OK, so I know a lot of you have probably made resolutions for the new year that do NOT involve grilled cheese sandwiches.
I get it. I really do. I have been loading up on the veggies and cutting back on the sugar and cheese myself.
This sandwich is the exception. A major exception.
As you can see, it’s a gooey wonderful mess to eat…thanks to the generous amount of fontina cheese. The beef is unctuous and rich, the jam is sweet, and the cheese….well, I mean, just LOOK AT IT. It’s incredible.
Yes, this is a high maintenance grilled cheese. Yes, it takes a long time to put together. Yes, it probably amounts to a day’s worth of calories. And yes, it is worth it.
Short ribs are a wonderful cut of beef. They are generally inexpensive and easy to prepare…and they impart SO MUCH FLAVOR. They have a gamey kind of beef taste, which I love. They are easy to cook in that you basically just let them braise away in your oven for a couple hours. No fuss. The only thing they really require is some patience. They cook low and slow and the result is just heavenly. Tender shreds of juicy flavor. Yum.
Now, you might be asking yourself why I decided to put FIGS in such a savory sandwich. The answer is simple: they are sweet. Super sweet. And they balance everything out in this sandwich. Trust me. It’s a totally necessary component. It may sound strange, but it definitely works.
Pile these sandwiches high (although they might tip over from all the gooey cheese – see below) and dig in. They are an incredible indulgence. They are worth the breaking of resolutions. Just once. Heck, make one sandwich and split it with someone! I can’t promise that you won’t make a second sandwich, though. I mean…seriously…just look at this….
OK, I’ll stop with the peer pressure. I’ll make it up to you next time with a healthy side dish. Promise!
Fontina Grilled Cheese with Braised Short Rib & Brandied Fig Jam
(makes 4 servings)
For the Short Ribs:
3 strips of bacon, diced
2 lb boneless beef short ribs
Flour for dusting
Olive oil for searing
1 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
2 sprigs of rosemary
3 cups dry red wine
2 cups low-sodium beef stock
1 bay leaf
Salt and black pepper, to taste
For the Jam:
½ cup water
½ cup brandy
⅓ cup sugar
Juice of 1 orange
1 cup dried figs
1 loaf crusty multigrain bread
8 oz fontina cheese, grated or sliced
For the Short Ribs:
1. Preheat oven to 450°F. In a large dutch oven, crisp the bacon. Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve.
2. To the drippings, add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil. Dry the short ribs well with paper towels and then season with salt and pepper. Sear the short ribs in the hot oil, in batches, until browned on all sides. Remove from pot and set aside.
3. Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion and carrots. Sauté for 10 minutes, or until soft. Return the browned beef to the pot and sprinkle the flour evenly over the meat and veggies. Toss to coat and then place the pot, uncovered, in the hot oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat and then return to the oven for another 4 minutes (this step creates a deeply flavorful crust on the meat – don’t skip it!).
4. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F. Return the pot to the stove over medium heat and add the garlic, tomato paste, and herbs. Add the wine and the beef stock and bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom the pan frequently. Add the bay leaf and crisped bacon, cover the pot, and return to the oven. Roast for 2-3 hours, or until the meat is falling apart.
5. Remove the meat from the liquid and allow it to rest for a few minutes before shredding with two forks. Bring the braising liquid to a simmer on the stovetop, skimming off any excess fat. The sauce will thicken and become glossy. Toss the shredded beef with about ⅓ cup of the sauce – you want it to be well moistened but not overly wet.
For the Jam:
While the beef is braising, bring the water, brandy, orange juice, sugar, and figs to a simmer in a small sauce pot. Cook for a couple minutes or until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool so that the figs steep and soften. Process the mixture in a food processor until mostly smooth. Allow to cool completely (it will thicken as it cools).
To Assemble the Sandwiches:
Spread some of the jam onto a slice of bread and top with a layer of short rib and the cheese. Place another piece of bread on top. Then toast it in the oven or put it in a panini press or slowly brown in butter in a skillet on top of the stove. They are ready when the cheese is oozy. Slice in half and serve while warm.