Recipe shared by Anna Wallner (Vancouver, British Columbia) 

When I think of comfort food I think of two things: melted cheese and grilled bread. This can come in the form of simple melted cheese on buttered toast, which is basically what I survived on through my university days, or can take on more in depth flavours when made in the form of something like a Welsh Rarebit. Even a cheese calzone is another version. Growing up we called it a Cheese Toastie and making it in our old cast iron pan (always cast iron) might have been my first foray into the kitchen. It’s an easy dish to change up by combining different types of cheeses – anything that melts well and doesn’t have too much moisture will work. I have perfected it for myself and to this day it’s what makes me feel comforted on cold winter nights when I’m stapled to the sofa in my sweats. One might think you don’t need a recipe for a Grilled Cheese sandwich, but my version has a secret ingredient that changes everything.

Tip: Some people swear by spreading mayonnaise on the outside of the bread instead of butter for grilling because it creates a better crust. They aren’t wrong, but I prefer the flavour of all butter. If you do go the mayo route, use a good one like Hellmann’s

2 thick slices day-old sourdough bread
Salted butter, softened (see note below)
1/3 cup medium cheddar cheese, grated
1/3 cup fontina cheese, grated
3 or 4 tablespoons tomato jam (recipe below)

  1. Spread both sides of each slice of bread with butter.  
  2. Melt about 2 tablespoons of butter in a medium-hot cast iron pan.  
  3. Place both slices of bread in the hot butter. 
  4.  Scatter cheese over top of each slice. 
  5. Cover the pan with a lid and cook until cheese starts to melt and the bread is starting to toast, about two minutes.  
  6. Remove the lid and spread the tomato jam on one slice, then flip the second slice of bread over top, so the jam winds up in the middle of the sandwich.  
  7. Continue cooking until the cheese is fully melted and the bread is nicely toasted.
  8. Remove from heat, cut in half and consume immediately.

FOR THE TOMATO JAM – This tomato jam will change your life. Use just the way you use ketchup. This recipe can be easily doubled. A water bath will make it shelf stable so it can keep up to a year.

1 – 28 ounce can of best quality plum tomatoes (datterini/datterino tomatoes are ideal, if you can get them)
3 fresh fresno red peppers (see note below), seeds removed and sliced.
¼ cup fish sauce
4 garlic cloves, sliced
3 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
½ cup vinegar
⅓ cup white sugar

  1. Drain the juice from the cans of tomatoes into a blender.
  2. Add the peppers, fish sauce, garlic and ginger and puree until smooth.
  3. Pour into a medium sized saucepan and add the tomatoes, vinegar and sugar.
  4. Using a hand blender, pulse the mixture a few times so the tomatoes are still a bit chunky.
  5. Simmer on medium low for 90 minutes until the sauce has reduced to a thick, jam like consistency. 
  6. Turn off the heat and let it cool in the pot.
  7. Transfer to an airtight container and keep in the refrigerator for up to a month.

Note: If you like it spicy, increase pepper count to 4 or 5. I like the gentle kick delivered from 3 peppers as I find too much heat just masks other flavours.