At it’s ethos, a grilled cheese sandwich is all about an indulgence. This sandwich in particular is the definition of a splurge and I will not apologize for it’s decadence. I am certain we share the same feeling of nostalgia and contentment when pulling two halves of a grilled cheese apart, the cheese grasping hold, attempting to stay intact as long as possible in it’s wondrously, ooey-gooey state. The classic grilled cheese – white bread with a waxy slice of yellow American – will forever be a childhood staple, one that any honest foodie will openly admit to craving from time to time. It was our first introduction to cheese after all, and we are lucky that we may still indulge in this youthful pleasure with dressed up versions of the standby. The grilled cheese sandwich is one of those wonderful edibles that grows up with us, trying different looks on for size along the way, the inherent satisfactory nature of melted cheese an undercurrent that never wavers. I like to think that my childhood memories of grilled cheese have married perfectly with my adult palate in this interpretation. A combo of sharp cheddar and colby cheeses are joined by crispy bacon and sweet, silky caramelized onions. Whole grains of mustard are peppered into each bite, offering a certain ‘something’ in between the herb-buttered slices of sourdough holding everything together. Leaving you wistful and at peace, this grilled cheese is comfort food done right and I hope you enjoy every last, cheesy bite!
While you prep the ingredients, preheat the oven to 425 degrees and go ahead and get the onions caramelizing. Set a small pan on the stove over medium heat. Add one tsp olive oil and warm before adding one onion, thinly sliced, one half tsp sugar, one half tsp kosher salt and one eighth tsp freshly ground black pepper. Saute over medium heat for three minutes and then lower the heat and cover, cooking for an additional fifteen minutes, tossing mid-way through. You want to make sure and keep the heat low while the onions cook so they won’t burn. They should become silky and soft as they cook down. Once the onions have reduced to a third of the original size remove from the heat and allow to cool.
While the onion is caramelizing cook the bacon. Simply crisping on the stovetop is perfectly fine but I prefer to cook my bacon in the oven. It is not nearly as messy and the bacon comes out perfectly every time! Lay the bacon out on a rimmed baking sheet and place in an oven preheated to 425 degrees. Roast the bacon for 15 minutes until crisp and browned. Remove from the oven and drain on a paper towel.
While bacon and caramelized onions will ensure that this grilled cheese is well above average, slathering a little herb butter on the bread certainly won’t hurt anything! Mix the following into two tbs of room temperature, unsalted butter: one clove garlic, minced, one pinch red pepper flakes, three quarters of a tsp minced fresh parsley, and one eighth tsp kosher salt.
I tested a few different types of bread for this recipe and felt that sourdough offered the best platform for the cheese-bacon-onion-mustard combo. I bought a large loaf of fresh sourdough and cut the bread into half-inch thick slices. Spread the herb butter onto one side of each slice of bread.
Place the buttered side of the bread face-down on a cutting board. Spread dijon mustard and stoneground mustard onto one slice of bread per sandwich. I love the kick that the mustard lends to this sandwich, the seeds from the stoneground variety offering an earthy quality.
It’s time for cheese! I love the combo of sharp cheddar and colby cheese. Both melt beautifully, especially when freshly grated. I know it takes a little extra time to hand-grate your cheese, but buying cheese by the block is less expensive and it will have a brighter flavor when freshly cut. Grate four ounces of colby and four ounces of cheddar cheese. One on side of the bread (buttered-side down) lay down two slices of bacon and top with half of the onion mixture. Add half of the cheddar and half of the colby cheese over the caramelized onions and repeat with the remaining ingredients for the second sandwich.
Top with the slice of bread spread with mustard (the buttered side will face up, mustard side will face into the sandwich) and press down lightly. Cook the sandwiches on a panini press, the bread sealing firmly together as the cheese melts, for five to six minutes. No panini press? Simply warm a large saute or griddle pan over medium heat and add one tbs butter. Cook the sandwiches for two minutes per side, pressing the sandwiches down with the bottom of a heavy pot or pan. Add an additional tbs of butter if the pan begins to dry out. Slice in half and serve immediately. Enjoy!
Makes Two Sandwiches
- one medium onion, thinly sliced
- one tsp olive oil
- one half tsp sugar
- one half tsp kosher salt
- one eighth tsp freshly ground black pepper
- four slices bacon
- two tbs room temperature unsalted butter
- one clove garlic, minced
- one pinch red pepper flakes
- three quarters tsp minced fresh parsley
- one eighth tsp kosher salt
- four half-inch thick slices sourdough bread
- dijon mustard
- stoneground mustard
- four ounces freshly grated shard cheddar cheese
- four ounces freshly grated colby cheese