As a responsible food blogger, it is only right that I close out the month of April with a grilled cheese sandwich. April is/was National Grilled Cheese Month, and it’s been a mouthwatering delight to see all the amazing melted cheese concoctions food bloggers & chefs have created.
It’s funny: I am a huge fan of grilled cheese sandwiches; however, I’ve only posted a couple here on PGEW. I’m not sure why… it’s not like I’m trying to hide anything from you. I just can’t imagine why I haven’t posted more than this and this, considering my love for all things grilled cheesy, so today, I’m going to fix that.
I’ve sort of constructed this sandwich over the years, adding some things, removing others, but always keeping the apple & cheddar element intact. Sharp cheddar and crisp Granny Smith apples are always such a good combo in my world, and I’ve often enjoyed them in quesadilla form as well. The addition of regular ol’ caramelized onions came pretty quickly, as the flavor combo just makes sense to me.
But the more I sat down to indulge in this sandwich, the more I felt like something was missing. Something green, aside from the green skin of the apples. While spinach makes regular appearances in my grilled cheeses, I wasn’t too keen on that idea for this particular sandwich, so I tried some heartier, sturdier kale, and have enjoyed them this way ever since.
Well, not really. At first I wasn’t feeling the way the kale worked with the other flavors in the sandwich, particularly with the caramelized onions. It felt like there was too much sweet-upon-sweet and not enough contrasting tang. But I really, really, really wanted kale in my sandwich, if only to pretty it up with some extra color (and to make me feel less guilty about all that cheese). After a couple more tweaks, I decided to keep the kale as the very last thing to add to the sandwich, lest it become too wilted, and switch from regular ol’ caramelized onions to lovely red onion marmalade.
And suddenly, all was right in my sandwich world.
With the kale hovering deliciously between tender and slightly chewy, and with the extra tang & zip provided by the onion marmalade, the whole sandwich worked much more beautifully. It also took on a more “gourmet” quality once that marmalade was thrown in there, which wasn’t the intent but still very much appreciated.
Based loosely on an onion marmalade recipe some friends & I cooked at a canning party a couple years ago, I kept this one a little simpler and just used some fresh rosemary to enhance the flavor of the finished product. It starts off as a nice batch of caramelized onions, but with the aid of some balsamic vinegar and a little longer cooking time, it transforms into a lovely, slightly tangy marmalade that can be used on almost any savory dish.
I hope you enjoy this sandwich as much as I do! If you’re not into kale, feel free to omit it from the recipe, or serve it up in a different way, like in one of these salads. Otherwise, I highly suggest sticking to this recipe when it comes to using sharp cheddar, tart Granny Smith apples, and getting that marmalade just right, so that the flavors all come together perfectly. Let’s check out the recipe!
Apple, Kale & Cheddar Melt with Red Onion-Rosemary Marmalade (makes 1 sandwich; total cost per sandwich: $2.75)
For the Red Onion Marmalade
2 large red onions, thinly sliced
2 T olive oil
1/2 t salt
1/4 c sugar
1/4 c balsamic vinegar
1 t fresh rosemary leaves (dried is fine, too)
For the sandwich
2 slices of bread (French, sourdough, Italian, etc.)
1/2 T butter
2-3 slices of sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 Granny Smith apple, thinly sliced
1 medium kale leaf, torn in half
1-2 T Red Onion Marmalade
1. Prepare the red onion marmalade. In a deep skillet, heat the olive oil over medium low heat. Add the onions & salt, and cook for about 15 minutes, until softened, translucent, and beginning to caramelize. Add the sugar and cook for another 5 minutes or so. Increase heat to medium, add the balsamic vinegar & rosemary, and bring to a simmer. Cook until the onions have completely caramelized and tender, stirring constantly. (Note: if you need to, reduce the flame just a little during cooking, to ensure the onions don’t burn.) Remove from heat and set aside.*
2. Now for the easy part! Preheat a pan or griddle over medium heat. Butter one side of each slice of bread, and add the cheese, apple slices and onion marmalade to the unbuttered sides. Place on the griddle and cook for about 2 minutes or so, then add the kale. Put both halves together and grill for another 1-2 minutes on each side, until the golden brown on the outside and warm, gooey and melty on the inside.
3. Serve on its own or with a nice salad (a kale one, for good measure!), and enjoy!
* The red onion marmalade can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for 2-3 weeks. That is, if it lasts that long!