With a name like Grilled Cheese Kitchen, how could you not pick up a copy of husband-and-wife duo Heidi Gibson and Nate Pollak’s brand-new book? Packed with gooey, melty recipes from their insanely popular San Francisco sandwichery, this is one culinary volume for everyone, from picky kids to adventurous adults, and every grilled cheese lover in between. Fire up the griddle: This is going to be a good one!
Inspired by the magnificent Monte Cristo — a ham-and-cheese sandwich that is battered and fried and then dusted with powdered sugar and served with maple syrup or jam — I experimented with different breads, flavorings, fruits, cheeses, and garnishes to make a French toast–style sandwich that is uniquely ours. For the essential bread itself, I found that marrying slightly dry slices of brioche loaf with a thick batter enriched with butter, vanilla, and flour yields both a nice, crisp and dry finish on the outside of the cooked sandwich and a perfect custardy consistency on the inside.
Following are three of our favorite variations for this fabulous assembly — merely a hint at the wide range of different sweet and savory fillings that can make for a very sophisticated brunch sandwich.
- 1 1-pound brioche or challah loaf, cut into 8 thick slices
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 4 tablespoons salted butter, 2 tablespoons melted, 2 tablespoons at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 ounces Brie or triple crème cheese, thinly sliced
- 8 ripe strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced
- Confectioner's sugar for dusting
- Brown Sugar Bourbon Sauce for drizzling
Brown sugar bourbon sauce
- 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup salted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons bourbon
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the sauce
In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the brown sugar and butter together, whisking constantly until smooth.
Turn the heat to low and carefully add the cream, bourbon, and vanilla (the mixture may boil up at this point, so add the liquids slowly and keep whisking constantly). Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, whisking occasionally, or until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and let the sauce cool for 5 to 10 minutes before using.
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. Reheat in a microwave when you’re ready to serve.
For the grilled cheese
Arrange the bread slices on a large baking sheet and let dry while preparing the other ingredients.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, melted butter, and vanilla. Add the granulated sugar, flour, and salt and whisk to combine. Scrape the batter into a shallow pan, such as a pie dish or cake pan. Set aside.
Heat a stove-top griddle pan or a large cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat, or heat an electric griddle to 350°F [180°C].
When the griddle is hot, nestle two slices of the bread in the batter and let soak for 5 seconds, then carefully flip and soak on the second side for another 5 seconds. Transfer the soaked breads to a clean plate. Melt ½ Tbsp of the room-temperature butter on the hot griddle and add both pieces of the soaked bread. Cook until the first sides are nicely browned and completely dry to the touch, about 3 minutes. Using a wide spatula, carefully turn the breads.
While the second sides are cooking, arrange one-fourth of the Brie and one-fourth of the strawberries on top of one piece of bread. When the second sides are nicely browned and the Brie is just softened, use the spatula to transfer the bread with the cheese and strawberries to a platter and gently place the other cooked bread on top. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and place in a low-heat oven to keep warm. Repeat to cook and assemble the remaining sandwiches.
Place each sandwich on a plate; cut in half, if desired; dust with confectioners’ sugar; drizzle with the bourbon sauce; and serve immediately.