What is the difference between cheddar and American cheese? What is the difference between fresh and tinned tomatoes? Learn how to make the finest grilled cheese and tomato soup, and treat yourself to the ultimate comfort food combination.
I’m a latecomer to the grilled cheese fan club. I used to despise cheese as a youngster, and I could only eat it on pizza or mac & cheese. So, even though my mom baked what had to be a great toastie, I’d never let one touch my plate, preferring the glorious tomato soup she served alongside. I began eating grilled cheese when I was in college. That’s when I realized how ideal the soup + sandwich combo is for a weekday meal, with minimal prep time providing maximum delight. To me, breaking apart two halves of a fresh-from-the-pan sandwich and watching the cheese stre-e-e-e-tch between the golden toast before a hearty dive in the soup is nearly as pleasurable as eating it.
Keys to a killer grilled cheese sandwich
I’m not suggesting creating a grilled cheese sandwich is difficult — but constructing a memorable one that sends you back to the kitchen to prepare another while you’re still chewing the first requires some skill.
Let’s start with the ingredients:
- The tummy. Without anything to get things sizzling, you won’t be able to attain that flawlessly browned exterior. My childhood sandwiches were always made with unsalted butter, but as an adult, I’ve been swayed by mayonnaise. Because it has a more excellent smoke point than butter, you’re less likely to burn the outside before the cheese melts. Plus, there’s no need to keep it on the counter to soften before spreading it on a slice of bread.
- The loaf of bread. Grilled cheese is traditionally done with white bread, but a sandwich with two slices from a grocery loaf can be delicious. But it’s so much more enjoyable when you’re having fun. Thickly sliced white bread from a bakery, as well as sourdough bread, are simple upgrades. Pumpernickel bread, white cheddar, bacon, and a sprinkle of hot honey were among my favorite grilled cheese combinations. You can use whatever you choose if the slices are dense and robust.
- The cheddar. You can’t make grilled cheese without it, so you’d think your cheese selection would have to be quite precise. But I don’t think. First, of course, it would help if you had something melty. At home, we generally use cheddar, mozzarella, or American cheese. Still, I’ve also produced excellent variants with gruyere, manchego, fontina, havarti, and gouda. And, just for fun, I’ll add a little freshly grated Parmesan to the skillet before adding the bread. It sticks to the butter side, creating an extra-crunchy, extra-savory crust.
- The add-ons. You can make a tasty grilled cheese with only those three ingredients, but boy, things improve when you add something. The following recipes will inspire, but be bold and experiment.
Let us now discuss the technique. You’ll find an oven, air fryer, and panini press recipes below, but I stick to the stovetop:
- The classic grilled cheese. Melt the butter in a large skillet or griddle over medium-low heat. Each slice of bread should have fat on one side. If constructing a simple sammich, place the bread in the pan, butter side down, and top with your preferred cheese. Cook for 3-4 minutes per side, until the outside is golden brown and the cheese has melted, with the remaining bread butter-side up and got more going on than cheese. To avoid burning the bread while stacking everything, assemble the sandwiches before placing them in the skillet.
Keys to killer tomato soup
A warm bowl of homemade tomato soup goes better with grilled cheese.
Let’s begin with the ingredients:
- Tomatoes, fresh vs. canned. Fresh tomatoes from the farmer’s market (or grown in the backyard) are unbeatable in the summer, but canned tomatoes often have a more concentrated flavor. Try canned San Marzano tomatoes, an Italian variety famed for their low acidity and vibrant tomatoey ness.
- Aromatics. You’ll need an onion, garlic, and a herb like thyme or parsley, at the very least.
- Broth. To enhance the savory flavors, add additional chicken broth or veggie broth.
Making tomato soup couldn’t be more accessible in terms of technique:
- Simple tomato soup. In a big pot, sauté some aromatics, such as yellow onion, in olive oil until tender. Simmer with cans of tomatoes, several cups of chicken stock or vegetable broth, and some dried or fresh herbs. Puree carefully with an immersion or regular blender, season with salt and black pepper, and serve.
Learn more: How to Make Homemade Bread Pudding