The Ultimate Southern Grilled Cheese Sandwich _lowres

Photo provided by Martha White -- The Ultimate Southern Grilled Cheese Sandwich features corn bread wedges stuffed with bacon, cheese, and onion and tomato slices.

The Ultimate Southern Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Serves 4. Recipe is by Susan Rodgers, of Round Rock, Texas, who placed third in the 2014 Martha White/Lodge Cast Iron National Cornbread Cook-Off.

8 slices thick cut bacon, cooked and drippings reserved

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 medium red onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick

1 tbl. sugar

1 (7-oz.) pkg. Martha White Sweet Yellow Cornbread & Muffin Mix

1/2 cup milk

1 large egg, beaten

1/2 cup ranch dressing

8 slices American cheese

4 large tomato slices, 1/4 inch thick (preferably heirloom tomatoes)

Salt and pepper

1. Heat oven to 400°F. Heat 2 tablespoons bacon drippings and 1 tablespoon butter in 9-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion slices and sugar to skillet. Cook until onions are translucent. Transfer to bowl and set aside.

2. Place 2 tablespoons bacon drippings in skillet. Place in oven 7 to 8 minutes or until hot. Stir together corn bread mix, milk and egg in small bowl until smooth. Pour batter into hot skillet. Bake 17 to 22 minutes or until golden brown. Cool corn bread in skillet 5 minutes. Turn out onto wire rack to cool.

3. Cut corn bread into four wedges. Slice each wedge open. For each wedge, spread cut sides with 1 tablespoon ranch dressing. On bottom wedges, place 1 slice cheese. Break bacon slices in half. Place four halves on cheese slices. Spoon equal amounts of onion over bacon. Top with tomato slices. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add remaining cheese slices. Cover with top corn bread wedges.

4. Heat skillet over medium heat. Spread one side of sandwiches generously with butter. Place 2 wedges in skillet, buttered side down. Grill until golden brown and crunchy. Spread top with butter. Turn and grill other side. Repeat with remaining wedges. Serve immediately.