At my parent’s house, you will always find a package of deli-sliced Land o’ Lakes white American cheese in the refrigerator. It’s one of those reassuring constants that can get you through a particularly destabilizing day. Growing up, even if I returned from school traumatized by the new, unflattering nickname someone dreamed up for me, or I fared poorly on a quiz, I could peer into the fridge and think, “Oh, there’s the American cheese. Everything is going to be okay.”
The American cheese studded turkey and ham sandwiches, melted into oozing tributaries atop freshly scrambled eggs, and sometimes served as a stand-alone snack. But its true purpose, the reason my Mom always replenished the supply before it could run out, was for grilled cheese sandwiches. It’s not because our weekly dinner menu hinged on grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. Those nights were actually pretty rare. Grilled cheese was our plan B, the thing we’d have for weekend lunches and on weeknight evenings that demanded a quick meal.
It always began the same way: with two slices of generously buttered white bread and at least two slices of American cheese. They often appeared at the table with one side slightly black and never accompanying tomato soup. For the first eighteen years of my life, that’s what I understood grilled cheese to be.
Now that I’m more than a decade removed from living in my parent’s house, I don’t actually like American cheese. Call me unpatriotic for harboring those feelings, but I just can’t get behind a product that calls itself something that it’s not. Shouldn’t the US want its name given to a cheese that isn’t merely an imitation of the real thing anyway?
Despite my falling out with American cheese, I have far from abandoned grilled cheese. In our house, they serve the same purpose as they did when I was a kid – perfect for Saturday lunches when I haven’t managed to yet make it to the grocery store and absolutely necessary for nights when both Z and I are too tired to prepare a more elaborate meal. We don’t often eat plain grilled cheese, though. Instead, we play with cheese and condiment combinations, and we usually add something to make the sandwich more substantial.
Lately, our favorite is apple gorgonzola grilled cheese with fig butter. The salty gorgonzola offsets the sweet apples and fig butter perfectly. Pressed between slices of rustic bread and grilled, it’s a simple meal that doesn’t skimp on flavor. The best part? As long as you have all the ingredients (of which there are few) on hand, you’re always only 10 minutes away from enjoying a perfect grilled cheese sandwich.
- 4 slices of bread
- 2 T fig butter
- 4 oz gorgonzola cheese
- ½ large crips pink apple, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 T unsalted butter
- Add ½ butter to a large skillet and melt over medium heat, making sure to coat entire skillet surface
- Place bread in skillet and toast until the bottom side is slightly toasted
- Remove the bread from skillet and coat each toasted side with ½ T of the fig butter
- Assemble sandwiches, leaving the untoasted sides facing outwards and layering 2 oz of gorgonzola cheese and ½ of the apple slices on each
- Melt the remaining butter in the skillet and grill sandwiches for 5 minutes on each side, or until the cheese is melted and the bread is well-toasted
Shared at: Chef in Training Tuesday Talent Show