One of my favourite entertaining tricks when hosting a group of adults who come accompanied with their children is to set up a DIY grilled cheese bar. This idea never fails to be a crowd-pleasing showstopper, and delights me for the ease with which the food comes together, and my friends for the comfort that can be offered by a gooey grilled cheese sandwich.
To set it up, I offer an assortment of breads – like white, multigrain, rye, and sourdough – cheeses, condiments, meats, fresh fruits, and veggies, and create a self-made grilled cheese station. Guests can assemble their own tasty combinations, and cook them themselves using the large electric or stovetop skillet I leave heated and ready.
Because this is a DIY station, it means you aren't cooking for your friends, but instead you’re providing them with the tools they need to make their own meal. For best results, provide the following instructions by either writing them on a chalkboard or printing them off and taping them to the wall above the station:
1. Butter the outsides of two slices of bread.
2. Place one piece of bread butter-side down in the skillet, and then add a hefty amount of cheese and an assortment of your favourite toppings.
3. Top with the second slice of bread, placing it on the sandwich buttered-side up and cook until the bread is golden brown, then flip.
4. Don't flatten the sandwich by pressing it down with a spatula; you want it light and fluffy on the inside and golden and crisp on the outside.
A few important things to note:
- If self-grilling isn’t an option, make multiple open-faced toasted sandwiches on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven, which will ensure no one needs to stand by the stove flipping breads.
- Cheese melts best when grated so take the time to do that in advance. Be sure to purchase cheeses that are known for melting easily: Gruyère, cheddar, Brie, mozzarella, Swiss and Fontina are all good options
- If you meat needs to be cooked, do so in advance of your guests arriving.
- Don't forget to include an array of sophisticated toppings for the adults in attendance, and kid-friendly options for those with a more discerning palate.
Some of our favourite sandwich combinations include:
For the kids:
Mozzarella, tomato sauce, pepperoni; Swiss, ham, Dijon; Cheddar, green apple, turkey
For the adults:
Mozzarella, pesto, tomato; Swiss, caramelized onion, ham, Dijon; Cheddar, bacon, pickled jalapenos; Camembert, strawberries, balsamic vinegar; Brie, pear, salted caramel