Updating a Classic

I feel as though I should start with a disclosure statement. Call it a public service announcement, if you’d like. Just know that once you dress up your grilled cheese sandwiches, there is no going back. You’ll never be satisfied with the same old American cheese between two slices of bread again.

Consider yourself warned.

Grilled cheese is one of those basic meals that I learned to make as a kid. Back then, it was slices of Velveeta (yes, yes, I know… but it melts so well…) between whatever bread was in the cupboard. I’ve since graduated to cheddar cheese, but I hadn’t made any other changes. I mean, there’s a reason the classics ARE the classics, right?

Until this past week. For some reason, I was looking for something a little different in our Sunday lunch. Something that would make it more than just a quick meal after church. Something… amazing, I guess. Andy’s first suggestion was bacon, which would have been amazing, but I’d used the last of our bacon in a bacon-broccoli mac-and-cheese earlier in the week. Instead of bacon, I caramelized some onions, chopped up some spinach and got out the white cheddar. Let’s just say that grilled cheese in our house will never be the same again.


Grilled Cheese with Caramelized Onions and Spinach

2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon butter, plus extra for buttering bread
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar
pinch of salt
3 1/2 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, thinly sliced
1 cup baby spinach leaves, chopped
4 slices of your favorite sandwich bread (sourdough would be great here, I think) 

In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet (I used my cast iron one again.), melt a tablespoon of butter with the olive oil. Add the onions to the pan and sprinkle with sugar and the pinch of salt. Cook over medium-low heat until the onions are soft and caramelized, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Butter one side of each slice of bread, and place two slices, butter side down, on a griddle. Divide the cheese in half (one pile for each sandwich), and then place half of that on each piece of bread. Spread the onions on top of the cheese, then top the onions with the chopped spinach. Place the rest of the cheese on top of the spinach and then top with the remaining slices of bread, butter side out. Cook over medium heat, flipping once, until cheese is melted and the bread is golden brown. Serve immediately.

a Beth’s Blue Plate Special Original!

Click here for a printable version!

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!

I have a lot of memories attached to food. Some are good (Mom’s chocolate pie), some aren’t so good (meatloaf.. ugh). Have no fear, this recipe is tied to a good food memory. My grandma makes really good chicken sandwiches. I grew up eating these at family reunions on a bun with a thick onion slice, or scarfing them down as quickly as possible after church on Christmas Eve. (The sooner dinner was over, the sooner we moved on to more important things like tearing into our gifts taking the annual Christmas picture.) I even made sure these sandwiches made an appearance at my graduation party.

Since I’m now several hundred miles away, I don’t get to enjoy Grandma’s chicken sandwiches nearly as often as I’d like. So I set out to make the sandwiches myself. I knew they’d be perfect for our small group get together. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the recipe in my cookbook or recipe box, which meant I had to wing it. Lucky for us (and our dinner guests!) my reincarnation came pretty close to Grandma’s original!

I served this with “roasted roots” – radishes and beets – and salt and vinegar chips. Mmmm… tasty.

Grandma’s Shredded Chicken 

1 roasted chicken, shredded*
3 cups sauce or chicken stock*
1 small onion, diced
3 tablespoons olive oil
5 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon dried parsley
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat a large stock pot over medium heat and add the olive oil. Saute the onions (and garlic if using, see note) until soft and just starting to brown. Add the flour and cook for a few minutes, or until the flour paste smells toasty. Slowly whisk in the stock or pan sauce, whisking to remove any lumps. Cook, stirring often, until the broth thickens.

Add the shredded chicken and parsley, and season with salt and pepper. Simmer over low heat until heated through. Serve on buns, with onion and tomato.

This freezes well, so if you have more than you can eat in a reasonable amount of time, toss it in the freezer for a quick meal later on!

For serving: 
hamburger buns
sliced onion
sliced tomato

*Here are my thoughts about the chicken and the sauce: I roasted a large (6+ pounds) chicken the day before, using Annie’s recipe. (Which is fantastic. If you’re into roasted garlic and things like that. And really, who isn’t?) So I used the chicken that we didn’t eat for the sandwiches the next day. I had enough meat to fill my largest Pyrex bowl, and I used the leftover pan sauce from the chicken as the liquid in this recipe, along with some water to get the quantity I needed. If you don’t have the time (or desire) to roast a chicken, you could always pick up a rotisserie chicken from the store. You may want to add some garlic when you saute the onion in that case.

Inspired by my Grandma.