Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese – 3 Ways
If you’ve never had a mac & cheese grilled cheese, then you’ve never lived. It’s exactly what it sounds like: creamy mac & cheese stuffed into a sandwich with sharp cheddar cheese and grilled until melty and golden brown. Some of you skeptic, health-conscious folk might be thinking that’s just way too much starch in one sandwich. WRONG. Those were my inital thoughts too, but alas, that is not so. Mac & cheese and grilled cheese work harmoniously well together, creating a euphoric eating experience unlike any other. It’s a fusion of the ultimate comfort foods that results in a sublime soul food hybrid. This, my friends, is heaven.
If you’re still not convinced, let’s take a look at the facts. Macaroni and cheese is essentially starch and cheese. Grilled cheese is essentially starch and cheese. Starch and cheese are BFF’s. Therefore, to fuse them together is only right. It’s starch and cheese to the tenth power. (There’s your science, happy?)
The result of this experiment gone right is this: you bite into crunchy, golden brown buttered bread with that sourdough tang and your tongue is met by creamy, luscious mac and cheese and more sharp melty cheddar. The best part about this is that there are three delicious ways to make it. Pick whichever you like or make a couple of each like I did. This sammy has no boundaries.
The Classic: Stuff your sammy with creamy macaroni and cheese and top it off by melting on some extra cheddar cheese. It’s the traditional sandwich you love coming together with the classic pasta you also love.
Caramelized Onions: Add a twist to your grilled cheese by topping off all that mac and cheesy goodness with sweet, golden brown caramelized onions. The strong, sweet taste of the onions cuts through the richness of the sandwich, creating a perfect balance of flavors. If you’ve never tried caramelized onions before, now is the time. Even if you hate onions, you will love them caramelized. They don’t taste like your typical bitter onion. They’re cooked low and slow in decadent butter so that they become sweet, buttery, and well, caramelized. Yum.
Pulled Pork (and Caramelized Onions): For those of you who need your meat, this sammy’s for you. In addition to the mac and cheese, fill your grilled cheese with pulled pork. The pulled pork’s sweet, tangy flavor goes amazingly with all that delicious cheese (or so I’m told; I obviously opted for a meat-free version). Top it off with the caramelized onions and you’ve got one slammin’ sammy.If you’re not a pulled pork fan, I imagine that bacon would be delicious too.
By adding onions and/or pulled pork, this becomes more than just a mac and cheese grilled cheese. It’s a complex dish with tons of flavors to offer. However, there’s nothing wrong with the classic either. It’s a cheese lover’s dream!
A few tips before you get cooking:
Use sourdough bread. Yes, just about any bread would work in this sandwich, but the sourdough takes it over the top. It’s distinct but mild flavor is so completely perfect with all of this sandwich’s cheesy goodness. Trust me on this one.
Use a creamier mac and cheese that reheats well. If you use something like Kraft, which we all know does not reheat well, you’ll wind up with a dry sandwich. It’ll be like you’re just eating plain pasta stuffed in between bread. You’ve got to have something saucy. I used the take and make stuff in the little black plastic containers from Wegman’s. It stayed nice and creamy throughout the cooking process. Ideally, you should make Alton Brown’s Baked Macaroni & Cheese, chill it, and use that. It will be perfectly cheesy and creamy, I’m willing to bet. I imagine that Stouffer’s frozen macaroni and cheese would even work since it has a very saucy sauce.
Make sure you plan in advance. Cooking the sandwiches doesn’t take that long, but if you aren’t buying the mac and cheese pre-made like me than you have to have time to cook it and chill it. Also, caramelizing the onions takes quite some time.
Serve some broccoli alongside so you get your greens! It’s a perfect addition to the cheesy goodness. You could also serve it with tomato soup.
1-2 loaves fresh sourdough bread (depending on the size of the loaves), cut into 12 ½-inch slices
10 slices sharp cheddar cheese, ripped in half
Leftover mac & cheese or premade/storebought mac & cheese, chilled (I used Wegman’s take and make mac & cheese. I also recommend you make Alton Brown’s Baked Macaroni & Cheese and use that. See tip 2 above)
Butter spread (like Country Crock)
2 onions, thinly sliced
6 tbsp. butter
optional: pulled pork (homemade or like this)
To caramelize the onions: Heat a medium-sized skillet to low heat. Melt the butter. Add the onions and cook low and slow until golden brown in color and caramelized (about 45 minutes). Remove from heat & set aside.
Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil & spray with nonstick cooking spray.
Assemble the sandwiches: Spread Country Crock (or butter spread) onto one side of each slice of bread. With the buttered side down, lay two cheese halves onto the bread.
Next, put a generous scoop of mac and cheese on top of the cheddar cheese. Pat down into an even, dense layer.
Add optional toppings: caramelized onions and/or pulled pork. Add another half-slice or two of the cheddar cheese.
Place another slice of bread on top, buttered side up, to complete the sandwich.
Bring a griddle to medium heat. Cook the sandwiches one or two at a time, depending on the size of your griddle (and your ability to handle multi-tasking). When the bottom slice of bread is golden brown to your liking, it is time to flip the sandwich. Use two spatulas: one to get under the sandwich and one pressing down on the top of the sandwich as you flip it so the toppings don’t come out. Don’t worry if you lose a noodle or too.
When both sides of the sandwich are golden brown, remove from the griddle and transfer to the baking sheet. Don’t worry if the cheese isn’t fully melted; it will finish melting in the oven. Put the baking sheet in the oven to keep the sandwich warm while your finish cooking the others.
When all of the sandwiches are completed and warmed all the way through in the oven, it’s time to eat!