This is an unapologetic comfort food recipe. Warm, soft white bread gets crispy on the outside thanks to melted butter and filled with a tender chicken and broccoli mixture melded together with a blend of cheddar and cream cheese.
Whenever I make grilled cheese sandwiches, I think about the ones my Granny made for my brother and me during one of our many visits. Like any kids visiting their grandparents, my brother and I were granted special treats that weren’t always available at home. For us that meant grilled cheese sandwiches with white bread, American cheese wrapped in crinkly cellophane, and real butter. That butter made the sandwiches so crisp on the outside and the bright yellow cheese was the perfect glue for the soft white bread.
The final step my Granny always took before serving the sandwiches was cutting them right down the center. This was in sharp contrast to the diagonal cut, whole wheat, margarine slathered grilled cheeses my mom served at home. Such a minor difference, but I swear it made them taste better.
When I was in high school, I started mowing my grandparent’s lawn. They spent a lot of time traveling by train across the country, so they were rarely home when I’d go over there. Once the lawn was mowed, I’d go inside and fix myself a grilled cheese sandwich just the way my Granny made. I can still remember the little tan container she kept the butter in and the loose plastic handle on the old square skillet I’d seen so many sandwiches prepared on. I’d also grab a coke from the fridge, another goodie we never had at home.
This is kind of the grown up version of the grilled cheeses I remember from visiting Granny’s house. Instead of individually wrapped slices of American cheese, I’m using a combination of cheddar and cream cheese to get that ooey-gooey consistency. I’m also adding some sustenance to the meal with Canadian bacon, shredded chicken, and broccoli. Not to say that this is a healthy dinner, by any means, but sometimes you just want a hot grilled cheese sandwich, dammit, and adding meat and a vegetable makes it feel a little more substantial.
The technique for crafting these sandwiches is also a little different than my Granny’s. In order to ensure a crisp outside and hot center, I melt the butter in the skillet and preheat the oven to 400. I lay two pieces of bread down and circle them around the pan to ensure they’re coated in the butter. Next, I top one piece of bread with the Canadian bacon and a little more cheese and the other piece with the filling. As soon as the under side starts to brown, I pop it in the oven for about 5 minutes until the cheese has completely melted and the filling is piping hot.
This filling is versatile, too. I’ve used it for quesadillas using oat and soy flour tortillas for a low carb, lighter version of these grilled cheeses.
This is a great recipe if you have leftover chicken and broccoli, too. You could even cook those two ingredients the night before so all you have to do the night you want to eat them is combine the filling, assemble the sandwiches, and grill. I’m using baked chicken breast, but rotisserie chicken would also be amazing.
Chicken Broccoli Cheddar Grilled Cheese with Canadian Bacon
Makes 4 Sandwiches
- 1 Tbsp Butter
- 2 Cups Shredded Chicken Breast*
- 1 Cup Cooked Broccoli, chopped**
- 2 Cups Shredded Cheddar, plus additional for sprinkling
- 2 Oz Cream Cheese
- 12 Slices Canadian Bacon
- 8 Slices White Bread
* You can use a rotisserie chicken or cook chicken breasts in a 425 degree oven for 20-25 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 160. Remove and allow to cool before shredding.
** If using fresh broccoli, cut broccoli and place into a large pan. Cover the broccoli with water and bring to a boil. Allow to cook for 1 minute then drain and rinse with cool water.
Preheat the oven to 400. Melt the butter in a large, oven proof skillet over medium low heat. Place 2 slices of bread in the bottom and press to coat the bottom of the bread with the butter (this will make one sandwich, if your pan is large enough you can add 4 slices of bread and make two sandwiches). Add the ham on one slice and sprinkle with additional cheese. Spoon the chicken broccoli mixture on the other side. Let the bread brown in the pan for 1-2 minutes then place the pan in the oven for 4-6 minutes until the cheese has melted and the filling is hot. Remove from the oven and place the ham and cheese slice on top of the other site. Repeat these steps for the rest of the sandwiches.