Grilled cheese is a classic, American comfort food. It has the power to conjure memories of mom, a warm and inviting kitchen, and snowy days. And even though the toasty, melty, feel-good sandwich is oft connected to childhood, Laura Duff at Paducah's A Pampered Palate doesn't see that as a reason to stop enjoying it. In fact, she's discovered a medley of ways to make grilled cheese a little more grown up!
"I definitely remember the Colonial bread with butter and some sliced Kraft cheese, usually served with my mom’s canned dill pickles," says Laura, smiling. "I can smell it now! "
I remember the first time I had the proverbial tomato soup and Grilled cheese. I was in 6th grade, and it was served on fine china at my grandmother's cousin's house for a Saturday lunch."
She discovered one of her favorite grilled cheese treats later in life. "I love Brie grilled cheese at the Capitol Grille in the Hermitage Hotel in Nashville. They serve it with creamy onion soup. Yum!"
Laura's own creations, such as the St. Andre Triple Creme Brie and Homemade Tomato Jam Grilled Cheese, have become some of her clients' favorites. "It is a little sweet, and it has a nice, warming spice."
She also combines pesto, tomato, and mozzarella for a flavorful, Italian twist. "I love it when a little of the mozzarella falls into the hot skillet and gets a little crispy!"
In another variation, Laura combines fresh asparagus with goat cheese and truffle oil. But one of her personal favorites is bacon and blue cheese with mozzarella and tomato.
"The blue cheese flavor is great for the sandwich, but it really isn't a melting cheese. When you combine it with the mozzarella, it softens up, and the mozzarella becomes the melting medium you need. You can do that with just about any other hard cheese."
So how do you become a grilled cheese master? Laura offers the following advice:
"I like to use cast iron skillets, but any of your favorite pans will do. Make sure you preheat it before placing the sandwich on the surface.
"I also like to use homemade bread. Kirchoff's Big Boy is good because it has a little higher sugar content. Not only is there an added sweetness, it causes the sandwich to brown nicely.
"Bring all your ingredients to room temperature before you cook. This will get everything melting more quickly.
"Make sure you butter the bread, not the pan. Brush it on with a pastry brush. Otherwise you could end up with a scorched butter flavor.
"Brown it as much or as little you like. Everyone has a different preference. Some prefer light, some prefer dark."
With a little practice, you'll be a grilled cheese guru in no time. Laura's own creations have become incredibly popular this past winter as she's been asked to serve several varieties at parties all over Paducah. And if there is anything else we can learn from Laura's experience with grilled cheese, it is to not be afraid of experimentation. If a combination sounds good, give it a try! As you do, email us your favorites!