These grilled cheese with onion jam, made with sharp Cheddar and a sweet and tangy red onion jam, still have all of the nostalgic comfort of traditional grilled cheese but feel a lot more special.
Cheddar and chutney is a winning combination, but for best results, be sure to use a really gutsy mature or sharp Cheddar in this grilled cheese with onion jam. The jam, or chutney, needs to have a good balance of sweet and tart to make this work perfectly, so be sure to taste and adjust it before assembling the sandwiches.–Laura Washburn
What exactly does it mean to caramelize onions and is that the same as onion jam?
Let’s be clear about what caramelized onions are and are not, shall we? Properly caramelized onions have been slowly and gently coaxed to soft, sweet submissiveness, a state achieved by patient attentiveness over low heat, which tends to take the better part of an hour. What you do not have in this grilled cheese with onion jam recipe is caramelized onions, nor is that a failing of the recipe. It’s actually an act of brilliance on the part of the recipe creator, who cooks the onions for an eminently weeknight-friendly 20 minutes or so—just enough to soften them—and then she tosses the onions with vinegar and sugar. This creates a sweetly tart compote or chutney or jam or godsend or whatever you care to call this cheater’s version of caramelized onions, which ably cuts the richness of cheese, roast pork, seared duck, and so forth. To be clear, while these onions are really damn good, they’re just not caramelized. And that’s okay.
In a skillet or large saucepan over medium heat, combine the onions and oil and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden brown, about 20 minutes. You’re probably going to want to turn down the heat at some point and start to stir the onions almost constantly so as to not let them burn.
Add the salt, brown sugar, wine vinegar, and balsamic vinegar to the onions and simmer until the mixture is sticky but still somewhat liquidy, 3 to 5 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more sugar for sweetness or vinegar for tartness as desired.
Butter 1 side of each slice of bread.
Place 2 slices of bread, butter side down, in a large skillet or grill pan over medium-high heat. Generously spread some onion jam on each slice bread and then arrange the cheese on the jam in an even layer. Cover each open-faced sandwich with another slice of bread, butter side up.
Turn the heat down to medium and cook for 2 to 4 minutes, pressing gently with a spatula every once in a while, until the bread turns a deep golden color.
Carefully flip the sandwiches with the spatula and cook on the second side for 2 to 3 minutes, or until deep golden brown. (If you’re using a grill pan and you’re keen to create a criss-cross pattern as shown in the photo above, rotate the sandwich 90° and cook for another minute or so, then flip the sandwiches over again, making sure they’re rotated 90°, and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.)
Transfer the sandwiches to a plate and cut in half. Let cool for a few minutes before serving. (Any leftover onion jam can be kept in a resealable container in the refrigerator for up to several days.) Originally published March 5, 2015.