Organic Sense

Grilled Cheese, Please

by Terese Allen, Food Editor

My mother-in-law was a choosy eater. She could cook up a storm—and had to, with four kids—but her taste buds were ultra-sensitive. She couldn’t abide spicy fare, pickled foods or herbs (not even parsley). She bypassed tossed green salads, pasta dishes and any sauce that wasn’t gravy. But food was a great pleasure for Marion—when it was a grilled cheese sandwich, that is.

She absolutely loved them, and she prepared them often, for breakfast, lunch or dinner. A woman of habit, Marion made her grilled cheese the same way every time: She spread two slices of bread with real butter (never margarine!), laid two cheese slices between the bread, and then pan-cooked the sandwich until it was golden on the outside and gooey-good on the inside. Each time she ate one, Marion sighed, smiled and hummed a little tune of “mmm.”

That’s the thing about grilled cheese sandwiches: They have a way of being a comfort and an excitement at the same time. Indeed, grilled cheese sandwiches embody a unique merging of contrasts: a crispy, toasted exterior against a creamy-velvet interior; economical ingredients and rich flavor; easy, undemanding preparation and multifaceted satisfaction. Like Marion, you might enjoy them the same way each time you make them, or you may vary them endlessly.

However you prepare grilled cheese, you’ll be getting the best of both worlds when you build your sandwich with organic ingredients. Organic cheese crafted from pasture-based milk not only has outstanding flavor, it contains higher levels of vitamin E, Omega 3 essential fatty acids, and other antioxidants than cheese that comes from the milk of conventionally raised cows. Besides, who really wants to eat a sandwich that was made with pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, antibiotics or GMOs? Layer some real-deal organic cheese with organic meats or veggies, tuck it all between nutrient-dense organic whole grain bread, and you’ve got a meal that will make you feel good in more ways than one.

As for technique, it’s blissfully simple to make a grilled cheese sandwich. I can think of only two must-do’s:

1.     Start with a heavy skillet or griddle. Cast iron works particularly well because it distributes heat well and yields evenly cooked results.

2.     Preheat the pan over medium flame before you add the sandwich to it and then keep the heat at medium as it cooks. This way the bread will have turned crispy on the outside by the time the cheese has gone all molten inside.

In her later years, my mother-in-law was physically challenged and unable to cook grilled cheese sandwiches for herself any longer. So every time I visited, I’d make one for her. And every time she ate it she hummed with pleasure.

This month we offer an array of grilled cheese treats, from basic bread-and-mild-Cheddar sandwiches to gourmet quesadillas with pepper-flecked Jack. Which one makes you hum?

Recipes

Tastes-Like-Pizza Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Do you know what will make a roomful of football fans stand up and cheer? (Besides the obvious, that is.) A platter piled high with these hot-off-the-griddle sandwiches.

Grilled Cheese and Herb Sandwiches
It’s amazing how a little thing can make such a big difference. Add a sprinkle of fresh herbs to your next grilled Organic Valley cheese sandwich and you’ll see what I mean.

Caramelized Onion and Apple Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Slow-cooked, caramelized onions could make soggy cardboard taste yummy, but in a grilled sandwich with tart apples and sharp cheese, the combo is ethereal.

Billie’s Buttered Quesadillas
A little butter spread on the outside of tortillas makes them cook up gloriously brown and crispy on the outside, with an extra savory taste. Que rico!

Blue Cheese Blintzes
Think of these little edible packages as very sophisticated grilled cheese sandwiches. They make an elegant entrée for a special luncheon or brunch.

Gourmet Grilled Cheese
Organic Valley’s Raw Sharp Cheddar elevates an ordinary grilled cheese sandwich to special-meal status.

Oktoberfest Sausage and Swiss Sandwiches
Serve these hearty, German-style stacks with sauerkraut and frothy microbrews. Can’t you just hear the polka playing?

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