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There is something nostalgic about a grilled cheese sandwich. For some it brings back memories of childhood. Weekend afternoons enjoying grilled cheese sandwiches made from Kraft cheese slices and white bread and maybe even tomato soup. Over time the grilled cheese sandwich has grown up with us and evolved. I think it’s safe to say it’s been perfected.
I grew up making grilled cheese sandwiches with butter. Over time with a little (okay… a lot) of experimentation, I’ve realized that a combination of Hellman’s Mayonnaise and butter makes a far better toasty, crispy edge on a grilled cheese sandwich. It also creates better flavor and, believe it or not, the mixture makes a less greasy sandwich. I know, oh my gosh, mayo, butter, bread and cheese! It’s a treat! You won’t eat it every day. Enjoy it! I added a salad to the images to create a bit of balance. The truth is, my gang didn’t eat the salad, but the sandwich was gone in an instant.
On the inside, the cheese selection has also matured. Step aside plastic-wrapped cheese and make room for new combinations. Swiss, Gruyère de Comté, brie, cheddar, all are good. Today I’m mixing a Comté with the Tulip Tree Nettle cheese. It is a chevre-like cheese laced with sage, mint and nettle leaves. The herbaceous flavor with the creamy richness of the soft cheese was unbelievably delicious. If Tulip Nettle is not available, try Mackenzie Creamery Cognac Fig, Apricot Ginger or Sweet Fire Cups. All are uniquely outstanding.
As with the rest of the components of the classic grilled cheese, the add-in list has grown too. I’ve seen bacon or tomatoes on the menu for some time now, but there are so many more flavor combos. Avocado + egg, prosciutto + arugula + sweet melon, bacon jam + hot honey to name just a few. Today I’m adding in caramelized onions and apricot jam.
Ideal cheese meltiness doesn’t happen quickly. To achieve a perfectly toasty outside and an evenly melted interior you have to relax and cook it low and slow. Once it’s been flipped I like to cover it with an inverted metal mixing bowl and add a slight squirt of water to the pan surface before closing the makeshift lid to allow a bit of steam to aid in the melting process.
Your patience will be rewarded.
Nettle Grilled Cheese with Caramelized Onions and Apricot Jam
- Two slices of crusty French bread per sandwich
- Tulip Tree Nettle, sliced (cheese quantity depends on the size of your bread.)
- Comté, sliced
- Apricot jam
- 1 tsp. fresh sage, chopped
- 1 Tbsp. Hellmann’s Mayonnaise
- 1 Tbsp. butter
- 1 caramelized onion (see note)
*Note: Caramelizing onions to a golden brown perfection is a labor of love. It to will not be done quickly. They can be done ahead of time and used in sandwiches, soup, scrambled eggs or onion dip. Sauté stirring frequently low and slow. I like to add a combo of olive oil and butter, about a Tablespoon of each per onion. It may seem like forever (30-40 minutes) before they start to brown. Don’t crowd the pan or they will steam and take even longer to brown. Once they start to brown, keep going about 10 minutes longer to get the deep golden color. You’ll be happy you did.
- Butter two pieces of bread, then spread mayo over the butter.
- Lay one slice, butter side down, in a cold frying pan. Spread apricot jam on the clean side of the bread facing up.
- Add slices of the Tulip Nettle cheese. If using Mackenzie Creamery cheese, spread it onto the inside of the top slice of bread.
- Add a bit of sage and a layer of caramelized onions.
- Add the slices of Comté cheese.
- Top with the second piece of bread, butter side up.
- Turn the heat on the stove to medium. When the bottom starts to become golden, turn the heat to low. When golden brown (you’ll know by peaking) turn the sandwich carefully. Cook the other side slowly.
- Splash a bit of water onto the cooking surface and cover quickly to allow steam to help the cheese melt evenly.
- When the cheese is melted and the second side is toasty brown, remove from the heat and enjoy.