Reinventing grilled cheese

October 5, 2009

shrimp naanwich

Did I mention to you that I’m on a diet? Yes, again. I’m truly the poster child for yo-yo dieting. I even have a string in the top of my head.

When I diet, I fantasize about my favourite foods. In fact, all weekend long I was tormented by dreams of crunchy, buttery, gooey grilled cheese sandwiches!

As much as I love old school, aged Cheddar melted between slices of sandwich bread (these are the sandwiches that I grew up eating for lunch), I’ve been known to experiment with my grilled cheese, too. In fact, in my 2007 cookbook Dana’s Top ten Table (Harper Collins), I featured this suppertime sandwich that combines tender naan bread, molten cheese and crunchy, sweet shrimp. Decadent, fast, easy and comforting:

Shrimp Toasty Naanwhich

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 5 minutes

1/2 lb (50 mL) thawed, frozen cooked shrimp, tails and shells removed
3 tbsp (45 mL) mayonnaise (light or regular)
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 green onion, finely chopped
4 slices havarti cheese
4 slices naan bread, halved crosswise
1 tbsp (15 mL) melted butter

Pat the shrimp dry on paper towels and then chop coarsely if large. Blend with the mayonnaise with the garlic and green onion. Lay two large naan out on a clean work surface; spread the shrimp mixture evenly over one slice. Top with the cheese slices and remaining bread.

• Spread the butter evenly over the outside of the naan. Preheat a panini maker, hinged grill or a large skillet or griddle to medium heat. Add the sandwich and cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until bread is golden on each side and cheese is melted. If cooking on the stovetop, turn the sandwich halfway through cooking. Makes 4 servings.

In case you’re uninitiated, naan is an East Indian, wheat flour, leavened bread that’s baked until pillowy, soft and golden in a tandoor oven. According to the Chicago Tribune, using naan for sandwiches is trending up. From Canada’s west coast chain Sabri Sandwiches that transform Indian entrées like butter chicken into hand held meals to old crocks like me, naan is a great way to perk up your sandwiches.

Do you use naan in non-traditional ways like sandwiches and pizza?

More about grilled cheese

March 25, 2008

Grilled cheeseI know I wrote about grilled cheese in January but here I am with these crisp, buttery examples of cheesy goodness on my mind yet again. As I mentioned in my first post, I served mini grilled cheese as one of many hors d’oeuvres at my holiday party. I also saw them served at several catered parties I attended during the festive season. Now, well into the spring season, sightings of cocktail party grilled cheese sandwiches continue: triangular grilled cheeses (really a little too big to be considered canapés) were served at the wonderful Queen Street Unmasked party held at the Drake Hotel to raise money and awareness for mental health prevention and treatment. Then, at Terroir II Symposium, the grilled cheese lollies pictured above were on offer by the chefs from C5. So cute and really yummy!

Isn’t it interesting that as much as full-sized grilled cheese are still a wonderful choice for lunches and dinners, they seem to be taking over for mini quiche and spanikopita as the ubiquitous hot, cheesy hors d’ouevres of choice?

The joy of grilled cheese

January 11, 2008

If you aren’t dieting, the cold, crisp days of January are the perfect time of year to enjoy one of my favorite childhood lunch combinations: cream of tomato soup and grilled cheese. Although I’ve developed many recipes for tomato soup over the years, I’m always content with Campbell’s condensed cream of tomato soup (in fact, the Soup-at-Hand version of that soup is always on reserve in my office in case of soup-related emergencies). I’m more particular about grilled cheese sandwiches though.

My grilled cheese doesn’t have to be fancy but it must be made with real Cheddar and real butter and the bread, if white, has to be crusty and fresh. That said, I usually use whole grain sandwich bread at lunchtime. By the way, A is today’s mystery letter but let’s get back to grilled cheese, shall we? Over the holidays, I sliced a baguette into thin disks and made appetizer-sized grilled cheeses for the kids who attended our Christmas Eve soiree and these two-bite sandwiches were a hit with kids of all ages!

When making a grilled cheese sandwich, please remember that slow and easy wins the race; you can’t rush a good grilled cheese. My preferred method is to keep the heat under a heavy bottomed skillet medium so that the inside of the sandwich becomes molten and the outside doesn’t go beyond golden. If using a panini press, leave a cheese-free border around the edge so that the melted cheese doesn’t ooze out and burn.

I’ve made grilled cheese sandwiches with sliced cheese and with shredded. You can get good results with either but I’ve found that for most home cooks, it’s easier to shred the cheese than to slice it evenly.

Although I always dip my grilled cheese sandwich in ketchup (the soup isn’t tangy enough for me), I can acknowledge that there are other good condiment options such as sun dried tomato pesto, branston pickle and Bengal chutney that can be spread right inside the sandwich before grilling to make a very tasty lunch!