WICHCRAFT BY TOM COLICHIO
2/3 cup sugar
2 Bartlett pears, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/8-inch slices
2/3 cup cider vinegar
8 slices sharp Vermont Cheddar cheese
1 piece star anise
8 slices cranberry-pecan bread
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
8 slices smoked ham
2 whole cloves
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch ground peperoncino or red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 cinnamon stick
In a saucepan, combine the sugar, vinegar, 2/3 cup water, star anise, peppercorns, cloves, peperoncino, and cinnamon stick, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
Add the pears, bring back to a simmer, and cook for two to three minutes, until tender. Remove from the heat and cool in the liquid. Unless used right away, transfer the pears and juices to a container. (Keeps in the refrigerator for one to two weeks.)
Preheat a sandwich press according to the manufacturer’s specifications. Place one slice of cheese on each of four slices of bread.
Top with the ham, followed by four to six slices of pear. Season with pepper and top with the remaining cheese.
Spread the mustard on the remaining slices of bread, close the sandwiches, and place in the sandwich press (no need to butter the press or the bread). Close the lid and apply slight pressure. Cook without disturbing for five to eight minutes.
Open the press and check for colour and temperature: the cheese should be melted and the bread golden. If the bread is sticking to the press, allow it to cook for a bit longer and it will unstick itself.
If the press seems to generate more heat on the bottom, flip the sandwich halfway through to ensure even cooking (making sure the ridges in the bread line up). Once cooked, remove, cut into halves, and serve.