From Sack Lunch to Gourmet Lunch
One of the best things about a grilled cheese sandwich is that you can transform a more or less ordinary sandwich into something amazing and delicious. Before heading off to the Tastespotting HQ, I put some ham and a large slice of Swiss cheese between two big pieces of multigrain bread. Normally I dislike the extreme brightness of mustard, but something about the quick heat of whole-grain mustard makes me smile. I spread some whole-grain mustard onto one of the inner slices and packed the sandwich.
This lunch-box sandwich would be nothing more than a passable office lunch, but since I had the Tastespotting Test Kitchen at my disposal, I decided to commemorate Grilled Cheese Month in the right way. Though the preferred method of buttering a grilled cheese sandwich is to slather room temperature butter on the bread, but I personally like to melt the butter in the pan and let it brown. Classically called beurre noisette, this brown butter fills the kitchen with a mesmerizing perfume. Let’s just say Sarah, who was nearby, wasn’t shy about exclaiming, “That smells so good!” Our noggins are made to excite the appetite.
Hitting the Grillpan
After browning the butter on medium heat, I set the heat to low and put the sandwich on the pan. I then quickly flipped the sandwich and “rubbed” it around the pan to let the other side pick up the rest of the brown butter. From here, I used traditional grilled cheese technique – warm gently and keep mild pressure on the sandwich to allow the cheese in the middle to melt. Since I had the Swiss cheese in between two rather thick pieces of ham, it took about ten minutes to cook.
If had some béchamel sauce, which is just a simple butter-flour-and-milk sauce, then I could easily transform this into a croque monsieur. Top the croque monsieur with egg and voila! You have a croque madame, a supreme breakfast, brunch, or lunch dish. Any of these sandwiches go really well with a green salad.
Just before eating, I cut the sandwich diagonally on a cutting board and snapped the shot above in ample Southern California sunlight (it was certainly a beautiful April day!). Let’s just say the halves of the sandwich disappeared pretty quickly, in part to the wonderfully melted cheese, meaty ham, and the kick of the whole-grain mustard to balance out the rich flavors. The nutty, multi-grain bread, with a mild sweetness, certainly didn’t hurt.
Simple Grilled Ham and Cheese Sandwich
Makes 2 Sandwiches
4 Slices Multigrain Bread
2 Slices Swiss Cheese
4 Pieces of Good Quality Sandwich Ham
1 tablespoon Butter
- Warm a cast-iron skillet or thick-bottomed frypan on medium heat. Melt butter and allow it to brown gently. You should be able to smell the butter browning after 3-4 minutes. Lower heat to low.
- In the meantime, assemble two sandwiches and place onto brown butter, allowing bread to soak up half the butter. Then flip over sandwiches and allow them to pick up the rest of the butter by “rubbing” them around the pan.
- Continually flip sandwiches, being careful not to burn the bread but browning it lightly. Use a spatula to gently add pressure and distribute heat to the cheese.
- Slice in half diagonally and serve immediately.