Budget Eats: If You Grill It, They Will Eat (On the Cheap!)

14 Oct

My favorite sound in the kitchen? The “hissssss” when something delicious hits a griddle pan. Chicken cutlet, chopped onion, a marinated mushroom — whatever it is, there’s something powerful and sensory about that sound. Food meets grill, a love story that ends with my full belly and awakened senses of smell, taste, sight, touch and sound.

The best way to awaken this sound and sensation, I think, is a humble one — the basic grilled sandwich. Some call it panini. Some call it grilled cheese. Some call it lunch. (That would include myself.) But in the end, it’s called delicious, and you can make one in myriad ways. Most versatile budget meal ever? It’s definitely in the running.

There are basic principles to grilled sandwich making, especially when cheese is involved. These are my top grilled sandwich commandments. Learn them well, my little friends, and your lunch / dinner / hangover snack (It’s ok, buddy — it happens to everyone) will always be delicious.

  1. Butter the outside of your sandwich. If you’re concerned about health-stuffs, use olive oil or even cooking spray. (Or mayonnaise. More for flavor and awesome than anything that has to do with your health.)
  2. Use 2 slices of cheese, no matter the filling; your cheese should ALWAYS be next to your bread slices, and thus closest to the heat. Melty melty, me likey.
  3. Grill on medium-low, and give it time. The bread will toast up just fine, and your fillings have a chance to melt before the bread becomes an over-charged glorified crouton.
  4. Don’t overstuff your sandwich, unless you have a foil-wrapped brick or actual panini press to weigh it down. Otherwise, you’ll have a lukewarm sandwich filling and toasted bread/cheese. Meh.

You, too, can have a meal this tasty. NOM!

With these “commandments” in mind, the possibilities are, well, pretty much endless. Here are a few that I’ve come to lurve over the years:

  • Provolone, pesto, basil leaves, and tomatoes. (Provolone melts beautifully, and the sharp smokiness pairs nicely with wheat bread, tomatoes and basil.)
  • Cheddar, tuna salad (light on the mayo), and sliced deli pickles. There’s something about griddle-warmed pickles that just gets GKG all hungry-licious.
  • Swiss (Gruyere or a nice Emmentaler if you’re feeling luxurious, but your neighborhood friendly Swiss is more than fine), thinly sliced ham, spinach leaves, and a fried egg. Add a little Sriracha sauce as the drippy yolk soaks your toasted bread, and you’ve died and gone to breakfast-for-dinner heaven.

Recently, I decided to go hog-wild on the grilled sandwich front. I was inspired, oddly enough, by Eggs Benedict (Cumberbatch? I wish! #IamSHERlocked), a straightforward brunch staple if there ever was one. However, turning it into a Grilled Salmon Benedict Sandwich? Now THAT was an achievement in sandwich creativity. With a Salmon Benedict (broiled salmon + egg + saucy goodness + toast = Mmm!) in mind, I concocted this beauty. While the combination of egg and salmon works weirdly and wonderfully well, it’s the spicy, garlicky homemade aioli — rather than a heavier Hollandaise — that pushes it over the edge. Enjoy this gem on a decadent weeknight, or potentially for a weekend lunch with friends.

Grilled Salmon Benedict Sandwich — serves two. Easily doubled or tripled.

You’ll need:

  • Four slices wheat or white bread
  • Four slices Cheddar, American or Swiss cheese
  • 1 can salmon (way underrated ingredient!)

  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 clove garlic, minced and crushed into paste (use salt and the side of a knife to create paste)
  • 1 tsp capers, optional
  • 2 eggs, fried or poached and slightly cooled.
  • Thinly sliced tomato
  • Thinly sliced cucumber
  • Olive oil or butter for your toast

Here’s what you do:

  • Butter or oil up the sides of your bread slices. Set aside on a plate for ingredient-stacking.
  • To make the aioli, combine mayonnaise with crushed garlic paste in a small bowl. Add a dash of salt and pepper, seasoning to your liking. Voila — aioli! Add capers if you like. Then, add the salmon, folding in the fish carefully to avoid shredding the meat. You should end up with a chunky salmon “salad.”

Minced garlic + salt + grinding with a flat knife blade = garlic paste. Unreal.

Aioli! This is after I’ve mixed in some capers, which give the spicy, garlicky mayo a briny flavor. If that’s not your thing, feel free to skip ’em.

Salmon salad goodness. Leave the mixture a bit chunky — you want to sense you’re still eating fish, not just some fish-tasting mush.


  • Note: For the egg, you can either pan-fry or poach it in advance, or — miracle of shortcuts — you can simply scramble the egg, raw, in a bowl before microwaving it on High for 1-2 minutes. (Check every 30 seconds or so to gauge doneness.) The best reason to use this method is convenience — it even cooks in a circular shape (thanks, bowl), which helps with sandwich construction.
  • To assemble your sandwich, layer your ingredients in the following order:
    • Bread

Wheat bread, ready for its close-up!

    • Cheese

    • Tomato

    • Salmon salad

    • Cucumber
    • A single fried or poached egg

    • Cheese
    • Bread
  • Place two sandwiches on a pre-heated griddle (remember: medium-low!) and toast for 3-5 minutes on each side, or until toast has browned and filling is warmed through.
  • Mangia! [Italian for “nom nom nom”]

The best part about this kind of meal, I think, is that you’re essentially just making a sandwich, but it’s so much more than that. It’s grilled, toasty, gooey, warm, and wonderful. On a winter weeknight, give me a toasted sammie and a cool glass of cider. Happy lady, happy tummy.

Are you folks big fans of grilled cheese / other grilled sandwiches? How do you build your toasted sandwich treats? Any favorite flavors, cheeses, condiments, or other fillings?


6 Responses to “Budget Eats: If You Grill It, They Will Eat (On the Cheap!)”

  1. recipeshappen October 14, 2012 at 6:53 pm #

    What a great post! I love that “hissss” as well.
    … and salmon is so good for you, and this is a much cheaper way to enjoy it than buying fresh. πŸ™‚


    • galleykitchengal October 14, 2012 at 9:03 pm #

      Thank you! (And thanks for reading / commenting!) As much as I love fresh salmon, the canned stuff is delicious and super wallet-friendly. Thanks again for stopping by!

  2. Amy October 15, 2012 at 11:46 am #

    I love my electric griddle. I make pesto/tomato/chicken/mozzarella sandwiches all the time. Quick and easy. Great way to use up leftover meats.

    • galleykitchengal October 15, 2012 at 4:08 pm #

      Agreed! I also take that approach to make quesadillas. BBQ chicken? Roast beef cold cuts? Add some salsa, peppers, tomatoes & cheese, and I’m a happy lady. πŸ™‚ What sort of electric griddle do you have?

  3. sani panini October 18, 2012 at 12:59 pm #

    Love the step by step pictures!

    • galleykitchengal October 18, 2012 at 2:43 pm #

      Thank you so much! I also just checked out your blog, and the concept is so fab — I look forward to reading more about what you can make with your panini press. πŸ™‚ Thanks for reading!

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