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Prosciutto, Ricotta, and Red-Onion Marmalade Sandwiches

I dream about sandwiches. The kind that shout, “look at all my oozing cheese! Can’t you tell how scrumptious I am?” And I always say back, “Well, yes, hot, melting cheese gushing out of anything would make it seem scrumptious. What else do you have?” The dreamy sandwich then replies, “you see this flaky, fresh bread around me, don’t you? And these layers of fancy, schmancy meats? Hmm?”  (Yes, these sandwiches of my dreams are sassy.)

It’s rare that I can whip up a sandwich with enough potency to sate my yearnings. Seriously, who keeps on hand Brie and fontina, prosciutto and mordadella, and exotic condiments? Not me. And if any of those are in my fridge, chances are that they are destined for a fancier concoction than my lunch.

  

When I found this recipe on Epicurious last week, I was tempted to let my regular sandwich shops know that I’d be seeing them much less. (But I didn’t because I love them all in a fairly pathetic, middle-school-crush kind of way.) All the ingredients are super basic and were already in my house, except the prosciutto, but how could I begrudge that salty ham a trip to the store?

   

The recipe makes four open-faced sandwiches. Not one to skimp on bread, I kept the ingredient amounts the same, but made two regular sandwiches packed full of yumminess. I threw the prosciutto in the oven while the bread toasted, so it would be a little crispy. Instead of using it as garnish, I chopped fresh rosemary and mixed it into the ricotta, along with a clove of garlic for some extra flavor.

In a hopeful attempt at pretending that New Orleans has regular weather and that it wasn’t in the upper 80’s outside, I packed the sandwiches and walked to Audubon Park. My imagination can only go so far – sassy, make-believe sandwiches included. The park was hot, and the walk there was even hotter. But the sandwich was perfect. The spicy red onion mixture was an ideal complement for the sweetness of the ricotta and saltiness of the prosciutto.

  

Prosciutto, Ricotta, and Red-Onion Marmalade Sandwiches
Adapted from Epicurious

The star of this recipe is the red-onion marmalade. While I have to argue that this is not a marmalade, the red onion, brown sugar, and balsamic vinegar concoction does take on a lovely, thick quality that is strangely jam-like and spreadable.

Serves 2.
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon golden brown sugar
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
Pinch of dried crushed red pepper
4 slices crusty bread (I used sourdough, and it was great!)
8 thin slices prosciutto
1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
1 garlic clove
2 fresh rosemary sprigs, finely chopped (yield about 1 tablespoon)

Preheat oven to 425°. Arrange bread on baking sheet and brush with 2 tablespoons olive oil; sprinkle with salt. On another pan, lay prosciutto slices out flat. Bake bread until crusty, and prosciutto until crispy; both take about 6-8 minutes.

While those are cooking, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and sugar. Cook until onions are dark brown and tender, stirring, frequently, for about 14 minutes. Stir in vinegar and crushed red pepper and cook until mixture thickens, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, stir together ricotta, garlic, and rosemary. Evenly spoon the mixture onto each slice of bread. Add four slices of prosciutto to two ricotta-covered bread slices. Top with as much of the red onion mixture as you want and finish with the other two slices of bread.

Picnic tip: All sandwiches stay together better when there’s melted cheese acting as a glue. For this recipe, wrap the finished sandwich in aluminum foil and stick in on a hot panini press or griddle pan. The cheese will warm, but the foil will keep it from becoming an oozing mess. Just toss the wrapped sandwich in your bag, and you’re ready to go.

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