Caramelized Onion & Gruyere Sandwich

As much as I love the holidays, I always get a little frustrated by the overall excess that embodies this particular season.  Excessive spending, excessive eating, excessive drinking.  And while I'll get over the costs of present giving and the pains of a hangover, I find the excessive eating to be a real shame, because of the resentment it causes me to feel towards food.  My pants fit a little more snugly and my dresses stretch a little more than usual around my waist - all in all, the last thing I want to do is even think about making food, an idea which is really hard for me because it's what I prefer to think about all day long!

However, I decided to get over it and create a recipe which showcases one of my favorite ingredients:  slow-cooked caramelized onions.  Cooked over low heat for about 45 minutes, thin slivers of white onion become deeply golden brown and filmy, and obtain a spectacular sweetness while losing the sharp and poignant flavor characteristic of raw onions.  Their golden brown color and rich filmy coating make them mouth-wateringly delicious just to look at - eating them is an even better delight.

While I knew that I would include sundried tomatoes and melted gruyere in this sandwich, I was unsure of whether I should add an olive tapenade to the mix.  To solve this problem, I decided to make this sandwich half-and-half - half of the sandwich had olive tapenade while the other half went without.

The consensus? It depends entirely on your taste.  I love the salty, briny flavor of olives processed with olive oil and thyme, so I welcomed their addition to this particular sandwich.  However, if you prefer milder tastes, this sandwich holds its own beautifully without them.  In any case, I've created a separate post for the olive tapenade recipe, which is very easy to make, so long as you have a food processor.

Lastly, while this sandwich clearly reflects my personal tastes and preferences with the sundried tomatoes and gruyere, you can pair a number of other things with caramelized onions.  Ideas include goat cheese, sliced tomatoes, provolone or swiss cheese, turkey or chicken breast (great if you have turkey leftovers!), apple or tomato chutney, sliced apples, lettuce, sauteed wild mushrooms, or sliced ham.
Merci, bonne degustation mes chers!

Caramelized Onion & Gruyere Sandwich - makes 1 sandwich

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 bouquet garni (2 sprigs thyme, 2 sprigs parsley, 1 bay leaf tied together with kitchen string)
1 unpeeled garlic clove
4-5 oil-packed sundried tomatoes, thinly sliced
1/3-cup grated gruyere
1/4-cup olive tapenade (optional)
2 slices sourdough bread, cut from a sourdough boule

Preheat the broiler
1.  Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions, spinkle with pepper and a generous amount of salt, and add the bouquet garni and garlic clove.  Sautee until onions are slightly softened, about 5 minutes.
3.  Turn the heat down to low and cook onions until golden brown, softened, and very sweet (feel free to taste some!), about 40 minutes.  Remove from heat and discard the bouquet garni and the garlic.
4.  Rub the exposed side of the garlic head over the bread slices, making sure bits of the garlic stick to the bread. 
5.  Spread the onions over one bread slice.  Top with sundried tomatoes and olive tapenade (if using).  Sprinkle the gruyere on top, and broil until cheese is bubbly and slightly browned, about 5 minutes.
6.  Top with remaining bread slice.


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