Brie grilled cheese with thyme and vanilla bean-infused sea salt

I am enjoying a much-needed and well-deserved rainy day all alone at home. I am catching up on my internet television, playing video games, surfing the web and meticulously planning my upcoming New Year’s Eve meal game plan. I think it’s gonna be pretty awesome, but I suppose you’ll hear about that later.

While I love a little alone time every once in awhile (a girl needs time to indulge in guilty pleasures and to lounge in her pajamas without showering for most of the day…), one thing that isn’t always simple is decided what to cook, for one. I am a huge fan of making dishes in bulk, leaving enough leftovers to feed us both for at least another day or two. Plus, most dishes, especially winter stews and soups, are usually better the next day. But when I’m all alone, I often find myself feeling lazy, reverting to quick and easy standards like bacon and eggs, or pasta and whatever I find in the fridge. Today, I wasn’t feeling overly-ambitious, but I did want something that I could be excited about eating. A quick look in the fridge and my mind was made up: brie grilled cheese on seven-grain bread.

I’ve had grilled cheese on my mind a lot these days. I’ve been evernoting recipes every week, everytime I thought of a good flavor combination, or found the perfect sweet side-note to an otherwise salty, rich cheese. I knew that my creamy, mild brie would need something to give it some punch. I very recently acquired two things that I knew would be perfect for this sandwich: a thyme plant straight from the Alpilles in the South of France, and some fleur de sel* infused with vanilla beans from Madagascar, purchased in my favorite little spice shop near the rue Montorgeuil.

The combination was genius. The salt brought out the flavor of the brie and the thyme added an earthy punch to the sandwich and complemented the nuttiness of the bread. The vanilla flavor was discreet but still noticeable, and added just the right amount of sweetness and aroma to the ensemble. I also threw in some slivered almonds at the last minute for crunch, although I think pine nuts would have been divine. I also think that if you don’t have vanilla, sea salt and honey would work wonders as well. 

*fleur de sel: sea salt, although in France we technically differentiate between the sea salt (the crystals found inside the salt pools) and the fleur de sel, which is the thin layer that forms on the surface of the pools

Brie grilled cheese with fresh thyme and vanilla-infused fleur de sel

Ingredients:

2 slices of the whole-grain bread of your choice
2 generous T of butter
Sliced brie
1/4 t fresh thyme
1/2 T slivered almonds or pine nuts
A very small pinch of sea salt, preferably vanilla flavored

I don’t really even need to tell you how to do this, I think it’s pretty self-explanatory. I didn’t bother buttering my bread, and put half of my butter in a hot skillet before adding my first slice of bread. Quickly add the cheese, herbs, nuts and salt, then top with the second piece of bread. Keep an eye on the bottom of your sandwich so it doesn’t burn, then turn as soon as it’s crisp enough for you. Once the other side is cooked to perfection, turn the heat down as far as you can and let it cook another minute or two if necessary, until the cheese is good and gooey. Serve immediately, and why not with your favorite soup or salad.

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