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Bacon Jam and Cheddar Grilled Cheese Sandwich by Cynthia Raub

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bacon jam grilled cheese sandwich

There's something about the winter that makes me want to make bacon jam. Last year, I threw a grilled cheese and nighttime zoo excursion birthday party for my New Years baby. We had our family come over for dinner to enjoy gooey grilled cheese sandwiches and cupcakes before heading out to the zoo at 7 p.m. I wanted to serve a variety of grilled cheese sandwiches that would be satisfying and hearty enough to be a meal, so I made these sandwiches along with the Roasted Jalapeño Grilled Cheese Sandwich and served them with a tomato soup. When I volunteered to bring savory refreshments for a preschool board meeting, I wanted to bring something a little bit sinful for the parents who work so hard to maintain our cooperative preschool. The combination of the sweet, rich, and tart bacon jam with a sharp cheddar cheese on sliced sourdough is decadent and a novel twist on a grilled cheese. 

Notes: The bacon jam is an involved recipe that requires an hour, a watchful eye, and a considerable amount of chopping. It's a worthwhile commitment. You'll find a number of uses for the bacon jam - including giving it away to friends and neighbors. Make a batch and share it with your loved ones, or you'll find yourself putting it in your eggs, spreading it on bagels, or even eating it off of a spoon at midnight for weeks.



Time: 1 hour
Yield: 3 cups

For The Bacon Jam

1.5 lbs smoked bacon
3 cups of sweet onions, sliced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth or stock
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Place the bacon in a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fat has rendered and the bacon is starting to brown, about 10 to 20 minutes. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon onto a paper towel lined plate. Safely pour off bacon fat into a heatproof container, reserving browned bits and 2 tablespoons of bacon fat in the pot.

Bring the pot back to the stove, turn heat up to medium high - add the onion, season with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion has browned, about 5-10 minutes. Add the sugar, garlic, and cider vinegar, stirring to combine.

Add 1/2 cup of the broth or stock and bring it to a simmer, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened and almost all of the liquid has evaporated, about 5-8 minutes.

Add 1/2 more cup of the broth or stock and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened and almost all of the liquid has evaporated, about 5-8 minutes.

Season with kosher salt, black pepper and paprika and combine.

Transfer the mixture to a food processor and reserve the pot. Process until desired texture. (I like a little bit of texture, so I pulsed mine 20 times- which minced the bacon and onion, but did not make a smooth paste).

Return the mixture to the reserved pot, place it over medium heat, and rewarm, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter. (At this point, the bacon jam can be cooled to room temperature and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Rewarm before using.)

Adapted from "Fire in My Belly: Real Cooking" by Kevin Gillespie with David Joachim


For The Bacon Jam and Cheddar Grilled Cheese Sandwich

1 cup bacon jam
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (I used Tillamook)
12 slices sourdough bread
Unsalted butter, room temperature

Preheat a non-stick griddle to medium-high heat. In a medium mixing bowl, mix to combine bacon jam and shredded cheese. Spread a generous layer of the bacon and cheese mixture on a slice of bread. Close the sandwich up with a second slice of bread, butter outsides of the sandwich generously. Slap the sandwich down on the preheated grilled and cook until the bread is golden and crusty, the cheese is melted and the bacon jam is hot- about 5-7 minutes per side.

All-Purpose Cornbread by Cynthia Raub

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cornbread

Cornbread is what happens when my two favorite things: corn and bread, get a little crazy - one thing leads to another, and 25 minutes later . . . they make a baby. A crumbly, slightly sweet, and aromatic baby. A cornbread baby that begs for a pat of butter or a drizzle of honey on it’s warm browned top. The variations in cornbread can make one dizzy. People get crazed and lose their minds when it comes to the “right” or “best” way to make it. Street brawls, wars, divorces . . . sadly, all started by disagreements over cornbread. And if I’ve learned anything in life, it’s to avoid the following topics for the sake of polite conversation: religion, politics, and you guess it, cornbread. When Amy said she was making Chicken Chili, I grabbed the basic pantry items for this recipe, got pants on my kids, and drove to her house to cook and eat. This cornbread was the perfect unfussy accompaniment to her tomato-y chili.

Notes: This is a solid recipe for a basic and uncomplicated cornbread that will not let you down. Pureeing (fresh, frozen or canned) corn kernels into the wet ingredients will give you the distinct flavor you won’t get from cornmeal alone, and a sweetness that honey cannot replicate. According to Cook’s Illustrated, this recipe calls for the cornbread to be cooked at a high temperature in a regular baking pan to produce a crunchy, toasted crust. If you’re a cast-iron skillet for everything (especially cornbread) type, you can ratchet down the temperature for this recipe since the skillet will produce a golden crust with less heat.

Yes, this recipe calls for a stick of butter. But it’s not like you’re going to eat the whole pan by yourself, right? Right . . . ? OK, even if you do eat the whole pan by yourself, (Go you! Now THAT’S commitment!) just remember that chewing and breathing burns calories too. You're a winner and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.



Servings: 8"x8" pan
Time: 45 minutes

Cook's Illustrated All-Purpose Cornbread

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
1 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees, adjust oven rack to the middle position. Butter an 8-inch square baking dish or cake round, set aside.

Whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl until combined.

In a food processor or blender, process brown sugar, thawed corn kernels, and buttermilk until combined, about 5 pulses. Add eggs to the wet mixture and process until combined (corn pieces will remain), about 5 more pulses.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients; pour wet ingredients into the well. Fold dry ingredients into wet, mixing until barely incorporated. Add melted butter and continue folding until the dry ingredients are moistened.

Pour batter into prepared baking dish, smooth surface with a rubber spatula.

Bake for 25-35 minutes until golden brown, and toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Slice and enjoy!

Adapted From: Cook's Illustrated