If there is any solace to the cruel fact that the days of sandwiches stuffed with thick slices of sun-kissed tomatoes are over (emphasis on the “if”), it is that we have now arrived in the portion of the year in which sandwiches are only complete—only right—if they ooze with melted cheese. And that is a silver lining I can get behind. Plus, what’s more American than a grilled cheese sandwich (even a gussied up one, sporting, erm, imported cheese)? And, on this brilliant morning, I’m feeling pretty proud to be an American.
Another cold weather sandwich staple of mine is caramelized onions. So, when I discovered this recipe, which marries both of my go-to hibernation season sandwich fillings (for review: cheese warmed to its stretched-out-and-stringy state; soft curls of sweet, slow-cooked onions), I think I not only drooled a little bit, but I even—and please don’t hate me for this—willed winter to hurry up already.
(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)
In the end, we couldn’t wait until winter to audition this shiny new grilled cheese recipe. We made these sandwiches a couple Saturdays ago, when the skies were grey and the wind rattled our windows. The sandwiches—lined with grueyere and spilling over with a tangle of caramelized onions—were just what the doctor ordered.
The recipe also calls for a slather of spicy mustard and thinly sliced pickles: both of which (a) elevated the sandwich to my “food nirvana” category and (b) were entirely intolerable to my husband. So, my sandwich followed the recipe’s rules (how fitting) and Kevin’s was scaled down (simply great bread + warm, pungent cheese + melty onions). These sandwiches could go in other directions too, I think: slivered apples or pears in place of the pickles and honey standing in for the Dijon mustard, for instance.
Luckily, the grilled cheese season is young: there is plenty of time to try all the potential variations. And, if you happen to find yourself smack in the middle of an unseasonal heatwave but still hankering for these sandwiches, I could think up a million other excuses for you. It’s going to climb into the 70s today in Chicago, but these sandwiches still sound delicious. You see, I could use a little comfort food today, after last’s night’s late bedtime and overdose of TV-web-media (and champagne; that too).
Grilled Gruyere and Sweet Onions
Adapted from Food & Wine
Makes Four Sandwiches
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced crosswise (4 cups)
salt and freshly ground pepper
8 1/2-inch-thick slices of whole-grain bread
8 ounces imported Gruyère cheese, thinly sliced
2 dill pickles, thinly sliced lengthwise
In a deep skillet, melt the butter in the oil. Add the onion, cover and cook over high heat, stirring once or twice, until softened, about 5 minutes. Uncover and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is very tender and caramelized, about 25 minutes longer. Add water to the skillet as necessary, 1/4 cup at a time, to prevent the onion from scorching. Season the caramelized onion with salt and pepper.
Arrange the bread on a work surface. Spread a thin layer of mustard on each slice. Top half of the slices with the onion, Gruyère and pickles and close the sandwiches.
Preheat a grill pan or panini press (which you can coat with a light brush of oil or cooking spray, if you typically have problems with sticking). Grill the sandwiches over low heat until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melted, 10 minutes. If using a grill pan, press the sandwiches with a spatula and flip them halfway through. Cut in half and serve right away.