One of the parties I went to this past holiday season was an open house, and I did a foolish thing. I took the advice of all those columnists and diet books and ate before I went, so that I wouldn’t overeat when I got there. This seemed wise at the time, because most of the holiday tables I encounter are loaded up with sweet treats.
This party, though, was a savory affair. It featured a grilled cheese bar, with at least six kinds of grilled cheese, and probably more. There was something for everyone, and I mean everyone – there was even a tray made with vegan cheese. Everything was marked, so that no one unexpectedly ate one of the jalapeno and mexican cheese sandwiches.
It was amazing, and as the host and chef told me, the best part was, it was easy: he made all the sandwiches ahead of time, and every so often when the supplies ran low, tossed a bunch on his panini press. The kids were happy, the adults were happy, and the hosts were relaxed.
The surprise hit of the the evening were his French Onion Soup Sandwiches, which were the only ones I sampled – I wasn’t hungry but couldn’t stand listening to everyone rave about something I hadn’t tasted. They were amazing, and really did taste just like the soup, which is my favorite. I asked my host for the recipe, and he replied, there isn’t one.
At first I thought he was being cagey and not wanting to share it, but then I realized that, no, this was guyspeak for I didn’t get this out of a book.
So I asked, How did you make them?
And he told me. No problem.
I just made it up, he said. I should maybe write it down but it’s not hard.
No, it’s not. I repeated his instructions with no difficulty and though I don’t have a panini press, I made them with no difficulty on my countertop grill. However you cook them, I don’t recommend adding any extra oil or butter at that stage, as the onions already have plenty of butter that will be absorbed by the bread, resulting in a pleasing, crunchy sandwich.
The onions can be quite rich depending how you adjust your ratio of onions to cheese – I used a single layer of cheese atop the onions, making for a very savory, strong flavor. Double or even triple the cheese if you want more of a grilled-cheese taste.
- 1 large white onion
- 3 tbsp butter
- salt and pepper to taste
- gruyere cheese, sliced
- 4 slices crusty bread
- Slice onion thinly and separate into rings. Sauté the onions in the butter in a large pan over medium heat, until they have caramelized - turned deep golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. Stir often enough that the onions don't scorch, but not so often that they don't brown. Add a pinch of salt and pepper as they cook. Adjust the heat as needed to prevent scorching.
- When the onions are ready, put a layer of them on two slices of the bread, then top with a layer of sliced gruyere.
- Toast sandwiches on a panini press or similar type of grill until cheese is melted and bread is toasty.