When you think of your favorite comfort food, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Is it a juicy, meaty burger with all the fixings, a plate of mom’s homemade pot roast with creamy mashed potatoes, or maybe it’s a extra large slice of fluffy chocolate cake slathered in sugary frosting? Well mine happens to be the classic American grilled cheese. I love them so much that I have experimented with almost every cheese, bread, and topping known to man to create the ultimate grilled cheese.

A simple grilled cheese can satisfy ones most acute cravings for comfort food. Two slices of bread, a piece of cheese, and butter make a ridiculously delicious sandwich that most kids and adults will agree there’s nothing quite like it. Serve that alongside a hot piping bowl of tomato soup with an eye-squinting briny pickle and you have taken flight for culinary heaven.

Here are my favorite grilled cheese recipes that culminate the true meaning of comfort. One incorporates a mash-up of gooey mac and cheese, salty Applewood smoked bacon, and double-sided cheesy bread that makes for one heck of a scrumptious gut-buster. The other is a more refined grilled cheese perfect for a weekend picnic or when you want to show off your culinary skills to some of your favorite table-side guests. Enjoy and happy eating!

The Ultimate Grilled Cheese

4 slices Texas toast white bread
4 slices American or cheddar cheese
Prepared macaroni and cheese (either boxed or scratch-made)
4 slices Applewood smoked bacon, cooked
½ cup butter
1 cup finely grated parmesan cheese

Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray and pour macaroni and cheese into it. Use a spatula to spread evenly and place in your Kenmore fridge until chilled (about 2 hours). Butter one side of the white bread and place the American cheese on the non-buttered side. Then cut a piece of the chilled mac and cheese that is slightly smaller to fit onto bread. Top with 2 slices of bacon (I break mine into smaller pieces) then butter remaining slice and place butter side up on sandwich. Heat a cast iron skillet to medium high heat and add 2-3 Tbsp. of parmesan cheese. Place the sandwich on top of the cheese and cook for 2 minutes per side. Before flipping the sandwich, add another handful of parmesan cheese to the skillet then flip the sandwich on top. Cook for 1 more minute then finish in a *450 degree oven for 5-6 minutes or until cheese is completely melted and gooey.

Grown Up Grilled Cheese

4 slices brioche bread
2 Tbsp. arugula pesto (recipe follows)
8 oz. Gruyere cheese, sliced
1 heirloom tomato, sliced
4 strips of thick-cut bacon, cooked
1 avocado, sliced
Sea salt
Cracked black pepper

Arugula Pesto ingredients:
4 cups arugula
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup pine nuts
¼ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper

To make the arugula pesto, place first four ingredients in a food processor and puree till combined. Season with salt and pepper and spread one tablespoon on all four slices of brioche. Heat a Panini press or grill pan to medium high heat. Layer the cheese slices, tomato, bacon, and avocado on 2 slices of the brioche. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place remaining bread on sandwich and grill until cheese melts through, about 3-4 minutes. Serve alongside a small side salad or with tomato soup.