I mean, the title really gives you everything you need to know about this INSANELY DELICIOUS grilled cheese sandwich. I give it a nod towards the “elegant comfort food” niche, given the time put into the caramelized onions. (Read: time. Not effort.) Spoiler :: it’s. worth. it.
If there’s anything I want you to take away from this post, it’s that you need caramelized onions in your life. I was NOT an onion fan until I reached my mid-twenties. Ugh, embarrassing, I know. But I thought they were too pungent, too weird, and just not for me. But have you ever had one of those moments that you unknowingly eat something, and you’re like … “holy shit. What WAS that!?”
Onions, guys. Raw, red onions on top of a cheeseburger. I worked at a “gourmet” burger place (yeah, when that was a thing…) right after college, and we had mess-up burgers back on the line CONSTANTLY. I was damn near pinching pennies after I suddenly had a 1,000 square foot loft in downtown KC to pay for on my own, (failed relationships are the best, aren’t they?), so I jumped at every opportunity to eat free food at work.
This time, there was onion on said free food. And it changed my life. It seems dramatic, but that moment still sticks with me to this day. It led to new food adventures nearly everyday; retrying foods that I had previously hated. It has also led to me booking solo trips across the country just to try new foods and dishes that are constantly evolving.
Wow! That was a long story to get to my main point. Caramelized onions aren’t like onions at all. They’re soft, delicate, sweet, and just freaking gorgeous in every way. Yes, they take time. But don’t most good things? They need to softly simmer in some butter and salt for about 40 minutes over low heat, but I promise you that they will deliver all of the flavors to your patient tastebuds.
In this case, they are the *star* of this incredible grilled cheese sandwich. Havarti is an ideal candidate for grilled cheese sandwiches, if you’ve never used it before. It’s creamy, with perfect melting qualities, and offers a mild, buttery flavor that really lets the caramelized onions shine. (Younger havarti has the milder flavors. Aged havarti has more character, which would also be delicious!) Havarti also has little “eyes” (holes) throughout it, similar to Swiss cheese. It’s just delicious, if you hadn’t caught that yet. 🙂
The mozzarella in this sandwich is ideal for the ever-popular cheese pull effect. If you’re wanting to make an Insta-worthy grilled cheese sandwich, using fresh (<–important!) mozzarella is going to be your secret weapon. It melts like a dream, it offers an even milder flavor that havarti, and it gives you the ultimate cheese pull when you gently pull the halves of your grilled cheese apart.
This recipe really couldn’t be any simpler. The time-consuming aspect comes from caramlizing the onions. But you can do that while you sip on a glass of Beaujolais, catch up on a show, and patiently charge your phone so you can add that cheese pull to your Insta story.
Oh, and as part of the new direction of a flavor journal, I will now be offering my wine pairing suggestions for most of my recipes. I HIGHLY recommend using a Beaujolais for this caramelized onion grilled cheese sandwich. It’s young, light, and fruity. It has just enough acid to cut through the buttery layers of cheese, but a light enough body to not overpower the delicate sweetness of the onions. Beaujolais comes from the northern Rhone region of France, directly south of Burgundy. It’s low in tannins, light in color, and super fun to drink with nearly any type of food.
My spicy shrimp risotto post has a better layout for future wine pairings, so you should check that one out, too. Plus, it’s another gorgeous comfort food that allows you to sip and cook at the same time. 🙂
Anyway, this caramelized onion grilled cheese is *perfect* for a weeknight dinner when you feel like treating yourself, or also an awesome option for a lazy weekend afternoon. If you get a chance to try it out, be sure to tag #aflavorjournal on Insta, and send me a DM so I don’t miss it! Talk soon. 🙂
caramelized onion, havarti + mozzarella grilled cheese
for caramelized onions : (or see the link in the notes for a step-by-step guide!)
- 1 yellow onion
- 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
for grilled cheese sandwiches :
- 4 1/4" thick slices crusty baked bread
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup caramelized onions
- 4 ounces havarti cheese
- 4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese
for caramelized onion :
- Discard the ends and outside layer of the onion, then cut the onion in half. Lay the cut sides down onto the cutting board, and slice both halves as thinly as possible. Paper thin "half rings" are ideal.
- In a large sauté pan over medium heat, melt 1 Tbsp. of unsalted butter and 1 Tbsp. of olive oil. Once the butter is melted and foamy, scatter the thinly sliced onion into the pan. Grind some fine sea salt on top of the onion, and toss to coat all of the onion slices with butter and salt.
- Allow the onion to cook and reduce for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, (about every ten minutes), to develop an even layer of caramelization. Once the onions have achieved a rich, deep golden / brown color, remove them with a slotted spoon, and set aside.
for grilled cheese sandwiches :
- Spread one tablespoon of butter on one side of each slice of bread. In the same pan you used to cook the onions, lay two slices of bread, butter side down, into the pan.
- Top each slice immediately with two ounces of havarti, two tablespoons of caramelized onion, and then two ounces of mozzarella, to evenly divide the cheese and onions between the two sandwiches.
- Top each cheese and onion pile with the remaining slices of bread, butter side up. Cover the pan with a lid, and allow to cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the bottom slice of bread is browned in the pan. Carefully flip the sandwiches over, careful to not spill any cheese out of the sides.
- Cook the top slice of bread, now butter side down in the pan, for 3-4 minutes. Cheese should be melted and gooey, and bread should be dark brown.
- Remove the sandwiches from the pan, and transfer to a cutting board to rest for about one minute. Once cool enough to touch, slice each in half and serve immediately. Tomato soup works wonders with this sandwich. 🙂