Monday, April 14, 2014

National Grilled Cheese Month

April is National Grilled Cheese Month. I am not sure who decides these things, but food bloggers from coast to coast are jumping on the bandwagon, and like they say, "If your food blog friends jumped off a cliff while eating a grilled cheese sandwich, would you?" Evidently, I would. More grilled cheese can't be a bad thing, can it?

I don't know that I have ever met a grilled cheese that I didn't like. From plain, old yellow plastic Kraft singles between slices of white bread, to Jalapeno Garlic Tilapia Panini (YES! paninis are grilled cheese sandwiches), to Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with Spinach and Bacon, to a batter dipped Mozzarella and Caper Grilled Cheese, to a Mushroom and Provolone Patty Melt (OK, this might be pushing the definition of grilled cheese), to a Tuna Panini (with bacon!), and the multiple meaty layers of Our Favorite Panini, all that toasty, gooey, cheesy, sandwiched goodness speaks to me. I want it in my belly.

In addition to considering a panini to be a type of grilled cheese, I also lump Monte Cristo Sandwiches into this category. Monte Cristos are usually batter dipped and fried instead of actually grilled, but the filling of thinly sliced turkey and ham combined with melty cheese makes a truly delicious sandwich. I especially love when they are served with jams and jellies for dipping. The combination of the sweetness with the smoky meats and salty cheeses is delectable.

This Not Quite Monte Cristo has all those wonderful flavors but skips the traditional batter dipping in favor of simple grilling. Deli ham and nutty Gruyere cheese are layered between dense white bread that has been slathered with a spiked strawberry jam. Yes! Spiked jam. I used my homemade strawberry jam (made with strawberries from my backyard) and a full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon. It is a grilled cheese suitable for celebrating National Grilled Cheese Month.

Not Quite Monte Cristo
(adapted from Food and Wine)

1 cup strawberry jam
1/4 cup Cabernet Sauvignon wine
20 slices of dense white bread (Cottage White or Potato Bread are nice)
8 ounces thinly sliced deli ham
10 slices Gruyere Cheese
softened unsalted butter

Combine jam and wine in a small saucepan over medium heat.
Bring to a simmer to blend flavors and then remove from heat; allow to cool slightly.
Heat a large skillet or griddle.
Spread 10 slices of the bread with the jam mixture.
Top with the ham and the cheese and close the sandwiches.
Lightly butter the outside of the sandwiches and cook over moderate heat until toasted and the cheese is melted.
Cut in half and serve right away. (Serves 10)

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