Eric Akis: Waffle grilled cheese an old classic

Eric Akis

I always see used waffle irons, often in great condition, at garage or church sales and at consignment shops. I’m guessing some of the previous owners no longer make waffles, or not very often. But if they found another way to use that iron, perhaps they would have kept it around a while longer.

So what else can you use a waffle iron for? The answer is golden, dimpled, molten-in-the middle grilled cheese sandwiches.

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If you’ve never heard of this and think it’s likely an idea a trying-to-be trendy food blogger came up with, you would be wrong.

The first published recipe I found for cooking a grilled cheese sandwich this way was in my 1953 edition of the Joy of Cooking. In that book, author Irma S. Rombauer called them waffle or toasted sandwiches. In her introduction to the recipe, she wrote: “These sandwiches were good for the maidless hostess who has no toaster.”

To make each sandwich, two slices of white or dark bread, buttered on one side and with the crusts cut off, were slathered with cheese spread on the unbuttered sides and then stacked. I’m assuming cheese spread was something like Cheese Whiz.

Rombauer said you could, if desired, accompany that cheese spread with other fillings, such as sliced olives or pimentos. Each sandwich was then trimmed to fit the sections of your waffle iron. They were then set on the preheated iron, the top part of it was lowered, and the sandwiches were toasted until they were crisp.

Most modern recipes for these types of sandwiches now call for sliced or grated cheese, not cheese spread. That cheese should be a type that melts well, such as cheddar, fontina, processed cheese, Raclette, Gruyere, Monterey Jack, Muenster, mozzarella or havarti.

You can also use a range of different breads, from ordinary white bread to something whole grain and rustic. And you don’t have to trim off the crusts as Rombauer suggested — unless you want to, of course.

The only caveats I have are that the bread slices need to be fairly solid-looking, not pocked with several large holes the melting cheese in the middle of the sandwich can flow out of. The bread slices also need to be reasonably sturdy so the raised parts of the waffle iron don’t pierce through them when the top part of the iron is lowered.

Because the waffle iron cooks the sandwiches on both sides simultaneously, they cook quickly. In just a few minutes, you’ll be biting into something hot and tasty.

Waffle Iron Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

These dimpled, golden, molten-cheese-filled sandwiches can be served with pickles and dunked in ketchup, if you wish.

Preparation time: Five minutes

Cooking time: two and half to three minutes

Makes: Two sandwiches

4 slices white, whole wheat or more rustic bread (see Note 1)

3 Tbsp butter, at room temperature

80 to 100 grams cheddar, fontina, Monterey Jack or other cheese that melts well, thinly sliced, or 4 thin slices processed cheese, shaped and bended to fit your size of bread

Evenly and generously butter one side of each bread slice. Evenly divide and arrange the cheese on the unbuttered side of two of the bread slices. When doing so, be sure to leave a half-inch or so border of clean bread around the edges of each slice. (Doing this should prevent most of the cheese from seeping out the sides of the sandwich as it cooks.) Set on the other bread slices, buttered side up.

Preheat your non-stick waffle iron to medium-high (see Note 2). Set your sandwiches on the bottom part of the waffle iron. Lower the top part of the waffle iron until pressing down on the sandwiches. (Don’t lock the iron shut, or you overly squash the sandwiches.) Cook sandwiches, two and half to three minutes, until rich golden brown and cheese is melted, and then serve.

Note 1: The bread you use can be square or oval shaped, as long they fit inside the slots of your waffle maker. When testing this recipe, the Island-baked breads I used that are shown in the photo were Portofino European Bakery peasant loaf, and Island Bakery premium white bread.

Note 2: My electric waffle maker has a temperature range of one to five. When preheating the waffle iron, I set it at three and half.

Eric’s options: After you get the hang of making grilled cheese sandwiches this way, you can experiment by adding other fillings that compliment the type of cheese used. Those fillings should not be anything chunky, pointy and/or overly firm or they may break through the bread when the sandwiches are cooked. Other fillings that could work in this style of sandwich include such things as thinly sliced deli meats, such as ham or proscuitto, caramelized onions, thin shreds of pulled pork, bacon bits, chopped herbs, pesto and tapenade.

Filipino Association Celebrates 50th Anniversary

The Victoria Filipino Canadian Association is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a weekend of activities anyone interested in a fun and culture-rich time can attend.

This Saturday, starting at 6 p.m., a 50th anniversary dinner celebration will take place at the Hotel Grand Pacific, 463 Belleville St. A few tickets for this buffet feast, followed by dancing, are still available and cost $60 per person. To enquire about tickets, call 250-888-8837.

On Sunday, a Filipino-style brunch will be held at the Philippine Bayanihan Centre, 1709 Blanshard St. For just $12 per person you’ll get to choose two main items, such as longanisa, a Philippine kind of breakfast sausage, marinated beef and/or pansit, a noodle dish with sautéed vegetables. Those items will be served with egg and rice and coffee or tea. The brunch is being served from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and you pay for the meal at the door.

What organizers say is the main event of this weekend celebration is a song and dance presentation that will tell the story of the Victoria Filipino Canadian Association, from its beginnings in 1969 to what’s happening now. This sure to be spirit-lifting occasion will take place at 3 p.m. at the Dave Dunnet Community Theatre, Oak Bay High School, 2121 Cadboro Bay Rd. Tickets, available at the door, are $10 per person, $5 for students and children under five get in free. Tickets can also be purchased in advance by calling 250-704-8311.

VIP guests attending the Saturday dinner and the song and dance presentation will include the Philippine Ambassador to Canada, Petronila P. Garcia, and the Vancouver Consul General, Maria Andrelita S. Austria.

For more information about the above events visit the Philippine Bayanihan Centre website, bayanihan.ca, or call the centre at 250-472-1898.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

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