among other things, National Poetry Month, tax time, the cruellest month, and most deliciously, National Grilled Cheese Month. If you’re at a loss about how to celebrate try this recipe from Grilled Cheese, Please! 50 Scrumptiously Cheesy Recipes by Laura Werlin (Andrews McMeel Publishing).
Double Cheddar and Tomato Jam
It seems that almost everybody likes the combination of grilled cheese and tomato soup. The easy-to-make Tomato Jam is a variation on that theme, because the rich tomato flavor that’s usually in the soup goes directly into the sandwich. The double cheddar is your cue that not only is there cheese on the inside of the sandwich, but it’s also on the outside. The result is a little sweet, a little savory, a little crunchy, a little salty, and a lot enjoyable.
12 ounces cheddar cheese
4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
8 sandwich-size slices sourdough bread
6 tablespoons Tomato Jam (page 148)
Using the very small holes of a box grater or other similar-size grating device, finely grate 6 ounces of the cheddar. Place the cheese in a small bowl. Add the butter and, using the back of a fork, mash the mixture until the cheese is well incorporated into the butter.
Using the large holes of a box grater or other similar-size grating device, grate the remaining cheese.
To assemble: Spread the cheddar-butter mixture on one side of each of the bread slices. Place 4 slices of bread, buttered side down, on your work surface. Spread 1½ tablespoons of jam on each slice. Distribute the cheese, and top with the remaining bread slices, buttered side up.
For stovetop method: Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes. Put the sandwiches into the pan, cover, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until golden brown. Turn the sandwiches, pressing each one firmly with a spatula to flatten slightly. Cover and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the undersides are well browned (watch carefully because the cheese on the outside of the bread can darken quickly). Turn the sandwiches once more, press firmly with the spatula again, cook for 1 minute, and remove from the pan. Let cool for 5 minutes. Cut in half and serve.
For sandwich maker method: Preheat the sandwich maker. Follow directions for assembly above. Cook according to manufacturer’s instructions.
Makes 4 sandwiches
This recipe is based on one I got years ago from Charles Dale, now the chef at Encantado Resort in Santa Fe. Although I don’t think Charles had grilled cheese sandwiches in mind when he created the recipe, I feel pretty certain he’d wholeheartedly approve of its use for just that purpose. Note that you can make this a week in advance and refrigerate it. Also, you’ll have more jam than you need for one batch of sandwiches. You can use the extra to make more sandwiches, and it’s also great with salmon or on hamburgers.
6 large ripe tomatoes (about 1½ pounds) peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped (use Roma tomatoes if it isn’t tomato season)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2½ tablespoons sugar (if you’re making this in the middle of tomato season when tomatoes are at their sweetest, reduce the sugar by 1 to 2 teaspoons)
Place all the ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. The mixture should bubble ever so slightly but not boil. Cook for about 1 hour, or until the jam has thickened and most of the liquid has evaporated. Let cool. (You can make this up to 1 week in advance. Store in the refrigerator.)
I can attest to the deliciousness of the tomato jam–I advocate adding some spices. Try some mustard seeds, allspice, even a whack of jalapeno. And for all you lacto-philes, Laura is coming out with another book–Mac and Cheese, Please!–later this year.