Truth be told, I’m not a fan of food holidays. It’s all gotten completely out of hand. Everyday seems to be some sort of food holiday—National Muffin Month, Turkey Burger On A Pretzel Roll Day, National Chocolate Covered Strawberry Week—you name it. The funny thing is, everybody knows these aren’t real holidays. I mean, there’s no patron saint of muffins, is there? Nope, just a group of really smart marketers. Yet we celebrate these days with enthusiasm. Well, bah humbug!

I recently found out we’re in the middle of National Grilled Cheese Month and the weirdest thing happened—I got a little excited about it. I mean, I love a good grilled cheese sandwich as much as the next guy. Oftentimes, it’s the simple foods that connect at an emotional level and spark nostalgia. Grilled cheese embodies “back in the day” and it’s the ultimate comfort food. For that reason, I decided to momentarily push my disdain aside and embrace this food holiday. But for the sake of this blog post, I’m going to ditch the lame name and call it NGCM.

chef aram reed as a contestant

Let the games begin!


Let the games begin!

Since my appearance on Guy’s Grocery Games, so many people have asked me about the grilled cheese sandwich that I made on the show. So, in honor of NGCM, here’s my Outrageous Grilled Cheese, similar to the one that I made on Grocery Games. Oh, and I’m also including a Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato soup recipe, because what’s a grilled cheese sandwich without the tomato soup?

I can’t promise that I’ll be on board for National Walnut Week or any other food holiday for that matter, but then again, you never know. Maybe this grinch’s heart has grown just a little—Happy NGCM.

outrageous grilled cheese made by chef aram reed

Outrageous Grilled Cheese
(Makes 4)

8 slices of sturdy white bread
8 oz smoked ham (optional), thinly sliced
4-6 oz thinly sliced cheddar cheese
4-6 oz thinly sliced Monterey jack
¼ c quality mayonnaise
1 c finely grated parmesan
2-4 T unsalted butter

Lay 4 slices of bread on work surface
Layer ham & cheeses in equal amounts on one side of the bread
Top with 2nd slice of bread
Spread mayo lightly on outside of bread (both sides)
Sprinkle both sides of bread with cheese
Press to adhere cheese
Heat a griddle OR fry pan, over med to med flame (let pan get fully hot)
Add ~2 T of butter & let melt
Place sandwich in pan
Cook til golden brown on 1st side
Turn over & add more butter to pan
Repeat with 2nd side
Repeat, as necessary, with remaining sandwiches
Cut in ½ & eat immediately!
Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Soup
(Makes 6)

1 onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
4 red pepper, roasted, cut in large dice
4c chicken or vegetable stock
1 28 oz can crushed tomato
1t red wine vinegar
2t dried oregano
½ c heavy cream
Fresh Basil Leaves
Rub red peppers with vegetable oil, place on sheet tray under broiler
Broil until charred on all sides
Remove seeds and stem from pepper, dice in large chunks
Heat oil in saucepan
Add onion and sauté until golden, ~ 5 min
Add garlic and oregano, stir in until aromatic
Add tomato and roasted pepper, let heat through
Add stock and vinegar, bring to boil then down to simmer, ~20 min
Puree with immersion blender
Add cream and bring to simmer
Season with s/p
Garnish with basil and crème fraiche