Friday, July 29, 2011

The Grilled Cheese Chronicles: Part I

Having grown up in Jersey, a grilled cheese has always been yellow American cheese sandwiched between two slices of buttery white bread griddled to greasy, bronzed perfection and served up at 2:30 in the morning... a meal barely suitable for anyone sober.

I didn't intend to share this recipe, solely because I didn't think there was anything that special about a grilled cheese, but then I checked myself- who was I to slight such a sandwich?! Why not give credit where credit is due? So here is my yummy and satisfying grilled cheese upgrade...

For 2 sandwiches you will need:
4 slices of good Sourdough bread
6 Tbsp softened Butter [3 Tbsp, divided, per sandwich], plus 2 Tbsp for cooking
1 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 lb ground breakfast sausage, casing removed or patties crumbled
1/2 Yellow Bell Pepper, thinly sliced
4 ounces of Extra Sharp Cheddar [if slicing from a block of cheddar, about 3- 1/8th inch thick slices will equal roughly 1 ounce of cheese]
Kosher salt, as needed

  • Heat a medium saute pan over medium-high heat.  Add the olive oil and crumbled sausage; let cook until browned, stirring occasionally. Once the sausage is nicely browned, add the sliced bell pepper and a small pinch of salt. Cook until the pepper is slightly softened, about 1.5 minutes [What's great about the bell pepper is that it will clean up all those yummy browned bits of sausage from the bottom of the pan, adding yet another layer of flavor]
  • Line a plate with a couple of paper towels and pour the sausage and peppers onto it; this will soak up any trace amounts of excess fat. Now, preheat your toaster oven to 325 degrees [you'll see. just do it].
  • While the mixture is cooling, lightly butter the "outside" side of each slice of bread. Heat your saute pan on medium for a couple of minutes and then add 1 Tbsp butter to the hot pan. Place your bread, buttered side down in the sizzling pan and put 1 ounce of cheddar on it, followed by half of your sausage & bell pepper mixture and another ounce of cheese. Place the other slice of bread, buttered side up on top and press down with a spatula. Let the sandwich sit for a little over a minute, being mindful that it won't burn. 
  • Take a peak and if it looks golden, carefully flip the sandwich over, trying your hardest not to spill its guts.  Continue to cook on the other side for another minute or so and then transfer to a sheet of aluminum foil, shiny side up, and loosely scrunch shut. Repeat this process with the other sandwich if you couldn't fit both in your pan.
  • Transfer foil parcels to toaster oven and allow to continue melting for about 8-10 minutes.  Unwrap, cut in half, serve with a peppery arugula salad, and enjoy!

You're probably scratching your head at the inclusion of breakfast sausage over any other type of sausage, but the comforting flavors os sage and thyme shouldn't have to be limited to breakfast.  It also pairs deliciously with sweet potatoes and swiss chard... but I'll save that recipe for fall.

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