Monday, January 20, 2014

Jazzin' It Up

Today I share with you a wonderful spin on regular ol' grilled cheese.  I've always been a bit finicky when it comes to grilled cheese.  If it's too mushy or too butter-saturated (yes, even I have limits with butter) or on wheat bread (bleh, that stuff does not make for a delectable grilled cheese sandwich!) I won't eat it.  In fact, in those cases it's rather nauseating really.  

But, grilled cheese can also be one of the most tasty yet simple sandwiches.  With just a few extra ingredients you can turn your everyday grilled cheese into a masterpiece.  

This grilled cheese today is, to be precise, Grilled Cheese with Spinach and Pancetta.  You get delicious grilled-cheese-just-got-a-makeover plus a dose of greens!

Before I proceed, pancetta is sometimes called Italian bacon.  It is similar to what we know as bacon but rather than being smoked, it is cured in salts and spices and then dried for several months.  You can use either pancetta, bacon, or prosciutto in this recipe.

The first thing you will want to do is cook the bacon (or other bacon equivalent) and then drain the cooked yummy stuff on paper towels.

Having done that, you will then combine 1 stick of unsalted butter with Monterey Jack and Cheddar Cheeses, salt, and vegetable oil.  The vegetable oil helps make the cheese mixture easier to spread onto slices of bread. 

You will blend this together until smooth and spreadable.  Add extra oil bit by bit if the mixture is too dry.  Next step - just add some spinach and pulse.

See how fabulously easy this is?  

At this point, you will want to go ahead and preheat your panini maker.  If you don't have one, a griddle or frying pan works just as well!

Spread the cheese mixture over 8 slices of bread.  I have discovered that the most scrumptious bread to use for this recipe is the Pepperidge Farms Farmhouse Hearty White bread.  It's super yummy. :)  And now, just top one slice of each sandwich with crumbled bacon.  Like this:

Top sandwich with other slice of bread and place on panini or griddle.  You'll want to grill the sandwiches until they are golden and a little crispy.  Allow the sandwiches to cool for a couple of minutes and cut them in half.  At this point, they'll look like this:

Now that is a yummy, albeit slightly messy, lunch right there. The combination of the butter, cheese, and spinach with the crispy, salty bacon definitely takes grilled cheese to a whole new level of wonderful.  This one's a keeper.

Grilled Cheese with Spinach and Pancetta

6 oz. bacon (or pancetta or prosciutto)
1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temp
2 c. (8 oz.) shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
2 c. (8 oz.) shredded Cheddar Cheese
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tblsp. vegetable or canola oil (plus extra, if needed)
2 packed cups baby spinach
16 slices white bread

(1) Cook bacon and drain on paper towels.  Once cool, crumble into small pieces.
(2) In a food processor combine butter, cheeses, salt, and oil.  Blend until smooth and spreadable; add more oil as needed.  Add spinach and pulse until combined.
(3) Preheat a panini maker.  Spread cheese mixture on 8 slices of bread.  Top with crumbled bacon and put remaining bread slices on top.
(4) Grill the sandwiches - 2 at a time - until golden and crispy.  Usually 3-4 minutes.  Cool for 2 minutes and then cut in half.

Enjoy :)

*Recipe from Food Network chef Giada De Laurentiis.

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