Rob's Prizewinning Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Havarti Cheese melting away

Heating a cast iron press (also known as a bacon press) on the griddle first and then placing it on top of the sandwiches helps melt the cheese from both sides.  Do not press down; just place the heated metal press on top of the sandwiches.  You can make these in a cast-iron pan or on a griddle.

photo collage from Real Men Cook 2016 by Tenley Fohl
Rob made 630 grilled cheese sandwiches for this local fundraiser to benefit Arts Outreach

Rob had this idea to make the ultimate grilled cheese sandwich over a year ago.  He thought it would be great to make them in mini versions so it was just the right balance of crunch and melted cheese to pop in your mouth for an hors d'oeuvres. You would never imagine that something so easy could have so many possible variations.  He tested multiple types of bread, many kinds of cheese, as well as various techniques, including what kind of butter to use and whether the butter should be put in the pan or on the bread. While this is one of the simplest recipes ever, there is definitely a reason why it is so delicious and why most people who have been lucky enough to try them have said they are the best grilled cheese sandwiches they've ever had.

And I will mention that I never thought Havarti was going to be the first choice for cheese.  Maybe it's because I'd grown up serving Havarti cheese at my mom's bakery my entire life with our Rundstykker rolls that I wanted something different.  I was thinking that Dubliner Irish Cheddar was going to make the best grilled cheese, but it turns out that I only like that cheese cold and it has a different flavor when it is hot and melted.

The bread is the game changer for this recipe, so buy the best baguette you can find.  Locally, we buy baguettes from Amy Dixon's Baker's Table.  Each baguette gives you about 50 slices, but the thin ends really are not usable because they are too small. So, in actuality, you get about 40 correct slices (approximately 20 sandwiches per baguette).

Then you need a butter with a high fat content so it doesn't smoke or burn easily.  We use Kerrygold, but you can use Plugra or any other high-fat content butter.  If you are making hundreds of them, as in over 400 sandwiches, then you can melt the butter in advance and dip the bread into the melted butter.  If you are making less than 400 sandwiches, it is better to put softened butter directly on the bread.

Because you can make 2 to 2,000 of these, I will put the ingredients down and then you can adjust depending on how many sandwiches you would like to make.


Baguette, sliced into 3/8"slices (each baguette should give you about 40 useful slices, so 20 sandwiches per baguette)
Havarti Cheese, two 2-inch pieces per sandwich
     (We cut a square of havarti cheese into three long strips, then fold the strips in half to make a double thickness)
Kerrygold butter, softened (another high fat butter, such as Plugra, can also be used)

Heat a cast-iron skillet or a griddle to medium-high heat.  Place a metal bacon press in the pan to heat it.

Butter the bread on the both of the outside pieces (i.e. the top and bottom of the sandwich).  Again, the key is to butter the bread instead of putting the butter in the pan.  You can butter the bread hours in advance if you are making a large number of sandwiches.

Place the cheese between the two bread slices, and place the sandwiches on the hot griddle.  After they brown on one side, flip them over and place the heated bacon press (metal press) on top of the sandwiches.  DO NOT PRESS DOWN.  You are not making panini.  You are just creating a way for the cheese to melt completely. Serve immediately.

Optional:  We've made them with and without caramelized onions.  We most typically make the simple ones with just cheese.  Soon, I will post a recipe for my technique on how to caramelize onions.


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