I feel like I’ve been slingshot (can that be used as a verb?) straight into mid January, and I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for a grilled cheese sandwich.
I’ve decided that if I’m going to eat bread, it might as well be truly fantastic – and preferably used to bookend other divine ingredients, bound together by melty cheese. There are few things I love more than a grilled cheese sandwich, but too often everything gets ignored but the cheese.
Let’s start with the bread, shall we? This is a roasted garlic oval from ACE Bakery, with sweet, mellow roasted garlic right in the dough. It’s a good size – with enough structural integrity and a crisp crust. I used my friend Jessica’s trick – to mix grated Parmesan cheese into soft butter to spread on the outside of each slice, which creates an extra crunchy, cheesy exterior, maximizing those crispy edges.
Inside – aged cheddar is my favourite, and I had some old orange and extra old white in the fridge, so I used both. Grated, it easily covers any surface area, and melts more quickly. And a spoonful of caramelized onions – it could be a batch of onion jam, or just chop or blitz an onion or two in the food processor, then saute it on the stovetop in a little oil and a little butter for 10 minutes, or until it all turns nice and dark and golden and sticky. I usually can’t help a quick splash of balsamic vinegar in there too, and a pinch of sugar if you want to help things along.
And that would be enough to make me happy, right there. But I’ve been braising plenty of beef or bison short ribs lately for some reason or other, which reminded me of how delicious bits of leftover short ribs are in a grilled cheese, and so I braised a batch just for this occasion. (The occasion being making them on Global on Saturday morning.)
You don’t need a lot of the beef; pulled off the bone, it’s so rich and intense – more the essence of beef than thinly sliced roast from the deli – a few chunks elevates this sandwich to the truly sublime.
Add woolly socks + a good book (or Downton Abbey on Netflix!) to get through a January weekend.
The Ultimate Grilled Cheese with Braised Short Ribs and Caramelized Onions
canola oil, for cooking
4-6 bison or beef short ribs
salt & pepper
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 cup red wine or beer
1 cup beef or chicken stock (or more wine)
2 large onions, halved and thinly sliced
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar (optional)
2 tsp. brown sugar
salt and pepper
grated aged white cheddar
ACE Bakery Roasted Garlic Oval loaf
soft butter or olive oil, for cooking
grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Heat a drizzle of oil in a small, heavy oven-proof pot set over medium-high heat. Season the ribs with salt and pepper and brown on all sides; add the balsamic vinegar and cook for a minute, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
Pour the wine overtop, and add enough stock to come about halfway up the sides of the ribs. Cover and cook at 300F for 2 1/2-3 hours, until the meat is very tender. When cool enough to handle, pull the meat off the bones and set aside. Meanwhile, set a heavy skillet over medium-high heat; add a generous drizzle of oil and cook the onions for 10 minutes, until soft and golden. Add the balsamic vinegar (if you’re using it) and cook for a minute, until it evaporates; add the brown sugar, season with salt and pepper and cook for another 5-8 minutes, until deep golden. Set aside to cool.
To assemble your grilled cheese sandwiches, slice the roasted garlic oval on a slight diagonal and layer with grated cheddar, caramelized onions, short rib and more cheddar. If you like, stir some grated Parmesan cheese into soft butter and spread on the outside of the sandwich; alternatively, brush with olive oil. Grill in a panini grill or in a hot skillet, turning as needed, until the cheese has melted and the sandwich is crusty and golden.
Makes as many as you’d like.