In the winter, one of my favorite weeknight meals to prepare is an old standby that I know my whole family will love – the grilled cheese sandwich. Of course, I’m not keen on making just any grilled cheese – I love to go gourmet when possible so that my husband and I have something a little more sophisticated. But the best part about it is that the ingredients still allow me to keep it simple for the kids, too.
For this fun project I used Kraft Singles and Wonder Bread – two products that are tried and true. However, I decided to jazz things up a bit by adding caramelized onions to the mix and using the Sharp Cheddar Kraft Singles to give the sandwich a bit more pop.
It sounds simple, and it is, but the trick here is to properly caramelize your onions. Caramelizing onions is a lot like falling in love – it takes time, patience, and a slow, steady amount of heat. If you turn up the heat too fast you, err, your onions, will get burned.
I used two large sized yellow onions and cut the ends off, removed the peel, and sliced them in half. Then I cut the onions into 1/4″ sized slices – this is important because if you make them too thin they have a tendency to burn or practically dissolve into mush.
I put two pats of butter and several tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet – like in the photo below. I use both because I like having the taste of the butter, but the olive oil has a higher smoke point so it works better for cooking at higher temperatures.
Once you’ve sliced all of your onions, place them in the skillet. Yes, all of them. It will look like a lot, but not once you’re done with them! Turn the heat on low/medium and leave it there. No cheating!
The best part about this process is that you don’t have to stalk your onions. Come back every 10 minutes or so and give them a stir. You’ll notice them starting to brown a bit, but you still have about 30 minutes to go! After the olive oil and butter dries up, you’ll notice your onions are starting to stick to the pan a bit and you’ll get what is called the “fond” – the brown bits of sugar and protein from the onions building up on the bottom of the skillet. This is good, very good. It gives the onions that yummy taste. But the problem is, left alone too long, it can ruin the onions, so we must deglaze the pan!
You can use water, balsamic vinegar, beef or chicken broth – really any liquid to deglaze your pan. But for these yummy gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches I like to use a nice beer to get the job done. Important – do not skimp on the type of beer. The better the beer, the better the taste. There seems to be a misconception that when you cook with alcohol you can buy and use whatever is on sale. I disagree. The quality really has a big factor in the taste. In this case I used a Lagunitas IPA that I picked up at Walmart. My husband was glad to help me with the last 5 in the pack. :)
Ok, so at this point you are thinking – my onions look nice and brown – are they done?
Your onions should be really condensed and have a deep, dark brown color. Caramel is not the color – it has to do with the taste of the onions. If they look caramel in color they are not done yet!
Finally, when your onions are done, you can create your delicious grilled cheese sandwich. The thing is, you cannot skimp on the cheese. I like to go 4 slices for one sandwich. Yes I said 4. You never hear folks ordering a grilled cheese by asking for it to be “easy” on the cheese. Go for it. Once your cheese is almost melted, add your onions on top and serve immediately.
Do you love Grilled Cheese Sandwiches? How do you jazz up this old standard? Leave your amazing ideas at Wonderfully Cheesy and be entered to win!