Michael Symon Serves His Bloody Mary with a Side of Grilled Cheese — and You Should Too

Just in case you needed an excuse to eat grilled cheese sandwiches all year round.

By: Frances Kim

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Here at Food Network, we believe that a grilled cheese sandwich has no season — it makes for a quick and satisfying supper any time of year. While we love the classic combo of grilled cheese and tomato soup in the colder months, we usually scarf down the sandwich solo in the summer. That is, we did until we came across chef Michael Symon’s latest stroke of brilliance: Bloody Mary with Grilled Cheese Bars. No, it’s not an entire grilled cheese sandwich masquerading as a Bloody Mary garnish and oozing Cheddar all over the side of the glass. It’s really the ultimate summer pairing: an ice-cold, flavor-packed Bloody Mary served alongside a plate piled high with batons of grilled cheese.

To make the grilled cheese bars, Michael starts by spreading slices of rye bread with plenty of room-temperature butter to get that coveted golden crust. He then layers on shredded Cheddar or Gruyere, followed by mustard, pickles and shaved onions to offset the richness of the cheese. Once he adds the sandwiches to the pan and turns his attention to the Bloody Marys, he shares an important reminder: “You should always cook with all your senses. When you put that sandwich in, listen — if it sizzles, it tells you the pan is hot; smell as it’s toasting; and obviously visually you want to see what’s going on.”

For the cocktail, Michael takes a base of low-sodium tomato juice and builds flavor using freshly grated garlic, lemon juice and all kinds of seasoning, including Old Bay, celery seeds, black pepper, horseradish, Worcestershire, hot sauce and the nontraditional but surprisingly delicious addition of balsamic vinegar. While vodka, gin and tequila are all welcome here, Michael is partial to bourbon. “Because it’s been aged in those barrels,” he explains, “you get that deep, woody, mysterious flavor that works so well with horseradish and tomato.” The whiskey is also the perfect partner for the beef jerky garnish Michael hangs on the rim of each glass.

To finish things up, Michael slices the sandwiches into batons and piles them onto a platter to serve alongside the cocktails. If you’re looking to turn this into a more substantial meal, Michael highly recommends adding the grilled cheese bars to a full cheese plate. Luckily, he has a Food Network Kitchen class for that, too.

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