Another day of foul weather here on the east coast, and I find myself craving a childhood classic…grilled cheese! Really, is there anything better on days where all you want to do is stay indoors, curled up with a blanket and a good book?
While I consider a grilled cheese sandwich a perfect example of haute cuisine, many others might disagree — probably because they are picturing two slices of wonderbread slapped on a piece of American cheese. Please. That is not a grilled cheese sandwich. That is crap.
If, however, you start with high-quality bread and real cheese, plus a few bonus add-ins, you will have yourself one of the most divine creations you can make in your kitchen. Add a bowl of tomato soup, and you have the perfect rainy day comfort food!
Whenever I visit my grandmother, this is what she makes me. And while her recipe can scarcely be perfected, sometimes I like to add a little flair in the form of sliced jalapenos or tomatoes. Whatever floats your boat. As usual, there are no rules.
The Best Grilled Cheese Sandwich
2 slices bread
About 3-4 ounces cheese of choice (I like cheddar, but feel free to experiment. Try pepper jack, smoked gouda, gruyère…)
1/4 onion, finely minced
salt, pepper (or Penzey’s Sandwich Sprinkle…so good!)
Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and coat with butter. I love using a cast iron skillet
Grate the cheese and toss with onion, salt, and pepper (or sandwich sprinkle).
Heat sandwich on skillet until bottom is crisp and browned to your liking, about 2-4 minutes. Keep it covered, to heat sandwich and melt cheese. Carefully flip sandwich and repeat on other side.
Now, do your best to wait until the tomato soup cools enough to enjoy alongside.
Basic tomato soup
A quick google search for “tomato soup” turns up hundreds of variations, and I’m sure this could be improved — but it’s a simple and easy recipe that uses some basic ingredients you likely already have. And is much better than that stuff that comes out of a can!
14 oz (one can) tomatoes
2-3 cups vegetable broth
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon arborio rice
1 bay leaf
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Italian seasoning to taste
Sugar or honey to taste
Optional: milk or cream
In a large pot, saute onion on medium-low heat until slightly golden, about 10-15 minutes.
Add celery, carrot and garlic and saute another 5-10 minutes, until softened slightly. Add the spices and stir briefly until highly fragrant. Deglaze if necessary with some wine.
Add the broth, tomatoes and the rice, bring to a boil and simmer at least 30 minutes, or up to an hour for more concentrated flavors.
Add the milk or cream if using. Toward the end of cooking, puree soup with an immersion blender (or transfer carefully to a blender or food processor). If the soup is too acidic, add a tiny bit of sugar to taste.