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~ Melanie's Hot Russian Ham & Cheese Meltdowns ~

6a0120a8551282970b01a511a5968f970cDoes anybody besides me have leftover holiday ham in their refrigerator?  Raise your hands.  I thought so.  If you're like me, you bake a big ham for Easter, to insure you will have leftovers.  I do the same thing for 'that other' traditional feast -- I roast a really big turkey at Thanksgiving.  For a day or two after both of these holidays, I am the first one to make the first sandwich.  In case you didn't know, I consider a perfectly executed sandwich one of the greatest gifts to mankind.

IMG_0122Say cheese!

April 11th was National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day.  I didn't celebrate.  Ever since my kids grew up and moved away, I almost never make "the American moms special" anymore:  an ooey-gooey grilled cheese sandwich.  It's not because I don't like them (of course I do), it's because I like grilled ham and cheese sandwiches better and I like them made my way:  on rye bread, with really good ham (not deli-meat), grated Jarlsberg Swiss (or Danish Havarti w/caraway seed cheese), and, seething hot, real-deal Russian horseradish mustard.

Bread + Cheese + Butter + Hot Skillet = Grilled Cheese! 

IMG_0267Does anyone need a recipe to make a great grilled cheese sandwich?  Most people do not, some people do (I've been witness to some seriously depressing soggy, floppy, greasy disasters).  

I'm not trying to turn this humble and beloved sandwich into haute cuisine, but, a well-made grilled cheese sandwich does require a few things:  medium-firm-textured not-too-thickly-sliced bread, a good melting cheese, lots of butter, and, a nonstick skillet (no fancy panini press required, but, those gadgets do make a good grilled cheese sandwich) placed over just the right temperature to keep the bread from burning while the cheese melts.  When you add ham to a grilled cheese sandwich, you have to insure that it warms through to the center too.

Crunchy outside, oozy cheese & smoky Berkshire ham inside.

IMG_0194MeAt:  Mel's Hot Russian Ham & Cheese Meltdowns!

IMG_01104  slices rye bread, seeded or unseeded, preferably homemade, or, your favorite brand (Note:  Click on the Related Article link below to ~ Try My Rye:  Homemade in the Bread Machine ~.  This effortlessly easy-to-make bread will take this sandwich over the top.

719nI-zIbhL._SL1500_4  teaspoons hot, yellow horseradish mustard, the best available, preferably Russian ZAKYCOH (the nuclear reactors at Chernobyl never got this hot) (Note:  I can buy this locally at our Russian Market, but, it is available on-line at too.  If you like mustard, this is one you will want to keep on the condiment shelf of your refrigerator.)

2  cups grated Jarlsberg cheese (or Danish Havarti w/caraway seed cheese)

4  real-deal baked ham slices, about 1/4" thick, preferably smoky Berkshire ham, at room temperature (starting with room temperature ham is very important to this sandwich)

6  tablespoons salted butter, at room temperature, very soft and spreadable

IMG_0127 IMG_0134~ Step 1. Place four slices of rye bread on a work surface.  Spread 1 teaspoon of mustard over all four slices.

IMG_0143~ Step 2. Place 1/2 cup of the cheese on each of two bread slices.

IMG_0147 IMG_0156~ Steps 3, 4 & 5.  Place 2 slices of ham over the cheese on each slice of bread, IMG_0165then top the 2 ham slices on each slice of bread with another 1/2 cup of grated Jarlsberg.  Place tops on sandwiches, mustard sides down.

IMG_0171 IMG_0176~ Step 6. Spread 1 tablespoon of the softened butter evenly over the top of each sandwich (use 2 total tablespoons of the butter).

~ Step 7.  In a 12" nonstick skillet melt remaining butter over medium heat.  Note:  When making grilled cheese error on the side of your heat being a tad lower rather than a tad higher.  Time is on your side.

IMG_0199 IMG_0181~ Step 8. Place sandwiches in skillet buttered sides up.  Cook until bottoms are golden brown and cheese is melting nicely, about 4-5 minutes.  

~ Step 9.  Slide a spatula underneath each sandwich and carefully flip it over.  Lower the heat IMG_0197a bit and continue to cook until second side is golden and cheese is melted, about 3 minutes.

~ Step 9.  Remove pan from heat and allow sandwiches to rest, in pan, about a minute before removing them from pan.  Note: This short rest will insure the cheese will set up properly (gooey but not runny) and the ham will be heated through to the center.

Slice each sandwich in half and serve immediately:

IMG_0262Take a bite & have your own meltdown:

IMG_0240Melanie's Hot Russian Ham & Cheese Meltdowns:  Recipe yields 2 hearty sandwiches.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; cheese grater; 12" skillet, preferably nonstick; wide spatula; serrated bread knife

6a0120a8551282970b017d424f5820970cCook's Note:  Everyone has their own favorite way to bake ham.  My super-easy method  imparts it with the flavors of allspice, bay leaves and cloves.  You can find ~ "A, B, C", That's as Easy as Easter Ham Can Be! ~ in Categories 3, 11, 12 or 20!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014) 


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