The Ultimate Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Probably the best grilled cheese sandwich of my  ENTIRE life — hits all the notes: cheesy and creamy (fontina), salty (prosciutto), herby (arugula pesto), and pickle-y (pickled shallots). YUM! Truly — THE BEST!Screen Shot 2017-03-12 at 11.27.08 AM

For the Sandwich

  • ¼ cup cider vinegar
  • tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 loaf ciabatta, sliced lengthwise
  • 1/3 pound prosciutto (about 10 slices)
  • 1/3 pound fontina, thinly sliced
For the pesto

  • ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 cups baby arugula
  • ½ lemon, juiced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  1. Make the pickled shallots: bring the cider, sugar, and salt to a boil in a small saucepan over a medium flame. Simmer for a minute, until the sugar has dissolved, then pour the hot liquid over the shallots in a small bowl or jar so they are fully submerged. Allow to sit for 20 minutes, then place in an airtight container until ready for use. This can be done up to a week before.
  2. Make the pesto: in a small food processor, pulse the pine nuts and garlic until coarsely chopped. Add the arugula, lemon juice, and salt and pulse to combine. Stream in olive oil and continue to blend until all the ingredients are finely chopped and the pesto is smooth and creamy. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if necessary.
  3. Preheat the broiler. Place the two slices of bread crust side down on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 3-5 minutes, until beginning to crisp but not totally browned. Slather the bottom half of bread evenly with pesto and arrange the cheese slices in a single layer. Return just this slice of bread to the oven and continue to toast until the cheese has melted, about 3-5 minutes.
  4. Slather the other slice of bread with the remaining pesto and arrange the pickled shallots on top, followed by the prosciutto. Sandwich the halves together.
  5. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Depending on the size of your pan and the size of the ciabatta, you may have to cut the sandwich in half. Set the sandwich top side down in the pan and weight it with a smaller skillet and/or a heavy bowl so the bread is crushed and flattened as it toasts. When the bread has browned, repeat on the other side. When finished, the panini should be browned, crisped, and flattened, and should have cheese oozing from it. Toast the remaining half (if necessary), and then cut it again to create four sandwiches.

Flavor-Blasted Bacon, Lettuce, Avocado and Tomato with Oven Fries

On a quest to rediscover flavor in food during chemo.  At this point (12/16 chemos completed) most food tastes like concrete except for ice cream and vegies.   This is a kind of standard dinner for us, but with the flavor volume turned up REAL LOUD with the malt vinegar dip and the herbed oil.  It was YUMMEROONEY!  The recipe is slightly adapted from Roger Mooking’s show Everyday Exotic — he’s not the biggest star on the Cooking Channel, but he has the best recipes! 

While baking the oven fries (yukon gold potato, olive oil, paprika, parmesan, a little ancho chili powder, and salt and pepper) make the herb oil and malt vinegar dipping sauce:

Herbed Oil

1/8 cup olive oil
1/2 tablespoon, minced rosemary
1/2 tablespoon, minced thyme
1/2 clove garlic, chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper

Stir together in a small bowl.  Set aside.

Malt Vinegar Dipping Sauce

1/2 shallot, minced
1/2 clove garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup malt vinegar
salt and freshly ground pepper

Mix together in a small bowl and set aside. Complicated so far, huh?


3 slices bacon
2 slices bread
sliced avocado, tomatoes
butter lettuce leaves
herb oil (recipe above)

Brush herbed oil on both sides of your favorite sandwich bread, then toast on both sides.  Add crispy bacon, smooshed avocado, butter lettuce leaves, and sliced tomato to make the sandwich.

Serve the sammich with the oven fries and the Malt Vinegar Dipping sauce.   I think I’ll make this again tonight!

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