Grilled Cheese and Swiss Chard Sandwich
Source: Laura Werlin, author of Great Grilled Cheese: 50 Innovative Recipes for Stove Top, Grill, and Sandwich Maker (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 2004).
This sandwich makes a wonderful use of a rather forlorn wintertime vegetable. The somewhat bitter Swiss chard comes alive with the sweet currants and the heat of the red pepper flakes, which you can adjust according to your own taste. You can make the chard mixture up to two hours in advance. Cover it and keep it at room temperature. Be sure to warm it before using.
1 tablespoon currants (today we are using dried cherries)
1 tablespoon olive oil plus 2 tablespoons for brushing
½ medium onion, (about ½ pound) finely chopped
1 bunch Swiss chard, about 1 pound, washed and drained slightly but allowing some of the water to cling to the leaves, stems removed, and cut roughly into 2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt, to taste
4 ciabatta rolls or 1 ciabatta loaf cut in 4 3-inch wide pieces and then cut horizontally; or use hearty Italian bread or sourdough
8 ounces Swiss or Gruyere cheese (we used Toma from Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co.), coarsely grated
1. Place the currants in a small heat-proof bowl. Pour hot water over them and let soak for 10 minutes, or until soft and a little plump. Drain and set aside.
2. In a large nonstick pan, heat the olive oil over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until limp but not brown, about 7 minutes. Add the chard, cover, and cook until wilted and very tender, about 7 to 9 minutes. (If it looks dry, add water 1 tablespoon at a time). Turn the heat to medium-high and add the vinegar. Cook until the vinegar aroma dissipates, about 1 minute.
3. Add currants, pepper flakes, and plenty of salt to taste, and mix well. Remove from heat and put chard mixture on a plate to cool slightly. Do not wash the pan.
4. To assemble: Oil the crusty side of all of the bread slices. Place 4 slices of bread, oiled side down, on a cutting board or counter. Distribute the chard mixture over the bread slices, followed by the cheese. Place remaining bread, oiled side up, on top of the cheese.
For stovetop method: Preheat the same pan you used to make the chard over a medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Put the sandwiches into the pan and, using a spatula, press firmly on each sandwich to flatten slightly. Cover and cook for 3 minutes. Remove the cover and turn the sandwiches, pressing each one very firmly with a spatula to compress the bread slightly. Cook for 2 minutes or until underside has begun to brown in places. (The shape of the baguette prevents it from browning uniformly. Don’t worry about it.) Carefully turn the sandwiches once more, pressing with the spatula again, and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until cheese has melted. Remove from the pan. Cut in half, let cool slightly, and serve.
For sandwich maker method: Preheat the sandwich maker. Assemble the sandwiches as directed above, and cook according to manufacturer’s instructions.
For outdoor grill method: Brush the grill rack with oil and preheat to medium-high. Follow directions for stovetop method.