Grilled Cheese with Poached Pear

Oh, pear, you poor unloved fruit. Can’t even remember the last time I bought one, but now pear gets to live it up in this grilled cheese.

Nights spent at The Independent in Seminole Heights include beer, and usually a grilled cheese and pear sandwich. The Indie serves their version on rye bread with a side salad of greens, blue cheese, walnuts, grapes, and poppy seed vinaigrette. It’s good, and quite a departure from the standard cheesy sandwich.

Our version is different, straddling the line between fancy bar food and the sandwich you know. We used Gruyère instead of gouda, and a crusty white bread cut into slices so thick that this sandwich was enough of a meal on its own. A dab of good mustard gives it some tang.

The pear is spiced and sweetened. As water bubbles in a pan and the pear softens, it gives off an aroma that’s more reminiscent of December than the upcoming summer. Blame it on the cinnamon. The poached pear slices are good on their own and would probably be really good served with some whipped cream.

Whipped cream or warm cheese – can you go wrong? No. But I’d say go for the cheese first.

grilled cheese with poached pear

makes 2 sandwiches, inspired by the grilled cheese at The Independent

  • 2 pears, peeled and sliced lengthwise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • nutmeg
  • 4 slices of crusty white bread or rye, sliced about a 1/2-inch thick or closer to an inch if you’re hungry
  • half a stick of unsalted butter should have you covered
  • 4 to 5 ounces Gruyère cheese, sliced thinly
  • grainy mustard

Heat oven to 400°F.

Add 3/4 cup of water, pear slices, a cinnamon stick, a tablespoon of honey, and a few grates of a fresh nutmeg to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, and then bring the heat down to about medium and let the pear simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until the biggest pieces are pierced easily with fork. It will smell like Christmas. Remove pear slices and place on a plate.

Bring a cast-iron skillet to medium heat. Throw a 1/2 tablespoon of butter into the skillet and swirl to coat the pan. Spread chunks of butter one one side of each slice of bread. Place the bread in the skillet with buttered sides down, and let cook until the bread browns. You may need two skillets or pans to fit the bread.

Place a layer of cheese on one slice of bread in the skillet. Top with a layer of poached pear, and another layer of cheese. Spread grainy mustard on another slice of the bread  and place on top of the sandwich, leaving the browned side facing you. Repeat with the rest of the cheese, pear, and other two slices of bread. Use a spatula to press each sandwich down a bit. Let them cook for about five minutes in the skillet.

Move the skillet with the sandwiches into the oven. Give it a few minutes in there, about five, or until the cheese melts. Remove sandwiches from oven, and cut each one in half to serve.

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