Garlic Texas Toast Ham and Cheese Sandwich

Welcome to Tuscan Thursday – when the theme of the day is anything Italian. That is unless it’s Thanksgiving or a Feast Day in the Church or if I don’t feel like making Spaghetti and Meatballs. As it happens, I’m not in a pasta frame of mind.

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An American Take on Croque Madame

Good morning Monday! One thing about being retired is that every morning is awesome. Some more so than others. And let’s face it, any day that God remembers to wake you up is a good day!

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It’s Have a Sandwich Day!

Today is National Sandwich Day. I know, strange that something usually served cold would have its day in November, when a sandwich is the furthest thing from your mind unless is might be an open-faced Turkey Sandwich. Yet here we are, honoring the Sandwich. Why? Because Americans eat more than 300 million sandwiches a day. It is the most popular thing to put in a brown paper bag.

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Warm Ham and Cheddar Loaf

Hubby is such a strange man. He will not nibble on a cheese platter. He turns his nose up at my wonderful holiday Cheese Ball creation. Put cheese on a burger? No way! But grill a ham sandwich and he loves American Cheese or a nice slice of cheddar. Pizza? You bet, pile on the cheese. I guess you could say Hubby’s a selective cheese eater.

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Warm Ham and Cheese Crescent Bites

Let me ask you just one question – did you serve up a Holiday Ham? Since we were spending Christmas Day at the farm, we decided to have a little celebration of our own, just us. Going home for the holidays is very important. So are setting traditions of your own in your home. If your children see you going home, they will also go home. But without traditions to return to, they will have nothing to pass along. That’s just my opinion. I’m old, what do I know?

Anyway, we enjoyed a wonderful Apricot Glazed Ham for a special Holiday supper. The smoked, bone-in ham weighed 12 pounds – more ham than our little family of three could eat in one meal. Since then, we’ve been taking ham sandwiches for lunch, and delighted in Omelettes for breakfast. I’ve made deviled ham spread to put on crackers. (Yum!)

One of Hubby’s favorite hot sandwiches has got to be Grilled Ham and Cheese. It’s great with a piping hot bowl of Wintertime Tomato Soup. This got me to thinking, what else could I do with all that left-over ham? A light came on and it was awesome!

The Ham and Cheese Crescent Bites are essentially  a tiny grilled ham and cheese sandwich baked inside a crescent roll. Light, warm, flaky and oh so delicious. These little bites can be served as light supper at the end of a long day or the perfect TV-watching snack. It takes almost no time at all to whip up these little pockets of buttery goodness.

Warm Ham and Cheese Crescent Bites
2 Cans Crescent Rolls
4 Tablespoons Butter, Melted
3-4 Garlic Cloves, pressed
2 1/2 Cups Chopped Ham
8 Slices American Cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut ham into chunks easy to process in a food processor. Pulse ham until chopped into a coarse mixture. Set aside.

Cut American Cheese into fourths, creating 16 squares. Set aside.

Melt butter. Add pressed garlic cloves into the butter. Taste and adjust as needed with more garlic. Set aside.

Roll out 1 can of crescent rolls on a cutting board. Separate the first can into 8 triangles. Brush each triangle with garlic-butter. Spoon some of the chopped ham onto the wide end of the crescent roll (about 1 or 2 tablespoons). Press the chopped ham down slightly into the crescent dough to help hold the meat into place. Add one small square of American cheese on top of ham. Roll as you would a crescent roll. Press pointed end into completed roll, tuck sides in and press together to create a nice pouch around the filling. Place pouch on an ungreased baking sheet. Repeat until all 16 crescent triangles have been filled.

Place baking sheet into preheated oven and bake 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Serve warm from the oven and enjoy. (Hubby likes to mix a little ketchup and mustard together to create a “dip” for his bites).

Wintertime Tomato Soup with Grilled Ham and Two-Cheese Sandwiches

There’s something about Tomato Soup that just naturally goes with grilled sandwiches. Some people go for the grilled cheese variety. Others like a Tuna Melt (my personal favorite); while my guys go for Grilled Ham and Cheese on Sourdough. Hubby is strictly an American Cheese kind of guy, while Kiddo and I like to mix it up a bit with Pepper Jack or Smoked Gouda.

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Over the Top Gourmet Grilled Ham and Cheese Sandwich

A while back, before returning to my roots in California, I worked as a property manager for commercial property rental company. One of the properties I managed was a typical food court. Kiddo and I loved the Gourmet Grilled Cheese Sandwich Shoppe – all they served were grilled cheese sandwiches! While it was a novel idea, it didn’t quite catch on in a city that was overflowing with eateries offering everything from simple sandwiches to Five-Star sensations. The stakes were high, and many dreams of success were dashed. Those that managed to make it succeeded in a big way.  Kiddo and I were sad to see the  Gourmet Grilled Cheese Sandwich Shoppe close.

