03/06/2012 02:25 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Blood, Bones & Butter Recipe: Egg and Cheese Sandwich With Tomato and Onion Jam

In the second installment of Blood, Bones & Butter, Gabrielle Hamilton takes us from the gourmet world of New York City catering, to the backwoods kitchen of a sleepaway camp, through her time at the "Harvard of the Midwest," on adventures in France and Greece, and finally arriving at the kitchen of Prune, her now-highly-praised East Village restaurant. Hamilton constructs a vision of her life and just as quickly dismantles it, seemingly on repeat mode--and we're just innocent passengers along for the (whiplash-inducing) ride. Maybe it's the recent college graduate in me, but this frantic search to discover who she is in the world is unnervingly familiar. She finds the catering world is too fancy, and the camp too child-friendly. And although she hopes to earn intellectual legitimacy there, the MFA program at Michigan feels too pretentious and exclusive.

These chapters are about getting back to basics. Hamilton has to re-learn what she loves to do, and re-commit to it in an entirely new way: by running her own restaurant. Prune (her mother's nickname for her as a child), she decides, will be about making great, simple, comforting food. She draws on the techniques and experiences of all of her past lives, but most important, she takes inspiration from the simple but exquisite pleasure of food made for her by strangers abroad, where she spent time as a poor, lonely, and starving adolescent.

It is with not only comfort, but the careful layering of Hamilton's identity, in mind that I chose this recipe for an egg and cheese sandwich. In it, you'll find many flavors I think (and hope) would resonate with Hamilton: strong mustard, sharp cheese, roasted tomatoes, a runny egg, vinegary-sweet onions, and good, crusty bread. And instead of serving it alongside a bowl of soup, the tomato jam brings that taste right into the sandwich. If you've ever eaten at Prune, this kind of simple twist on an apparently simple dish might be familiar to you. There is simply nothing more comforting than a well-made sandwich, carefully layered: simple, but elegant.

Egg and Cheese Sandwich with Tomato and Onion Jam
serves 1

Sandwich-making is not only an art of layering, it is an art of impeccable timing. Do yourself a favor, and get all your ingredients out and prepared before you begin.

2 slices good quality ciabatta bread
1 tablespoons Dijon mustard
A small hunk (2 ounces or so) Emmental Swiss cheese
1 tablespoon butter
1 large egg
salt and pepper
1 tablespoons Onion Jam (recipe follows)
1 tablespoons mayonnaise
sriracha sauce
1-2 tablespoons Tomato Jam (recipe follows)
¼ of one red onion, thinly sliced
alfalfa sprouts
sliced pickles (I prefer bread and butter)

Spread the dijon mustard on one slice of your bread, and top with enough cheese to cover the bread in a single layer. Toast both slices of bread in a toaster oven or under your oven's broiler (in which case, be careful it doesn't burn).

Meanwhile, heat butter in a small skillet over medium-low heat and begin frying your egg sunny-side up. Top with salt and a couple grinds of black pepper. If you keep the heat fairly low, the egg will finish just in time for you to assemble the rest of your sandwich.

While the egg is frying, spread about a tablespoon (or less) of mayo on the plain toast side of your sandwich, and top with a drizzle of sriracha. Smear about a tablespoon (or more, to taste) of your tomato jam on top of that, and top with a few slices of onion and alfalfa sprouts. On the cheesy slice of bread, lay down about a tablespoon of onion jam. Place 3 or 4 pickle slices on top of that. When the egg whites are cooked but the yolk is still runny, remove it from the skillet and lay it on top of the cheesy slice of bread. Top with the other half, and eat while still warm, pressing down lightly so that the egg yolk runs into the other ingredients.

Onion Jam
Adapted from Food52
Makes about 1 cup

olive oil
½ tablespoon unsalted butter
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
6 tablespoons red wine
1 tablespoon sherry wine
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Heat the olive oil and butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, maple syrup, sugar, salt, and pepper, and sweat the onions for a few minutes until soft, about 20 minutes. When they have softened and started to lose their color, add in the liquids and cook down, stirring occasionally, for another 20 minutes or so, until thick. At this point you can taste and adjust. There will be a lot of liquid in the skillet, so you may have to cook longer until the liquid cooks down and the onions have reached a jam-like consistency.

Cool to room temperature, then transfer them to a jar or airtight container and refrigerate until you need them. These will keep for a few weeks in the fridge and are great on all sorts of sandwiches!

Tomato Jam
Adapted from The Kitchn
Makes about 1 cup

1 28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes, in juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sherry wine
2 cloves garlic, slivered
dash hot paprika
dash cinnamon
dash cumin
salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 400°F.

Remove the tomatoes from their juice and slice in half, removing their seeds. Crush with your hands and place in a 8x8 glass pan. Cover with about ⅓ cup of the tomato juice, or just enough to lightly cover the tomatoes. Drizzle the olive oil and sherry over the tomatoes, mix in the garlic, spices, and salt and pepper.

Place the pan in the oven for about 1 hour 30 minutes, or until the tomatoes have begun to roast but have not browned. Check the tomatoes at about 1 hour--if they're starting to brown, mix up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon every 10-15 minutes.

Increase the heat to 450°F and roast for an additional 30 minutes, until the tomatoes are very soft and fragrant. Remove from the oven and mash some more, until there are no large chunks of tomatoes remaining. Cool to room temperature, then transfer to a jar or other airtight container. This will keep in the fridge for a few weeks.