Warm, toasted, crispy, golden brown, melted and gooey cheesy glory! That is what comes to mind when someone mentions the glorious combination that is grilled cheese. But how much do we really know about grilled cheese other than we love to eat them. Of course, everyone makes grilled cheese differently. There are infinite different combinations of bread and cheese that you can use. Some work better than others, but beyond the contents, there is so much more to know! This month we are going to dive into the history of this sandwich favorite.
Toasted cheese, melted cheese, or grilled cheese, as it came to be known in the 1960s, has a long history. It is important to recognize that the many names for this delightful sandwich speaks to a larger point; it doesn’t matter how you cook it. Historically, methods to cook a grilled cheese sandwich are as numerous as the types of cheese put on the sandwich. A recipe in 1902 said to cook it in a hot oven, but in 1929, you can find recipes that recommend using a broiler. 1939 saw the recommendation to sauté them in a frying pan coated with butter. In 1953, Irma S. Rombauer recommended cooking the bread and cheese in a commercial waffle iron. Johnny Depp even cooked a stack of grilled cheese sandwiches with a clothes iron in the 1993 film “Benney & Joon”. We don’t recommend you follow his method.
“Cooked bread and cheese” goes much further back into history than you might originally think. Most of the misconception is based around the idea that grilled cheese didn’t happen until after sliced bread and processed cheese. While those components entering the market (processed cheese in 1914, sliced bread in the 1920s) certainly helped the popularity of the sandwich, they aren’t fully responsible for its creation. The concept of “cooked bread and cheese” predates the United States.
Some renditions of the now popular sandwich have recipes similar to items found in ancient Roman texts. The French started making Croque Monsieurs in the early 1900s. But even though the British aggressively talked down the creation of processed cheeses, it is impossible to argue that it didn’t have a major role in the popularization. Couple that with the invention of “sliced bread” within a few years and it created the perfect environment for a new hot sandwich. It was extremely popular among the Allied Armed Forces during World War II. Because of that popularity, it wasn’t long before school cafeterias and home kitchens started to include grilled cheese in their meal planning.
Today you can find grilled cheese sandwiches in home kitchens, delis and five-star restaurants! Thanks to creative food innovators, various bread and cheese combinations have been created to highlight different flavor profiles and meat has even been added into the mix. It may be a kids’ all-time favorite, but it definitely qualifies as adult comfort food as well.
At River City Cafe we have pursued the idea that grilled cheese should have meat on it. We never do anything in its’ simplest form. Our Grilled Ham & Cheese offers smoked sliced ham topped with American cheese served on either grilled marble rye bread or Texas toast. Feeling exceptionally unique? add hickory-smoked bacon and a fried egg to give some extreme decadence to a classic sandwich! You won’t regret it.
But we didn’t stop there. We love grilled cheese so much we use it as a bun. Yes, you read that correctly. Our Kitchen Sink Burger uses TWO grilled cheese sandwiches to hold together two of our River City Cafe patties, homemade Texas chili, hickory-smoked bacon, grilled onions, jalapenos, sautéed fresh mushrooms, Swiss, cheddar, lettuce, tomato, pickles, mustard, and mayo. We think you can agree that a standard bun just wouldn’t work for this amazing sandwich!
For our OMG Burger, we use grilled cheese and egg sandwiches to hold together two River City Cafe patties, hickory-smoked bacon, Swiss, cheddar, mayo, lettuce, tomato, and fried onion strings. As we said, we love grilled cheese.
Now that you know a little more about grilled cheese, we want to know: what is your favorite grilled cheese combination?
Hungry for a great grilled cheese or an amazing burger? We have seven locations around the grand strand to serve you. Check out our website for location information.