When I lived in Daytona Beach, my ex and I used to have breakfast every Saturday at The Koffee Kup on Nova Road. We became part of the regular weekend crowd and soon learned every waitress’s name.

Because The Koffee Kup was a quick jaunt ’round the corner from the newspaper where I worked, I decided one afternoon to go there for lunch.

It’s a good thing I’d established myself. When the check came, I realized I didn’t have enough cash. (And The Koffee Kup did not take credit cards.) I called over my waitress and confessed I was about a dollar short on the bill and had absolutely nothing to leave as a tip.

“That’s okay, hon,” she said. “Give it to us Saturday.”

What busted through my budget?

Grilled cheese. I’d added so many add-ons that the bill spiked beyond my humble wallet’s reach.

I thought about that grilled cheese last night. Wanting to use some of the tomatoes overflowing my kitchen (and needing a break from our ubiquitous fish dinners), I’d decided to make tomato sandwiches.

But then I remembered the hunks of Irish cheddar and Manchego cheeses in the fridge.

And the bacon.

And the grainy mustard.

grilled cheeseDinner morphed into monster grilled cheese sandwiches, served with a side of zucchini-basil soup. The sandwiches were creamy and toasty; velvetine and crunchy.

Dinner was a hearty, homey affair. Kind of like The Koffee Kup.

But even better.

Tomato, Bacon & Dijon Grilled Cheese

I’m not sure you need a recipe for grilled cheese sandwiches. They pretty much adapt to whatever you want to do with them. This is how we ate ours:

  • 4 slices of bacon
  • 8 thick slices of multigrain bread
  • 3 tablespoons of softened, unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (the sharper the better)
  • 1 cup shredded Manchego cheese
  • 8 thick slices of tomatoes, lightly salted
  • Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Cook the bacon until crispy, either on the stove top or laid on a rack in a rimmed baking sheet and baked at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Drain it well on paper towels then snap each piece in two.

Using a couple of tablespoons of the butter, liberally coat one side of each bread slice. Turn the bread over and spread the second sides liberally with Dijon mustard.

Lay some cheese, 2 tomato slices, 2 bacon halves and some more cheese atop 4 of your Dijon-coated bread slices. Top with the Dijon-coated sides of the remaining bread. You should have 4 thick sandwiches:

grilled cheese buttered

Heat the remaining butter and the olive oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted, add the sandwiches. Cook, pressing down with a heat-proof spatula, until the bottom is golden brown. (You could use a panini press for cooking, but I don’t think it gives you the same crisp crust.)

Carefully flip the sandwiches over, and cook until the second side is golden, occasionally pressing down with your spatula and adding more olive oil if the pan gets dry.

Remove the sandwiches to plates and eat immediately. It’s your family’s choice if they’d like to tip the cook.