Every once in a while I get a hankering for something gooey, melty and cheesy. No, it’s probably not the healthiest, but somehow I feel comfort food, on occasion, is well deserved, if not completely warranted. Last Sunday, all I wanted to do was plop on the couch, put my feet up and devour this decedent grilled cheese sandwich. Flavorful, nutty Gruyere cheese is melted over onions that are caramelized long and slow, prepared like traditional French Onion Soup. The process of caramelizing the onions brings out their delicious complexity and sweetness. I prefer to use a wholesome, whole grain bread- homemade if possible, but in a pinch, store bought french bread works great too. Serve this with a mesclun salad, dressed with a light Dijon vinaigrette and enjoy the luscious flavors and textures.
The season of alliums has begun. Farmers markets are filled with all different varieties, and as the season progresses, more and more will become available. Right now look for sweet onions, chives, ramps, garlic scapes…..and one of my new favorites – green garlic. ( Recipe coming soon).
The easiest way to caramelize onions is to use your biggest heavy bottom skillet, set a burner to medium low heat, and let the pungent alliums cook long and slow in a little oil or butter. Stir every once in a while, but feel free to leave them and attend to other things. At this temperature, the moisture releases and the sugars caramelize steadily, never burning but growing ever more golden and delicious. At the end, add a pinch of salt and pepper and perhaps a splash of port, sherry or beef stock if you like, letting it cook off. This is the essence of French onion soup.
- 1 large red or yellow onion- thinly sliced about ⅛ in thick
- 1 T oil
- pinch salt
- pinch fresh cracked pepper
- ¼ C sherry, port, or beef stock ( all optional)
- 4 slices hearty Bread or French Bread
- 2 T Butter ( or half oil)
- 1 C grated Gruyere cheese
- 1 tsp fresh thyme ( optional) Whole grain Mustard ( optional)
- In a large heavy bottom skillet, or cast iron pan, heat oil on medium heat. Add onion and saute for 5 minutes, stirring to coat. Turn heat down to medium low. Stir occasionally and continue sauteing for 30 minutes. Onions will sweat out their moisture, and eventually caramelize into a golden brown. Add a generous pinch of salt, a splash of port, sherry, or stock (optional) and let the liquid cook off. Remove from pan and wipe it out with a paper towel, to use again. Preheat oven to 350 F
- Spread outer slices of bread with softened butter. Spread inside with whole grain mustard (optional) On two slices, divide and layer shredded Gruyere, top with caramelized onions, sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves, then add the rest of the cheese. “Close” the sandwiches with the other slices of bread, and gently press together
- Heat 2 butter (or a combination of butter and oil) in the same skillet over medium heat. Place sandwiches in the pan and toast, carefully flipping when golden brown and cheese begins to melt. Place in a warm oven to fully melt the cheese if necessary, which will preventing the bread from getting too dark. Cut in half and enjoy.