“There are certain things I look forward to every year,” David Bancroft says. “College football, snapper season, hunting season, chanterelle mushrooms, peaches, and tomatoes. I mean, I plan my vacations around those things.” At first glance, the tomato grilled cheese sandwich on the chef’s menu at Acre, in Auburn, Alabama, might not seem the equal of the restaurant’s other dishes, which are composed from house-cured meats and produce from the impressive kitchen garden right outside. But this isn’t your mom’s grilled cheese—it’s almost entirely scratch-made, with bread Bancroft bakes on-site, tomatoes grown nearby, and a drunken marmalade that can also add sweet-and-salty crunch to everything from burgers to hot dogs to pimento cheese. The only concession to nostalgia is the perfectly melty processed cheese. “There is a time and place when it really just has to be American cheese,” he says.
Food & Drink
Tomato Grilled Cheese With Beer and Bacon Marmalade
An update on the classic tomato-and-white bread sandwich
photo: Johnny Autry
2 tbsp. softened unsalted butter, divided
2 slices white bread, preferably thick
¼ cup Beer and Bacon Marmalade (recipe below)
2 slices American cheese
3 slices heirloom tomato
Beer and Bacon Marmalade
12 oz. smoked bacon
1/4 cup minced shallot
1 tbsp. minced garlic
3 1/2 tbsp. dark brown sugar
1 tbsp. honey
3 tbsp. sherry vinegar
3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 cup brewed coffee
1 cup beer, preferably a porter or stout
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 - 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
For the sandwich:
Spread butter onto one side of each piece of bread. Place a cast-iron skillet over medium heat and toast the buttered bread.
Remove the bread from the skillet and place it on a cutting board, toasted side up. Slather the marmalade over the toast, and then stack the cheese and tomato on top. Put the sandwich together, and spread the soft outside with the remaining butter. Return it to the skillet and toast until golden and cheese is gooey. Serve with beer.
For the Beer and Bacon Marmalade:
Cook bacon slices in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat until crispy (about 5–6 minutes), and then remove them to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain.
Reserve 2 tbsp. of bacon fat in the pan, and add the shallots. Cook them over medium heat until they begin to brown (about 3–5 minutes), and then add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds before adding brown sugar, honey, and vinegars. Simmer until reduced by half, and then add coffee and beer and continue to simmer until the mixture is reduced to a syrup-like consistency (about 10–12 minutes).
Remove from the stove, season with salt and red pepper, and allow to cool.
Crush or chop bacon into small pieces and fold them into coffee-beer mixture. Store in an airtight container, refrigerated, for up to 3 days. (Makes 1 cup, or enough for 4 sandwiches)
Recipe from chef David Bancroft of Acre, Auburn, Alabama.
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