Though it may not feel different than summer here in Houston, IT IS FALL, Y’ALL. (Follow my Fall Y’all Pinterest board for lots of fall recipes and crafts!) I grew up in Virgina, so I totally miss the crisp, smoky air and the crunch of leaves underfoot. I want to dive into a vat of sweet pumpkin goodness and eat soups and toasty sandwiches. Which brings me to today’s recipes for Fancy Grilled Cheese.
I’m including this in my Stupid Simple series because I’m not giving specific recipes to follow or getting overly complicated. You know how I make my grilled cheese? In a George Foreman grill. THAT’S what its for, not grilling meat. (Ew.) I spent a few hours the other day testing out variations of grilled cheeses that seemed very fall to me and had a few favorite combos that I’ll share. NOT that there is anything wrong with a good old-fashioned grilled cheese! I love the basic cheddar (at least, that’s OUR old-fashioned grilled cheese), but sometimes I want to feel fancy and these fancy grilled cheese recipes.
Ingredient #1: Caramelized Apples
What says fall more than apples? One of my favorite restaurants in my college town had a great apple and cheddar sandwich with crispy, thin apple slices. I wanted less of a crunch in my sandwich and a little more sweet to balance out the cheese, so I caramelized some apple slices. Don’t know what that means? Basically, caramelizing refers to melting sugar into a liquid state. Apples are sweet. But caramelized apples? Soft and sweeter with a little hint of sort of smokiness. YUM. For these, I put a tablespoon of butter into a pan over medium heat. As the butter began to melt, I put in some brown sugar, probably also about a tablespoon. Then I put in my thinly sliced apples and let them simmer, flipping once. Watch the heat because you don’t want the sugar to burn. The whole process took about 5 minutes. Use green, not red apples when caramelizing. They hold together better.
Ingredient #2: Bacon
Because, duh: bacon. If you’re wondering, I cook mine in the oven on a cookie sheet covered with foil at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until the bacon is cooked to your liking. Rob likes his soft and mushy and I like mine crunchy. That’s what marriage is all about: learning how to compromise about bacon.
Ingredient #3: Sauteed Sweet Onions
I generally refer to these as caramelized as well, though I don’t use sugar in the pan. (The term “caramelized” is often used with meat and other veggies when cooked without actual sugar because the juices can cook down and retain a kind of sweetness all their own.) I used sweet yellow onions and I DID use some white wine, which can help the caramelizing. I sauteed them in butter until they were getting soft and clear, then dumped in some wine and let that simmer and cook all the way down over medium heat. Delicious. If you don’t like onions, I DARE you to make onions this way and like them. The type of wine doesn’t matter, but DON’T buy cooking wine. Buy regular wine—there are $3-4 bottles in most stores.
Ingredient #4: Cheese
Clearly, this is the ONE ingredient (besides bread) that has to be in grilled cheese. My go-to grilled cheese recipe is made with sharp (or extra sharp) cheddar. Because I was being fancy, I used gouda and then a havarti with jalapenos. I like almost all cheeses, but my favorites are dry cheeses or cheese with a bite. Both of these packed that punch, but you could use your favorite kind or pick up something unique from that fancy cheese section of the store. Or, use regular cheddar and these ingredients will make it pop.
Ingredient #5: Bread
I also like almost all types of bread, but for fancy grilled cheese recipes, I’m going to go for something like sourdough or a stiffer bread. French baguettes are a little TOO stiff, so something in the middle. This bread was called a French boule and tasted somewhere in between a sourdough and a baguette. Soft, but not too soft, and flavorful. You know what would go great with these flavors? Pumpernickel. NOM. I need to stop thinking about bread now.
After getting the onions, bacon, and apples ready, I put together several combinations and then spent some time just eating grilled cheese. It’s a tough life that I live. I used the George Foreman (thanks, Ginny!!) and then spread a little butter on each side while it was still hot from the grill. I like that it leaves grill marks and that I can use less butter and still get that melt-y, buttery quality without soaking it in a pan of melted butter. (Though honestly, that is delicious as well.)
The winner? Bacon-apple-onion. I tried some with just one or two of the ingredients, but all three of these together was amazing. The onions are soft, but still give it a little something extra in terms of texture. Bacon is just bacon. And the caramelized apples balancing it all out? So. Dang. Good. I like the cheese with the peppers for a little extra pop, but next time I think I’ll try this combination with a white cheddar. This grilled cheese? Tastes like FALL.
What is your favorite grilled cheese recipe? Do you have any favorite ingredients or a special way how to make grilled cheese? I’d love to know your methods!
Linking up this week with Foodie Fridays. Get over there and see some great food! Check out all my other Stupid Simple recipes!