If you met me ten years ago and we struck up a conversation about favorite foods, I would have proudly admitted that I preferred sandwiches over all else. Especially grilled sandwiches. The same holds true today…
I love grilled sandwiches. A grilled cheese sandwich was the first thing I ever cooked. Or rather, it was the first thing I enjoyed cooking. When I was in middle school, I could fry an egg without a hitch, or boil pasta. I didn’t often venture beyond those borders. For a long time there wasn’t much variety to my regimen. At some point, however, that all changed. Once I was shown how to make a grilled-cheese sandwich, it quickly became the cornerstone of my average middle-class diet. I loved the pleasing combination of warm, gooey cheese and crispy, buttery crust. And the variations seemed limitless. By swapping out and changing up breads, cheeses, and meats, I could go weeks before repeating a combination.
Later on, right about the time I met my wife, grilled sandwiches had become an obsession. The first winter after Jill and I met, we took a road trip up north to visit a farm she had apprenticed on. It would have been nicer to visit in the summer or fall, but her being a farmer had its restrictions. No credible farmer takes a vacation during the growing season. At least not any that I know. So that winter we drove up north and stayed for a couple days on Stoneset Farm in Blue Hill, Maine. Even in the winter it was beautiful.
I had heard a lot about the family that ran the place, especially the farmer’s father. He was a stocky, medium-built man with perfectly gray hair and a beard to match. Somehow, he was the exact image of what I expected a Maine farmer to look like. Think red flannel shirts and blue Carhartts with patches on the knees. Picture a jolly (yet reserved) face with that certain patina skin gets from being outside all the time. I mean, he was the real deal, and I could tell Jill adored him.
Hoping the man would enjoy my wit, I confessed to him that, as a chef, my favorite things to cook were sandwiches. An awkwardly long silence followed before he spoke again. With a mixed look of concern and apprehension, he pointedly asked, “Like, Subway sandwiches?”
…I spent the rest of the evening trying recover what ground I had lost in his regards.
A love of grilled sandwiches may not win over any Maine farmers, but it helped me win over my wife. She happens to love my grilled sandwiches. The following recipe is one that I make at home on occasion. As with any great grilled sandwich, it combines various elements to build something that is a little sweet, a little salty, a little gooey, and a little crispy. Just the way a grilled-cheese should be…
Now, it may not seem quite the season for pears. Pears are one fruit most people associate with fall. And that would make perfect sense. Pear season in Pennsylvania is from August through December. But like so much of the American diet, we’ve simply come to expect pears available year-round. Which is why Wolff’s carries them year round! On occasion, I’ve had downright delicious pears in July. Right now, Wolff’s is gathering an assortment of pears from all over the place, including varieties such as Bosc, Red, Asian, Packham, Forelle, and D’anjou.
Grilled Ham and Cheese with Pear
4 slices Sourdough Bread
8 oz. Gruyere Cheese
1 Pear, thinly sliced
8 oz. deli Ham, thinly sliced
1. Place a (preferably cast-iron) pan over a burner and turn heat to medium-low.
4. Keep sandwiches (cooking slowly) in the pan until the cheese is beginning to melt and the outside of the bottom slice of bread is a golden brown. Carefully flip the sandwiches and finish cooking the other side until golden, making sure the sandwich is not heating too quickly.
When the cheese is fully melted, and the bread is the desired color, remove from the heat, cut diagonally, and serve immediately.
- 4 slices Sourdough Bread
- 8 oz. Gruyere chees
- 1 Pear, thinly sliced
- 8 oz. deli Ham, thinly sliced
- Butter, Softened
- Place a (preferably cast-iron) pan over a burner and turn heat to medium-low.
- Butter one side of all four slices of bread. Place two slices of bread, butter side down, into a warm (not yet hot) pan. You may need to do this one sandwich at a time, if space is limited.
- Place the cheese evenly over the bread, then arrange the pear slices, followed by the ham. Situate the corresponding slice(s) of bread over top.
- Keep sandwiches (cooking slowly) in the pan until the cheese is beginning to melt and the outside of the bottom slice of bread is a golden brown. Carefully flip the sandwiches and finish cooking the other side until golden, making sure the sandwich is not heating too quickly. When the cheese is fully melted, and the bread is the desired color, remove from the heat, cut diagonally, and serve immediately.