Cooking the Books: Cheddar Late Than Dead by Linda Reilly
By Doreen SheridanFebruary 1, 2023
Restaurant owner Carly Hale isn’t exactly thrilled to be roped in at the last minute to serve refreshments at Klarissa Tadeo’s bridal shower. While they got along well enough when they went to high school together, Klarissa has turned into a total bridezilla now that her nuptials are impending. Carly would turn down the catering gig altogether if it weren’t for the sheer desperation of another former classmate, Dawn Chapin. Dawn is Klarissa’s wedding planner as well as her best friend since childhood and will suffer the brunt of Klarissa’s wrath should Carly refuse.
Carly is further thrown out of her comfort zone by the bride’s insistence that grilled cheese donut sandwiches be served at the shower. While Carly’s restaurant specializes in grilled cheese, she’s never attempted grilling them with donuts before. Fortunately, her talented staff stands ready to help her figure out recipes and accompaniments. With their assistance, Carly pulls together a menu centered around the unusual item, then preps for the big day.
At first, the bridal shower goes smoothly. Even Klarissa’s generalized anxiety is soothed by how well everything is proceeding, which she credits almost entirely to Carly’s food and service. She insists Carly come out and say hello to all the guests, even though Carly would love nothing better than to keep her head down in the kitchen, steering clear of any drama and just getting the job done. So it’s pretty mortifying for Carly when Tony Manous, Klarissa’s intended, unexpectedly shows up. He doesn’t seem at all happy with his fiancee but allows himself to be headed off by Dawn before he and Klarissa can get into a fight. Carly is still trying to figure out how to exit gracefully herself when she comes across Tony’s body just a short while later, dead at the foot of the grand staircase.
Dawn immediately falls under suspicion of murder and begs Carly for help in clearing her name. Carly has, after all, acquired a bit of a reputation in their town of Balsam Dell for nabbing murderers. Despite the warnings of the police chief to stay out of this case, Carly feels compelled to keep helping Dawn. Will her attempts to prove her old friend’s innocence wind up jeopardizing her own life, though, as a killer lurks in the shadows waiting to strike again?
This was another solidly entertaining installment of the Grilled Cheese Mystery series. It’s nice to meet more characters from Carly’s past, even as new ones—particularly in relation to her restaurant staff—are introduced. It was also nice to see Carly’s resilience save a life all while realistically weighing the cost of friendship against her own safety.
There were two recipes included here, and I absolutely had to try the dish at the heart of this novel:
Grilled Cheese Donut
1 glazed donut (the bigger the better!)
Salted butter, softened
Shredded, sharp cheddar cheese (as much as you can pile on!)
Using a serrated knife, slice the donut in half lengthwise. Spread softened butter on both unglazed sides.
Set one half of the donut in a non-stick skillet or cast-iron pan, butter side down. Pile shredded cheese on top of the glazed side. (Don’t worry about bits of spillage into the pan–they make nice little crusty edges!)
Top the cheese with the other half of the donut, butter side up. Grill over low to medium heat, pressing down lightly with a spatula. Carly suggests not using a grill press, as the weight will squish the sandwich too flat. Grill on one side until golden brown, then flip over and grill the other side.
When grilling, add pieces of crispy bacon or sliced tomato atop the cheese, if desired.
I genuinely had no idea what I was in for with this recipe, but I love grilled cheese sandwiches and adore glazed donuts, so I figured that the end result couldn’t possibly be too, too terrible. Imagine my elation, then, at how wildly this exceeded even my modest expectations. Grilled cheese donuts are shockingly good sandwiches! The sharpness of the cheddar really offsets the sweetness of the donut, and the buttery crust just makes for perfect comfort food. If cheddar isn’t your thing, and you’re looking for a substitute, I do recommend sticking with a sharp cheese regardless, as the contrast really sells the dish.
I made several grilled cheese donut sandwiches for my family, all of whom would like me to make this again and soon. I’ll probably try it with the sliced tomatoes and some beef bacon next time, just to see if there’s any chance of improving on perfection.
Next week, we travel to the Midwest for a deliciously healthy baked treat while investigating the death of a television producer whose luck has finally run out. Do join me!
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