Gourmet Grilled Cheese with Pear & Brie

Long time, no see.

I was dealt some big blows over the last couple months in terms of health and personal life, and despite all my intentions to keep up with the blog, it wasn’t in the cards. I am not going to get into detail about all that at the moment, perhaps in the future, but for now, let’s focus on some food. For the record, I am OK now, feeling good and ready to move forward.

I have a few recipes already developed, tested, & photographed, so expect a lot more action in the next few weeks! (And yes, I mean it this time.)

When people ask me what kind of food I cook and write about, I always say it’s comfort food with a twist. I like taking familiar, beloved dishes and giving you another way to look at it. I think the spins on classics make things fun and interesting, but also are a way of introducing yourself to new idea (especially for people who grew up picky like me).

So what’s one of the classic-iest classic comfort foods ever? Grilled cheese. This is my take on a gourmet version, mixing the elegance of a fancy cheese board with the nostalgia of everyone’s favorite childhood sandwiches.

Note: Since a sandwich can vary in size, these are estimated amounts based on a shopping list that will make at least 4 sandwiches with some ingredients left over.

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • medium white onion
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • loaf of sourdough bread (8 slices)
  • small jar of mayonnaise
  • 7-8oz brie cheese, sliced
  • baby arugula (1 cup, packed)
  • fresh basil (2/3 cup, loosely packed)
  • 1 bartlett pear, thinly sliced
  • 4oz blue cheese crumbles
  1. Start by caramelizing the onion. Thinly slice the onion. Heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt & cook the onion for 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to low. Cook for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until brown and tender. Deglaze with the balsamic vinegar & scrap any bits from the bottom of the pan. Set aside to cool. Onions can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to 4 days.
  2. To make the sandwich, start by heating a skillet, griddle pan or panini press to medium heat. Spread mayonnaise evenly on what will be the exterior sides of the bread slices. (You can used softened butter if you are anti-mayo, but trust me, it cooks much more evenly.)
  3. Build the sandwiches. On the bottom piece of bread, start with a layer of sliced brie, waxy shell removed for better melting. Mix the arugula and basil, adding that next. Follow with a layer of pear slices, the caramelized onions, and finally the blue cheese crumbles. Top with the second slice of bread. Repeat for additional sandwiches.
  4. Toast the sandwiches for 4-5 minutes, flipping halfway through (unless you are using a panini press). The brie should be melted & the bread crispy but not burnt.

  5. A couple cross sections so you can see how I arranged the ingredientsIf you are new around these parts, I always like to offer up suggestions on how to modify my recipes for your tastes. I know a lot of bloggers and chefs hate when people make changes to their dishes, but my motto is “I cook what I like”, and you should too.

    Bread… use whatever you like. Italian, wheat, whatever. I happen to love and suggest sourdough because of the way it offsets the sweet flavors of the brie and pears. Speaking of, I am obsessed with pears. They are one of my favorite fruits, but I know it’s apple picking season in a lot of areas. (Jealous! But makes me wonder if there’s anywhere to go pineapple picking here in Hawaii…) You could definitely swap the two if you are looking for a new way to use up your surplus of apples and you are over pies and strudels.


    Bartlett pears are sweet & soft when ripe, perfect for this application

    If you want this sandwich right away with less hassle, an onion or bacon jam could be used in place of the caramelized onions to add that smoky, savory bite. And yes, bacon or prosciutto in general would really add to the gourmet cheese board theme going on here, but I don’t eat pigs and cows, so I’ll leave that up to you.

    This recipe is great for lunchtime when you are feeling a little fancy. You don’t have to make a bunch of sandwiches all at once, it’s totally easy to use them over the course of a week. If you are having a get-together, you could make 4, 5, or even 6 of these and cut them small to serve as an appetizer. It’s a great, hearty vegetarian option.

    What do you think? Is a grilled cheese a good way to experiment in the kitchen, or do you prefer the classic white bread and american combo? Let me know what you think, and I’ll see you soon with another new recipe!


Recipe Redux: Brown Sugar Cinnamon Baked Pears

Hi everyone! Time for another look back in time on The Picky Gourmet Blog. This recipe is probably my all time favorite breakfast recipe. I’ll admit, I am not a morning person. Getting up and fixing a big meal is not something I do often. I joke with my husband that the only time the kitchen is his is weekend mornings, when he makes waffles for us. After that, lunch and dinner is all up to me.

