taleggio and pear grilled cheese with balsamic fig jam
So first up, an apology to the vegans out there. I will admit that I suffer from a crippling cheese addiction. I must have been the only child out there that actually would not eat mild cheddar sandwiches because they didn’t taste of anything. I like my cheese flavours bold and robust. I also like my cheese melty, be that in mac and cheese form or grilled cheese form, or even just cheese broiled on a pyrex plate. I have my mother to thank for that last one, as if I needed any more encouragement to consume more cheese. If you have never had taleggio before and you are also a fan of melty cheese, I suggest you hunt it down asap. It has a fairly strong, fruity flavour and is perfect in a grilled cheese, or melted onto crostini if you need your cheese in slightly smaller doses.
Here I have exploited the fruity profile of the cheese by melting it alongside some wafer-thin slices of pear. Yes, I used a mandoline, and no, I didn’t have any accidents. I’ve been through about three mandolines by now, and seem to have a real knack for misusing the blade guard, completely blunting the blade and rendering the whole thing useless within hours of opening the box. So I have changed tactic. I like this one. It’s hand-held, way more compact and so far I have had no mishaps with it! I love that it fits in a kitchen drawer rather than being another one of those boxed kitchen appliances that needs its own shelf space.
Another weird difference between the US and the UK is the use of cast iron. I had never used a cast-iron pan before crossing the pond, and I’d always wondered what all the fuss was about here for them. Being so cumbersome and heavy and easy to ruin (as I once did by leaving it to soak with soapy water, eek), I was puzzled as to why Americans used them for everything, from steak to cookies and back again.
Well, I am converted. There is just something about the kind of crust you get with cast-iron that is unachievable in your standard non-stick pan. I love it for bread and meat mainly, and I think that we might have to have some kind of smash-burger situation happening on the blog soon just so I can show you what I’m talking about. Also, who knew they were so easy to clean!?! This is my kind of pan, only requiring a quick wipe around with some kitchen paper between uses. Oh and also bacon. Bacon is GREAT in a skillet. Mmm crispy.
Here comes the melty cheese. Be sure to slice your bread extra thick and butter it up nicely to get the best crunchy bite! And if any melty bits of cheese ooze into the skillet, I wouldn’t blame you for scooping them up for yourself, on the down low.
I couldn’t resist the beautiful figs when I saw them at Central Market, there were maybe 4 or 5 different varieties and they all looked so ripe. Tiny little purple jewels filled with sweet nectar. So maybe I ate a few before I got started on this recipe. I wanted to pair them with a little acidity to balance the richness of the cheese so balsamic was an obvious choice, and the perfect colour match too. If you can get your hands on a high quality balsamic you’ll notice that it is thick and almost syrupy. Save that stuff for drizzling over heirloom tomatoes and the like! You honestly don’t need it here, just the regular stuff will be fine as we will be reducing it over heat.
I added a few sprigs of thyme to get a bit more depth of flavour, but rosemary would work great too! And by all means double the recipe and keep some in the fridge. It’s great chilled with a good old wedge of hard cheese, something salty like an aged parmesan would be perfect. Probably pour yourself some red wine with that too, maybe a bold Italian primitivo. And again, I’m getting carried away.
I needn’t say much more, the oozy melty cheese speaks for itself. Make this and bask in all the cheesy, fruity, syrupy fig glory.
Dream of fruit-laden fig trees in Mediterranean gardens.
- Serves: 2 as lunch or 4 as a snack
- Cooking time: 30 mins
- For the jam:
- 1 cup chopped figs
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- leaves from 4 sprigs thyme
- 2 tsp honey
- 1 3/4 cup water
- For the sandwiches:
- 1/2 lb taleggio cheese
- 1/2 pear, sliced thinly on mandolin
- 1/4 stick butter, at room temperature
- 4 thick slices sourdough
- Start with the jam. Simply combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan and cook, covered for about 20 mins, stirring every now and then until thick and syrupy.
- Meanwhile, butter one side of each slice of bread, very liberally. Turn the bread the other way up layer on the cheese and pear to two slices. Don’t think about how much cheese you are applying to the bread. Just look at the pictures. It will be utterly delicious.
- Close up your sandwiches and lay them into a preheated skillet over a medium low heat. I like to use a lid to help the cheese melt. Cook for a few minutes on each side until toasty and golden, oozing cheese at the seams.
- Remove from the heat, slice into two and serve with heaping dollops of fig jam.