Grilled cheese gets a makeover

January 24, 1999|By Carol J.G. Ward | Carol J.G. Ward,Knight Ridder/Tribune

On chilly winter days (in the time before computer games or the Disney Channel) after we'd been playing outside all afternoon, my mother would treat us to a grilled cheese sandwich.

Today, just the thought of that gooey cheese -- American, of course -- oozing from the edges of crispy toasted white bread still makes me feel warm inside.

Since the 1930s, when Americans referred to grilled cheese as "Cheese Dreams," the grilled cheese sandwich has been a mainstay in the American diet, according to the American Dairy Association.

But sometimes the simple tastes we enjoyed as children don't quite satisfy our grown-up palates. If you have a passion for grilled cheese but think it's just kid stuff, try transforming it into a sandwich for adults.

"We're taking the comfort food from our youth and blending it with a lot of new flavors and foods that are available," said Cheryl Hayn, manager of communications and nutrition for the Southeast Dairy Association.

"There are a lot of new combinations. We look at the grilled cheese as having had a makeover."

Indeed.

When grills and diners from Manhattan to Seattle shared some of their '90s grilled cheese sandwiches with the American Dairy Association, combinations included everything from Havarti with roasted garlic on ciabatta to grilled chicken and brie topped with caramelized onions and mustard aioli on a toasted baguette.

An American Dairy Association contest seeking the most creative and tastiest grilled cheese sandwiches garnered more than 4,000 entries. The grand-prize winner, Grilled Blue and Brie entered by Lisa Renshaw of Kansas City, Mo., featured warmed blue and brie cheeses over hot pepper jelly and macadamia nuts on pumpernickel bread. Other winning entries included an early-morning combination of white Cheddar, walnuts and bacon bits on French-toasted egg bread and a savory dinner sandwich with Havarti cheese, salmon, zucchini and pesto on Italian bread.

Grilled cheese lovers are combining Swiss and Muenster, jack and Cheddar with a variety of ingredients such as nuts, pineapple, pesto and asparagus, Hayn said. "Almost any combination will do."

Particularly popular are the Mexican cheeses with hot peppers, Italian bread with mozzarella and roasted peppers or sourdough bread combined with a Southwestern flavor using chopped chilies and Cheddar cheese. The combinations are endless.

Pub Date: 01/24/99

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