Celebrate National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day--With a French Tartine

Yes–today is National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day … Frankly, why this day falls in April confounds me–I think of grilled cheeses (especially with tomato soup) as a winter Saturday lunch kind of thing.

So….let’s lighten things up a bit with a French version of a toasted cheese sandwich. This is a “tartine”–a word that historically referred to sliced bread spread with butter, jam, or soft cheese. These days, it refers to any open-face style sandwich.

This one, straight from the pages of my upcoming cookbook, calls on goat cheese, almonds, pancetta, and honey. Serve it with a light, bright salad for a lovely spring lunch. Preferably outdoors. Enjoy.

Tartine with Goat Cheese, Almonds, Pancetta, and Honey

In this recipe, a French cook would probably use lardons—succulent cubes of bacon that make their way into many French dishes. However, because lardons are difficult to find here, I’ve substituted crumbled pancetta, the spiced Italian bacon, which most supermarkets stock. Pancetta’s flavor works just as lardons would—its saltiness beautifully contrasts with the tang of the goat cheese, the sweetness of the honey, and the nuttiness of the almonds. If you’re really in a pinch, simply use a good-quality American slab bacon. It’s not as delicate as pancetta, but it will bring good salty-meaty effects.

Makes 2 servings

2 ounces thin-sliced pancetta
4 ounces soft-ripened goat cheese (such as Bucherondin), crumbled or diced
2 tablespoons sliced almonds
2 (3/4-inch-thick) slices from a crusty country-style round bread (preferably long slices from the center of the loaf), toasted
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons honey

1. Preheat the broiler.

2. Place the pancetta in a skillet over medium heat and cook, turning once, until barely crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to cool slightly.

3. Crumble the pancetta into a bowl. Add the goat cheese and almonds and stir to combine. Set aside.

4. Brush one side of each toasted bread slice with olive oil. Arrange the bread slices, oiled sides up, on a baking sheet. Pile the goat cheese and pancetta mixture atop the toasted bread, making sure to cover the entire bread surface, including the crusts, so the bread does not burn.

5. Broil the sandwiches 3 to 4 inches from the heat until the cheese is melted and lightly browned in places, about 3 minutes (watching constantly). Transfer the sandwiches to individual plates, drizzle with honey, and serve.

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