The Second of a Three Part series. (Part One here) This grilled cheese was created for my youngest daughter. It begins with bacon; Nueske’s smoked bacon. The extra slices from a Sunday morning breakfast inspired my youngest daughter to request a BLT grilled cheese. The tomato component was easy enough – adapting an oven-roasted tomato recipe I’ve used before into a jam. The “lettuce” part of the bacon/lettuce/tomato was a bit trickier. She will eat wilted spinach or arugula, but they don’t rank among her favorite foods. I considered the idea of finding a cheese brand or type starting with “L”, but Limburger was going to be a bit much for her. I wanted a less over-powering cheese to pair with oven-roasted Nueske’s. I chose flavor over form and went with The Stag from Henning’s Cheese. It is produced in cooperation with The Artisan Cheese Exchange we discussed in our last post. In fact, the same culture is used to produce The Stag as Deer Creek Vat 17, but The Stag is produced and aged by Henning’s Cheese for a slightly milder, saltier end result. So we failed the acronym part of the challenge, but the resulting sandwich generated the coveted approval of the little one.
The Cheese: The Stag
A fairly traditional cheddar, smooth texture, pronounced saltiness. We found the salt a little heavy when enjoying this cheese on it’s own, so the addition of the tomato jam offered a brightness to the sandwich. The creamy mouth feel promised all the creamy, oozing cheesiness of a proper grilled cheese sandwich.
The Accompaniments: Oven-Roasted Tomatoes and Nueske’s Smoked Bacon
The tomato jam is simply oven-roasted tomatoes, allowed to cool and then diced. Here is my technique – Heat oven to 300 degrees. In a low earthen ware pan (or similarly thick sided pan), place 4 medium vine-ripened tomatoes halved and core removed, 1 large sweet onion peeled and halved, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt and turbinado sugar (omit sugar for sweet, home grown tomato varieties). Place in oven for 3 hours or until the juices that run from the tomatoes begin to caramelize a deep brown color. Remove and let stand until slightly cooled. When cooled, rough chop the tomatoes and onion, place into a bowl and add all the liquid that has accumulated in the dish. The browned juices really add a depth of flavor, so rub all those areas with a bit of the tomato juices and add them into the mixture. You can add whole garlic cloves and sprigs of fresh herbs to this as well. The result should be a thick, tangy tomato jam.
We shared our bacon process in a previous post, including our penchant for using all the smoky drippings.
The Bread: Udi’s Gluten-Free Whole Grain Bread
If you haven’t already experimented with gluten-free breads with grilled cheese, let me encourage you to do so. The lack of gluten creates a much crisper, almost cracker like finish to the sandwich. I suspect the folks at Udi’s Gluten-Free bread already know this as they use a picture of a grilled cheese sandwich as their header photo on their website. I was not aware of this prior to our three sandwich experiment. Very good.
The crisp exterior melts away to the perfect cheesy interior with a blast of flavor from the Nueske’s bacon and the tomato jam. Enjoy with an IPA from your local craft brewer.