There is nothing wrong with a classic grilled cheese sandwich. Built on white bread and fried in butter, it's pretty perfect. But it's that solid foundation that also makes it an excellent candidate for riffing. No variation is going to replace it in the sandwich canon, but we have some pretty good variations on the grilled cheese theme.

Get funky with kimchi

The pairing of cheese and kimchi actually isn’t new. Budae jjigae, otherwise known as army base stew, originates with the Korean War. It’s a hot pot made with American surplus foods, such as hot dogs, baked beans and instant noodles, along with kimchi and American cheese. In this garlicky, slightly spicy, umami-packed sandwich, we stack cheese (cheddar, pepper jack, and mozzarella all work) with salty ham and funky fermented cabbage. We use the kimchi two ways: as a filling and to flavor the mayo that gets spread on the outside of the bread, giving the sandwich a flavorful, crispy crust.

Reinterpret the soup and sandwich

Like chocolate and peanut butter, grilled cheese and tomato soup is a flawless pairing. In our grown-up twist on the childhood favorite, we created a silky bisque and serve it topped with crisp Parmesan croutons in place of a sandwich. Rather than thicken the soup with heavy cream, which can dull the bright flavors of the tomato, we simmer pieces of torn bread in the tomato broth, then blend everything to produce a satisfying soup with a velvety texture. (This is just one of our favorite ways to use bread to thicken, a technique you’ll find in our newest cookbook, Milk Street 365.)

Grill the cheese itself

Taking a cue from Greek fried halloumi, we grill the cheese instead of the bread for an inverted take on the standard grilled cheese. Halloumi is a semi-firm Cypriot cheese that’s milky, tangy and briny, with a uniquely high melting point, allowing you to fry it without it melting into a mess. Just toss it in a pan to get it soft and beautifully browned, then drizzle the slices with tangy-sweet pomegranate molasses before tucking the cheese into pita bread, along with pickled red onion and fresh mint. In the summer months, swap our the onions and molasses for slivers of juicy, ripe peaches and peppery arugula, then sandwich it all between toasted bread brushed with thyme-infused honey.

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