Usually my breakfast is a smoothie or yogurt bowl topped with fruit and granola and whatever good stuff I have on hand. Sometimes I make them pretty, which you may have seen if you follow my Instagram. But a lot of times I just throw it all in a bowl and get it over with. I reserve my creativity for later in the day… when I’m actually awake.

If I am feeling a little more ambitious and having a “treat yourself” kind of day, I refer back to my brown sugar cinnamon baked pears. I wanted to bring this recipe back because it’s so perfect for fall. Served with yogurt and granola, it’s a fantastically sweet start to the day, but this could easily be a great dessert over some vanilla or cinnamon ice cream.

I typically use bartlett or comice pears, but this works with whatever you refer. You can also do this with apples, so if you have a bunch of them laying around after an afternoon of picking, this is perfect for you.

Of course, over the months I’ve tweaked this recipe slightly. Not too much though. Honestly, it’s hard to go wrong when you have fresh fruit, butter, sugar and spices.


This is the smell of fall right here

Yields 2 servings.

  • 2-3 pears (depending on size)
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 cups greek yogurt or coconut milk yogurt
  • 4 Tbsp granola
  • 1 Tbsp coconut flakes (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Peel the pears, cut them in half and remove the cores and seeds. Place them cut side down in a small baking dish or pan lined with parchment paper.
  3. In a bowl, combine melted butter, honey, cinnamon, brown sugar, vanilla and ginger. Whisk until incorporated.
  4. Pour the sauce over the pears and bake for 30 minutes until the pears are soft and caramelized.
  5. Divide the yogurt between two bowls, top with the baked pears and garnish with granola, coconut flakes and extra sauce from the pan.

The only changes are I’ve cut back on the honey for more brown sugar, added ginger and instead of using powdered sugar as a garnish, I use coconut. I’m also really digging coconut milk yogurt lately. It’s got the same tang as Greek yogurt, but its dairy free. I use vanilla flavored yogurt in this recipe for a little extra flavor.

The other great thing about this recipe is it’s quick. The only time consuming part is peeling the fruit, but it shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes to get this in the oven. Then just sit back and wait for your house to start smelling like cinnamon sugar goodness.

So this isn’t a huge departure from my original baked pears, but this is truly one of my favorite recipes. This was posted way back in January, when my blog as just starting, so I want to make sure all the followers I have now get a chance to see this! Especially now that pears (and apples) are everywhere.

Hopefully you are all enjoying autumn and all the wonderful, seasonal treats that come with this time of year. Stay tuned for one more recipe redux post coming this week that will include more than one makeover for a go-to weekday meal!

Baked Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pears

This might be my new favorite breakfast. It’s easy, it’s fairly healthy and it’s so flippin’ delicious. While the pears were baking, I was having trouble walking away from the oven, because the smell was so lovely.

This dish has the same flavor profiles of a heavier breakfast like French toast, but without the guilt and without making you feel like you need a nap after. Not that I’m knocking French toast! (I had a recipe for that posted a couple weeks ago) French toast, a couple mimosas, that’s heaven. But this is just as heavenly.

Yields 2 servings.

  • 3 pears
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp honey, plus extra for garnish
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 4 Tbsp granola
  • 1 Tbsp powdered sugar (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Peel the pears, cut them in half and remove the cores and seeds. Place them cut side down in a small baking dish or pan. Make sure there’s not a lot of extra negative space, you want them packed in so the sauce doesn’t spread out on the bottom of the pan. I actually fit my pears in a bread loaf pan.
  3. In a small saucepan, combine the butter, honey, cinnamon, brown sugar and vanilla. Stir over low heat until the butter is fully melted.
  4. Pour the sauce over the pears and bake for 30-35 minutes until the pears are soft and carmelized.
  5. In two bowls, put a cup of Greek yogurt topped with 2 Tbsp of granola and drizzle with a little honey. Serve with 3 baked pear halves in each bowl. If there’s excess sauce in the baking pan, drizzle it over the pears and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Play around with the yogurt toppings. We had cherry vanilla granola in the pantry and it was great. But any granola, dried fruits or nuts would work. What you are looking for is that crunch element, because the pears and yogurt are both so soft in texture.

I am obsessing over this because the textures are great, it looks great, it tastes great and (holy $#!+) it smells great. Four out of five senses, not bad. Maybe next time I’ll put on some smooth jazz or 90s R&B to really bring it home.

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