumbo Jumbo by Lee Morgan