Buffalo Chicken Grilled Cheese

After the insanity of the holidays, one thing I can really embrace about the first few months of the year is an empty calendar. For the most part, our weekends have been pretty quiet, and we’ve definitely been taking advantage. The pace of life will pick up soon, with weddings, baby showers, and Shane’s racing season, so for now, we don’t feel too guilty about having a lazy day here or there. The only problem is that sometimes the day gets away from us, and before we know it, it’s later than we thought and we still haven’t started cooking dinner. In that moment, it’s SO tempting to pick up the phone, order a pizza and be done with it. I’d be lying if I told you that hadn’t happened, but most of the time I try to put something together with the ingredients we have on hand.

Buffalo Chicken Grilled Cheese

On one of those lazy days recently, I was craving buffalo chicken pizza in a major way. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any pizza dough stashed away and it was too late to start making it from scratch by the time I got off the couch. We had everything else we needed though, so instead I decided to take the same flavors from that pizza and turn them into a grilled cheese sandwich. In my head it was pretty much the same: both the pizza crust and bread were high-carb vehicles for the buffalo chicken and cheese goodness :)

I started with thick slices of Italian bread, after having had good luck using them in the past. The bread is substantial enough to handle the filling and toasts to crispy perfection in the pan. I spread a tangy ranch-like sauce on the bread, which was then topped with cheddar cheese, the buffalo chicken mixture, and finally, more cheese. I kept the buffalo chicken mixture pretty simple, using the buffalo sauce from the pizza we love, some cooked and shredded chicken, and, for a little bit of crunchy texture, diced celery and red onion. As always, I chose not to include any blue cheese in the sandwiches since we’re not fans, but feel free to add it in place of or in addition to the cheddar. This was a perfect quick and easy dinner; in fact, it’s possible I enjoyed it even more than the pizza I was originally craving. But then, what’s not to love about a grilled cheese sandwich and an episode of The Amazing Race to cap off your weekend? :)

Buffalo Chicken Grilled Cheese
adapted from Buffalo Chicken Pizza

White Sauce
1 tablespoon Greek yogurt (I used nonfat)
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
pinch of sugar
pinch of garlic powder

Buffalo Sauce
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup Frank’s hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

3/4 cup cooked and shredded chicken (from about 1 small chicken breast)
2 tablespoons minced red onion
2 tablespoons minced celery
4 1/2-inch thick slices Italian bread
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese

To make the white sauce: Stir the yogurt, mayonnaise, sugar, garlic powder and a pinch each of salt and pepper together in a small bowl. (The sauce can be made ahead and refrigerated.)

To make the buffalo sauce: Melt the butter in a small saucepan set over medium-low heat. Add the hot sauce, brown sugar and vinegar and stir until combined. Add the shredded chicken, red onion, and celery and toss to coat. If the chicken was cold, keep the pan over low heat and let it warm through a bit.

Lightly butter one side of two slices of the bread. Flip the slices over and lay them butter side down on your work surface. Spread half of the white sauce on the side of those two slices that is now facing up (the unbuttered side). Distribute half of the cheese among the two slices. Top each slice with half of the chicken mixture and then distribute the remaining cheese over the chicken. Lightly butter one side of the two remaining slices of bread, then flip them over and use the other half of the white sauce to coat the unbuttered side. Top each sandwich with a slice of this bread to finish it (buttered side facing out).

Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Place the sandwiches butter side down in the pan and cook on the first side until the bread is golden brown and toasted. Flip the sandwiches using a spatula and continue to cook on the other side until the bread is golden brown. You can use the spatula to compress the sandwich as it cooks on the second side. Remove the sandwiches from the pan and let them rest for a minute or two, then slice in half (if desired) and serve.

Makes 2 sandwiches