- Sliced Artisan White Bread
- Gruyère Cheese
- 3 Tbs. Butter
- 1 Small Onion
- 1/2 Tsp. Sugar
- 1/2 Tsp. Dried Thyme
- Salt & Pepper
- 1/8 Cup Water
One of my favorite lunches as a kid was a grilled cheese sandwich with white bread and Kraft Singles. I’m not going to lie and say I don’t love those still, but I may have found a grilled cheese I love even more. This sandwich combines everything I love about grilled cheese sandwiches and french onion soup, and puts them into one amazing dish.
Over the years I have experimented, mostly unsuccessfully, with different cheese and bread combinations, but I stumbled onto a sandwich similar to this while walking through Bryant Park a few years ago. Before you gasp at the 20 minute cooking time for a grilled cheese sandwich, keep in mind that 15 of those minutes are spent creating an amazingly flavorful, caramelized onion. That makes all the difference in the world, doesn’t it?
Over the years I have experimented, mostly unsuccessfully, with different cheese and bread combinations.
For this sandwich, I like to use a sliced, artisan white bread from the bakery department of the grocery store. You can use whatever you like, but the inside of the sandwich has so much flavor, I like to keep the bread a little simpler. Butter one side of each slice of bread and add a layer of shredded gruyère cheese to the un-buttered side of one slice. Set this aside, and we will come back to it later.
In a small sauté pan, melt 2 Tbs. butter on medium-high heat. Quarter the onion, and slice to about 1/4 inch thickness. Add the onions to the melted butter. After about 5 minutes, add the sugar and give them a good stir. The sugar will help speed up the caramelization process. Caramelizing onions for soup takes over an hour, but that seemed ridiculous for a sandwich. Once the onions have started to soften and brown, add the salt, pepper and thyme and continue cooking until they are reaching a nice dark brown color. This takes about 12 minutes, and you need to stay close to the pan and stir them regularly the whole time to make sure they don’t burn. That will make them bitter and ruin the whole thing. Once they reach that beautiful color, add the water to the pan, and scrape up the nice golden bits from the bottom. This adds a ton of flavor to the onions. If I have it available, I use beef stock for this, which gives it just an extra bit of french onion soup goodness, but water works just as well. Also, by using water, the dish is completely vegetarian. (You’re welcome, Scott!)
Now that you have these beautiful onions, add a think layer on top of the cheese layer on your sandwich. Add another thin layer of cheese on top and place the other slice of bread on the cheese, with the buttered side facing outward.
Heat a non-stick pan to medium-high heat and gently place the sandwich in the pan. Let this cook for about 2 1/2 minutes untouched and flip it over. Be careful when flipping because it could all fall apart until the top layer of cheese has melted. That would be a disaster, and no one wants that after all the hard work on the onions. Let it cook for about 2 minutes on the other side, and you are done.
Slice this thing in half and enjoy the flavors of french onion soup wrapped in a crispy, buttery grilled cheese sandwich.