A few years later, I stumbled upon a great grilled cheese recipe over at Poor Girl Eats Well that was similar to those served at the Gourmet Grilled Cheese Sandwich Shoppe. At the time, Kiddo was really into experimenting and creating his own take on the comfort food we fondly call “grilled cheese”. So he took what he remembered from the past, combined it with the recipe from Poor Girl Eats Well and came up with a grilled cheese sandwich that was to die for delicious. Kiddo loves cheese – Smoked Gouda and Imported Sheep Cheese from Spain are among his favorites. He is our child in so many ways – a pizza loving guy that wanders willingly to the more adventurous side of dining.

The beauty of his creation is that you could serve the sandwich alongside some fries, with a warm cup of Tomato Bisque Soup, or on their own – they are that darn good!

gourmet-grilled-cheese-8Thin slices of Black Forest Ham add yet another layer to the sandwich. When offered, Hubby and Kiddo go for the ham. Me? I’m an Heirloom Tomato kind of gal. Kiddo added blue cheese to his, while I went for a few slices of White Cheddar Chipotle cheese for mine. You could follow our cheesy lead or you could just use the cooking techniques, like Hubby. His is the sandwich with American Cheese and Ham, simple and basic. When it comes to grilled cheese, it’s to each their own. Pile it on or keep it simple.

gourmet-grilled-cheese-7The most difficult part about this sandwich will be deciding what cheeses to use. Once you’ve done that, gather them together and be ready to pile it on. While you need not work at lightening speed, you’ll want to layer your ingredients quickly – the sooner the cheese is piled on the more time you’ll have for the cheese to melt while the bread reaches golden perfection.

The recipe that follows is my “go to” basic when I want a grilled cheese sandwich that is beyond ordinary. While the recipe calls for buttered bread, sometimes I’ll brush the bread with a little Truffle Oil for an extra treat. And a splash or two of white wine to the mushrooms is another nice touch. The sky’s the limit – so go for it!

Gourmet Grilled Ham and Cheese Sourdough Sandwich
½ Cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
½ Cup Smoked Gouda Cheese, shredded
1 Cup Feta Cheese, crumbled
2-3 Portobello mushrooms
1 Onion, thinly sliced
8 slices of fresh, ripe tomato (16 or so slices if you’re using tomatoes such as Roma)
8 Thin Slices Black Forest Ham (Optional)
4 ½ tablespoons Butter, divided
8 Slices Sourdough Bread
Salt & pepper to taste

In a bowl, mix together the shredded cheese, set aside until ready to use.

Butter one side of each slice of bread with about ½ tablespoon of butter and set aside.

Rinse the mushrooms well and slice into thin slices. Set aside until ready to use.

gourmet-grilled-cheese-1gourmet-grilled-cheese-2In a skillet, melt the remaining ½ tablespoon of butter and add the sliced onions. Sauté over medium heat until they begin to soften and caramelize, turning a light golden color. Add the sliced mushrooms. Season with salt & pepper and sauté for about 2-3 minutes or until mushrooms release their juices. Continue to saute about a minute or so longer, until most of the liquid is gone. Remove from heat and set aside.

Heat a griddle to about medium heat. You’ll want the bread to grill slowly, giving you plenty of time to pile on all the goodies.

Place the slices of sourdough onto the warm griddle butter side down. (If your griddle isn’t large enough to accommodate all 8 slices of bread, this can be done in batches of 4 slices per batch to create 2 sandwiches at a time).

gourmet-grilled-cheese-9Grill bread slices for about 1 minute, then add the cheese mixture to each slice. If you are including ham, now would be the time to layer ham over the cheese. Cover and allow the steam to melt the cheese for around 1-2 minutes. (A shallow rimmed baking pan about the same size as your griddle works well. Just place up-side-down over the griddle to create a “lid”).

Uncover and add the mushroom and onions to each slice of bread. Add the tomato slices, sprinkle with feta, then put the halves together to create 2 or 4 sandwiches, depending on griddle size. You’ll end up with a sandwich mirrored in layers of cheese, ham, mushrooms, onions and tomatoes with a center of feta cheese.

Continue grilling, turning as necessary with a pair of wide spatulas until both sides of the sandwich are a nice golden brown and everything between them is warm and melted.

Plate the sandwiches, slice in half and serve with plenty of napkins.

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