This post is brought you by Land O Lakes® 4 Cheese Italian Blend, because, well, I love cheese!
We all have our favorite comfort foods, and for me, grilled cheese ranks near the top of the list. A good grilled cheese sandwich always manages to brighten my spirits after a bad day, and when Dan and I go out, I’m not above ordering off the kids’ menu to get my fix of cheesy goodness. Now I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself a cheese-ologist (although I could probably play one on TV), but in my experience, there are a few simple rules that all grilled cheese must abide by in order to be considered worthy of the name.
1. The bread needs to be crunchy-it is a bonus if it is buttery but that is not required (a girl needs to be healthy sometimes)
2. The cheese needs to ooze. I’ve been to quite a few restaurants that handed me a cold sandwich with the slices of cheese still identifiable. I try to never return food, but when this happens, I return it every time; it’s not a grilled cheese unless the cheese comes oozing out of the bread.
Once those conditions are met, everything else is adjustable. I’ve used a variety of cheeses, added tomato, bacon, basil and caramelized onion (of course, not all at the same time!) and I’ve used white, wheat, rye and pumpernickel bread. So long as the bread is crispy and the cheese gooey, the grilled cheese sandwich is perfect.
Obviously, when Land O’Lakes asked me to come up with a recipe for National Grilled Cheese Month, I couldn’t wait to take grilled cheese to the next level with their creamy 4 Cheese Italian Blend. But I didn’t want to just slap a slice of cheese between two slices of bread and call it a day, particularly since I had so much fun making Macaroni and Cheese balls the last time. So I thought about my two rules, and I decided, why not do a tomato soup and grilled-cheese gougère?
For the uninitiated, a gougère is basically a cheese puff with a fancy name, but it’s got an airy pocket inside that’s just begging to be filled. So I melted some of the Land O Lakes® 4 Cheese Italian Blend (American, Asiago, Romano, and Parmesan, in case you where wondering) and made a delicious molten cheese sauce. Paired with a tomato-basil gougère, it was almost like having tomato soup at the same time. And it meets both of my criteria (cheese-teria?) for a successful grilled cheese sandwich: crispy bread and gooey cheese. They’re best right out of the oven, but if you don’t get to them until later, you can zap them for a few seconds in the microwave to get nearly the same effect. Here’s the recipe (after a word from our sponsor):
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Tomato Soup and Land O Lakes® 4 Cheese Italian Blend Gougère
1 cup shredded Land O Lakes® 4 Cheese Italian Blend
4 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup water
1 cup flour
1 1/2 tablespoon Tomato Powder
1 teaspoon dried basil
1. Preheat the oven to 425F, moving the racks far enough apart enough to handle two trays at once. Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a large saucepan over medium high heat, melt the 1 stick butter. Add 1 cup water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil and then remove from the heat.
3. Add the 1 cup flour and stir until smooth. Let the dough cool slightly
4. Move the dough into a stand mixer or use a handheld electric mixer on medium to beat in the 4 eggs, one at a time. Make sure each egg is mixed in completely before you add in the next one.
5. Beat in the 1 1/2 tablespoons of tomato powder, 1 teaspoon dried basil and all but 2 tablespoons of the cup of shredded cheese.
6. Form the dough into little balls using a small ice cream scoop (or something similar that makes 1 inch balls) and arrange on the baking sheets 1 1/2 inches apart. There should be enough dough to fill both sheets
7. Bake for 12 minutes, then move the baking sheet on the top rack to the bottom rack, and vice versa. Rotate the sheets 180 degrees so that the opposite side is facing forward. Bake for another 12 minutes.
8. Lower the temperature to 400. Pierce each gougere near the bottom with a small, sharp object (I used a chopstick). Cook for an additional 2 minutes.
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2/3 cup milk
2 oz Land O Lakes® 4 Cheese Italian Blend, grated
1. Melt the 2 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
2. Once melted, add the 3 Tbsp flour and cook - stirring constantly - for 2 minutes.
3. Slowly stir in the 2/3 c milk. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, continuing to stir, until thickened.
4. Add the 2 oz cheese and stir until it has melted and the sauce is smooth. This takes about 5 minutes.
1. Let the cheese sauce cool a little and transfer into a pastry bag fitted with a small tip.
2. Carefully squeeze the sauce into the gougère through the hole you made at the end of the baking process. Be careful to fill the puffs as much as they can handle.
*Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Land O’Lakes as part of the Kitchen PLAY SideCar series. All opinions given are my own.