Thankfully, Kraft Singles were not a part of my childhood, but I certainly grew up on the “toastie,” a British equivalent of the grilled cheese made with, well, actual cheese. Despite this snobbery, my skin crawls when I hear mention of “gourmet” grilled cheese. The word “gourmet” is horribly misused and such food almost never lives up to its name. I am not going to tell you how to make a grilled cheese step by laborious step, but I will present some suggestions for a sort of “upgraded” grilled cheese, completely lacking in the overstated resplendence of the “gourmet” while retaining some of the homey comfort that Kraft Singles can provide.
Grate, crumble or thinly slice the cheese, and place it directly on the bread to ensure it melts and to help stick the sandwich together. Almost any cheese will do, but my favourites include sharp cheddars, fresh mozzarella, gruyère, brie, havarti, ricotta, and mascarpone.
As for the filling, less is often more (and more usually means a sandwich that is impossible to cook through). Slice fruits, vegetables and meats thinly. Also, the filling should not be too wet, otherwise it will make the bread soggy and prevent the sandwich sticking together. Try to keep moist components of the filling – such as tomatoes, fresh fruits, and sauces toward the middle of the sandwich.
Use butter or a rich (extra virgin) olive oil for optimal crunch and flavour. Cook on a medium heat; if it is too high the fat and bread could burn, and the filling will not heat through in time. If you are tempted to press down on the sandwich with a spatula while it cooks, I can guarantee that using a pot lid is much more satisfying.
Some ideas to get you started:
Ham, Gruyère, apple, mustard;
Roasted pork or chicken, havarti, red pepper, balsamic vinegar;
Spicy salami, ricotta, mozzarella, fresh basil;
Roast beef, sharp cheddar, mustard or horseradish, arugula or spinach, red onion;
Brie (or mascarpone), apricot jam, sliced almonds