A toasted ham and cheese sandwich is warm comfort. I’ve talked about the power of toast before, and this combination is a classic that most people can place in their food history. After-school snacks, late-night munchies, cold nights with hot soup, lazy brunches – it’s a flexible meal. This twist on it takes the humble toastie from the past to a very modern and adult present.
I first came across this sandwich in New York where I worked in a building overlooking the Hudson. It was a 15-minute walk from the subway and a much longer power walk to a decent food establishment. Although that part of Chelsea is gentrifying by the minute with giant cranes pulling up skyscraper apartments and art galleries moving in to old shipping warehouses, there’s not a lot of foot traffic to encourage cafes to set up shop. My only options for lunch were vendors that came into our building on daily rotation (taco Tuesday!), the building’s cafeteria that had recently failed a health inspection and Wichcraft, a sandwich chain store.
Everyone at work knew the Wichcraft menu intimately and each had their preferred item. The Heritage Smoked Ham became my staple work meal. You could say I over indulged on it, because although I loved it and would struggle to limit my intake to twice a week, it has taken me eight months to recreate it at home. I guess I needed the break, but after tasting it again, I’m committed to making up for lost time.
The twist on the classic ham and cheese toastie is delivered through big flavours of the sweet and salty variety. Good quality fruit bread acts as a sweet base for the powerful mustard and salty ham. A strong, sharp cheddar offsets its somewhat traditional partner of pears, poached and sliced to add another layer of sweetness. Don’t be stingy with the mustard, you want this sandwich to pack a punch and the other flavours in the mix are strong enough to hold their own against the Dijon. Good quality ingredients will heighten this sandwich, though supermarket cheese and tinned pears will do a fine job too.
I now have a half a loaf of fruit bread sitting on my bench, and a block of cheese, and an open tin of pears… I may be returning to form with this sandwich in a big way.
Cheese, Ham and Pear Toastie
Take two slices of fruit bread and butter the outsides. Lay a slice of good quality smoked ham on the unbuttered side of one slice and smear the other slice’s naked side with a thick coating of dijon mustard. Lay slices of poached pear on the ham and top with grated sharp cheddar. Close the sandwich and place in a jaffle maker or sandwich press, or place on a hot griddle pan and squish down with a pan lid to cook (flipping when first side is golden and crunchy).
Recreated from Wichcraft’s menu.