We built this sandwich on rock and roll.
Downtown Jersey City used to have a little restaurant called Melt whose specialty was grilled cheese sandwiches; it may not surprise you that grilled cheese is one of my favorite things. Unfortunately, it was only around for about a year before it fell victim to urban neighborhood mid-gentrification roulette: which cutesy niche shop will close next, and which will make it? Stay tuned!
One of the worst things about Melt’s demise, other than the fact that it happened before I got the last punch on my Melt card and claimed my free sandwich, was the loss of one of my most beloved brunch locales. For a cutesy niche restaurant, Melt was pretty unpretentious, had amazing thick shakes, and the sandwiches were excellent – fresh bread from Balthazar daily, excellent cheeses, interesting sandwich combos.
If I was in a savory mood, I would usually go for fontina and aged cheddar on whole-grain and some silky-sweet, fresh tasting tomato soup. But if I was in the mood for sweet – which I usually was – I was all about the Ugly American, so named because (1) the combination of ingredients seems somewhat hideous, and (2) the sandwich turns you into an actual ugly American; it was the one dish I was never, ever willing to share, and I share everything.
I bring you the Ugly American: Peanut butter, fig jam, sliced bananas and American cheese on white bread.
Don’t knock it ’til you try it: this is one f’ing good sandwich. The sticky sweetness of the peanut butter and fig jam, the oozy saltiness of the cheese, bananas, excellent bread, pressed in just the right amount of butter to just the right degree of golden-brownitude… heavenly. Without the cheese, it’s just a cloying mess. Without the peanut butter, jam or bananas, it’s just a grilled cheese sandwich. Put them all together, and you better get out of my way because I am going to EAT THAT FRICKING SANDWICH.
Anyway, after almost 2 years of missing this sandwich, a light bulb went off: why don’t I make this sandwich at home? So I did, with only one small change; the market was out of good white pullman loaves or levain bread when I was there (it was late in the day), so I got some challah rolls instead. The challah is actually a little too much for this sandwich, but otherwise, it was every bit as good as I remembered.
And I still wouldn’t share.
Much like actual ugly Americans, this sandwich is scorned by the French.
The Ugly American
Courtesy of defunct eatery Melt
Smear some bread, preferably a hearty white, with peanut butter and fig jam. Add as many slices of American cheese as you like. Top cheese with a layer of sliced bananas. Grill with generous amounts of butter until golden and oozy. Consume immediately. Send me an email telling me how horribly you’ve misjudged this most noble sandwich.