. I know that on Mother's Day, brunch is de rigeur, but I am not one of those dining out breakfast food lovers. For me, I would love nothing better than a ham and cheese sandwich. A grilled ham and cheese sandwich is even better. Add some cocoa caramelized onions and you have heaven on a plate. So if your mother is the type to break out of the eggs and bacon box, this would make a lovely Mother's Day breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner. Just add champagne and a box of chocolate and there you have it! P.S. This is not just for Mothers on Mother's Day. It is fabulous for anyone on any day. Midnight snack anyone?
Cocoa Caramelized Onions :
2 onions, peeled and sliced
1 Tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon salt
2 really big cloves of garlic or 4 smaller ones, chopped
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 oz. dark chocolate, chopped
Heat a 2 quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the butter, then the onions and salt. Stir to coat the onions, then put a lid on it and turn the heat to low. Every five minutes or so, stir the onions. Keep at it until they are starting to brown and caramelize (about 45 minutes). When the onions are soft and starting to brown, add the balsamic vinegar and the chocolate. Stir to combine and melt the chocolate. Remove from the heat and transfer to a jar. This will keep in the refrigerator for probably 2 weeks, but I have never had it around long enough to test it!
For the Sandwich:
the best sourdough or french bread you can get your hands on, sliced
the best Gruyere type cheese you can get your hands on, sliced
the best ham you can get your hands on, deli sliced
the best butter you can get your hands on, softened
(As you can tell, this is another free-form recipe) Butter the outside of your bread. On the inside (Not the buttered side) of one slice of bread, place the sliced gruyere, then ham. On the inside of the other slice, spread a generous amount of the cocoa caramelized onions. Flip this over on the other slice so the onions meet the ham. Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat. Place the sandwich on the skillet and turn the heat to low. When the underside of the bread is toasty brown, flip the sandwich and brown the other side. Keep flipping as necessary until the cheese melts. Remove to a cutting board, cut the way you like your sandwiches cut, and enjoy your little slice of heaven.
As an aside, this onion compote is also delicious as a bruschetta. Just slather it on a slice of toasted bread, top with Brie and melt in the oven. You could add rosemary or thyme to the onions, some sort of fruit to the Brie; the possibilities are endless. You could also use it as a sauce for a new-age pizza, a condiment for braised meats, on a burger.........
We've taken you around the valley for the past few months, but this month we return to Saint Helena for a wonderful newish restaurant: aka Bistro. Located just down and across the street from us at 1320 Main St. (707)967-8111, aka Bistro is a local place that has yet to really be discovered by the world at large. The restaurant is very welcoming with a fireplace and minimal, but rich dark woods. It has a large bar with an adjoining area of sofas if you'd like a relaxed glass of wine and you will certainly have choices. When we were last there, more than four dozen wines were on offer by the glass! The menu is an interesting mix of good old American comfort food and lighter European influenced fare. Some of our favorites include the Crispy Portobello Fries with Truffle Aioli. I would slather that aioli on my breakfast cereal, it's that good. The Sushi Grade Ahi Salad is also on our must-have list, but mostly, they change the menu so often, that we have to try something new every time we go. (My mother and Laura, the other chocolatier in our kitchen, gorge themselves on this bacon potato tart thingie that is unforgettable, but only available sometimes at dinner.) All in all, it is a comfortable, casual place with great food. Try it, we think you'll like it! www.akabistro.com