I have big news, really big news. I suggest if you’re walking to class, making toast or doing Zumba that you sit down for this: April 12, National Grilled Cheese Day, is here.

For those of you who are like me, you probably had never heard about National Grilled Cheese day until you woke up this morning and saw your Facebook news feed covered in pictures and videos of grilled cheese. I saw many grilled cheese sandwiches: pesto grilled cheese, french onion grilled cheese and even rainbow grilled cheese, just to name a few.

As it turns out, the U.S. has over 175 days to recognize foods and drinks, about one every other day. That is more than the number of any single country’s food days and internationally recognized food days. Who would expect anything less? We have a reputation to uphold.

Of the more than 175 days, I would argue National Grilled Cheese Day is one of the best. It surely surpasses National Chips and Dip Day (March 23), National Candied Orange Peel Day (May 4) and National Escargot Day (May 24). Plus, it’s slightly more affordable than National Clams on the Half Shell Day (March 31), National Prime Rib Day (April 27) and National Filet Mignon Day (Aug. 13).

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Because I don’t want any of you to be left out from posting a nice Instagram photo on such an esteemed day, I’ve dedicated this week’s recipe to grilled cheese. I will admit this is an extraordinarily basic recipe, but after reading this you are sure to be a grilled cheese aficionado, ready to tackle even the most whack and fancy grilled cheeses. That being said, I do not condone the use of this knowledge to support dyeing cheese and then calling it a rainbow grilled cheese — that’s gross.

Let’s begin.

Tomato soup with grilled cheese

Grilled cheese sandwiches gained popularity in the 1920s following James L. Kraft’s patenting of processed cheese in 1916 and the invention of the bread slicer. What a time.

True to 1920s fashion, this recipe keeps it simple and leaves the vegetables, meats, fancy French cheeses, artisan breads and rainbow colors behind in place of true American innovation. To accompany your classic grilled cheese, this tomato soup provides full flavor with a fraction of the effort.

Ingredients for two (two grilled cheeses each)

Tomato soup

One 15-ounce can of tomato sauce (not for pasta, just pureed)

One 6-ounce can of tomato paste

1 1/2 cup dry/semidry white wine

1 1/2 cup vegetable broth

1 1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 cloves of minced/crushed garlic

1 1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1 1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried marjoram

1/2 teaspoon dried fennel seeds

1/2 teaspoon cracked red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

Grilled cheese

8 slices white bread

8 slices American cheese

3 tablespoons butter (use margarine if you must)

To make the tomato soup, preheat your medium pot on medium heat. Add the olive oil and allow it to heat for a few seconds before adding the minced garlic. Allow the minced garlic to sauté for about one minute and then add the remaining spices.

Note: Fennel seeds must be cracked in your hand before being added. The flavors will not be released if the inner part of the seed is not exposed. You can easily do this by crushing it between your fingers or your hand while adding it.

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As I’ve said before, do not allow your garlic to brown because it will turn your soup bitter. Once your spices become aromatic, or when your garlic starts to turn brown, add the white wine.

Let the white wine reduce to about half, about three minutes, and then add in the balsamic vinegar. Allow the mixture to reduce for another minute or so.

Finally, add in the tomato sauce, tomato paste and vegetable broth. Cover the pot and allow the mixture to come to a boil. Then, reduce the heat and let the soup simmer while you are making the grilled cheese.

If needed, add salt and pepper to taste before serving with the grilled cheese. Make sure to occasionally stir the soup to ensure it does not stick to the bottom of the pan.

To make the grilled cheese, the ideal methodology utilizes a panini maker, but it can easily be done in a pan as well. Begin by preheating your medium pan on medium-low heat. Soften the butter in the microwave for about 30 to 45 seconds. If it melts, that’s totally fine. It just may make a mess.

Butter each side of the bread, pair up two slices and break up two pieces of cheese to place between each pair of slices. For each sandwich, place the bread in your medium pan and allow to cook until golden on each side.

Your pan cannot be too hot, or the bread will burn before the cheese even starts to melt. If when you put the sandwich on the pan it starts vigorously sizzling, your pan is too hot. It is not unusual for the grilled cheese to take up to 2 minutes on each side — the key is low and slow. I am personally not a patient person, but it’s worth the wait.

After your grilled cheeses are done cooking, cut into triangles and serve with the soup.

#nationalgrilledcheeseday

As always, let me know if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions at [email protected].

That is all for now,

Chef Sogs