So what makes for a good grilled cheese sandwich (besides bacon jam)? You’ll need a melty cheese, perhaps a young fontina, cheddar, gruyere, Taleggio, gouda, or some combination thereof.Nothing aged or too dry; otherwise, the cheese won’t melt well. Next the bread. I’m partial to a nice sourdough, but any thinly sliced, white-style bread will work. And lastly, you need a good slathering of butter to get the bread to yield a crispy browned crust.
For the bacon jam you’ll need bacon, the smokiest you can find, onions, garlic, brown sugar, maple syrup, coffee, balsamic vinegar, and a pinch of cayenne.
Makes 3 cups
1 pound thick-cut bacon, sliced into 3/4-inch pieces
2 large sweet onions, thinly sliced
2 small shallots, thinly sliced
4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar (or 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup maple syrup)
1/4 balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup freshly brewed (strong) coffee
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Cook the bacon over medium-high heat in a large non-stick or cast-iron skillet, 10 to 12 minutes, until it starts to crisp. With a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and set aside.
In the same skillet (no need to drain the bacon fat), add the onions, shallot, and garlic, and sauté 5 minutes, until soft and translucent. Add the brown sugar, vinegar, coffee, ½ cup of water, and reserved bacon. Add a pinch of cayenne. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, stirring from time to time, 50 to 60 minutes, until the onions are well caramelized. If the mixture becomes too dry, add a little more water.
Cool and transfer the mixture to a food processor. Pulse a few times until thick and chunky. Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator, up to 1 week.