Donna’s Baked Ham and Cheese Sandwiches
Do you have a childhood hero? Not an animated one, but a real life, flesh-and-bone hero? Were you lucky enough to have someone in your life who sought you out when you didn’t fit in, to celebrate the great achievements and just be present for all the moments in between?
I did. Her name is Donna. She is about 10 years older than me. I don’t say that to call her out on her age. I do so because when you are a kid, having someone “older” think you are cool makes you feel cool!
I recently prepared dinner for my mom, brothers, sisters-in-law, and a couple of nephews and nieces. When deciding what to make, I had a big craving for Donna’s Ham and Cheese Sandwiches. I’m sure that means absolutely nothing to you other than a sandwich with ham and cheese. In our family, however, these words are enough to make mouths water. My brothers and I are instantly taken back … way back … to our childhood. Well, technically my childhood and their early teen years.
Mom had undergone a surgery and Donna came to stay with us and to help her. By “help her” I mean make sure my brothers stayed out of trouble and clean up after them. I was perfect. (I love creative license!) I LOVED having Donna around as she defended me from my brothers. One night for dinner she made these baked ham and cheese sandwiches. We could not get enough of them. Yes, there’s ham and cheese involved but it’s the mixture that you brush on the cut sides of the bun that creates something special.
While that mixture was cooling on the stove, the smell of it brought my mom down the hall and into the kitchen saying “mmm, that smells good!” A combination of butter, horseradish, mustard, onion and poppy seeds hits all the right taste buds with the ham and Swiss cheese. You can use a combination of horseradish and mustard or horseradish mustard itself. Even if horseradish is not typically something you like, I would encourage you to try it in this recipe.
Did I mention these sandwiches are served warm and toasty?
Only two sandwiches survived the meal (did I mention I made a triple batch?). Everyone ate plenty, laughed lots and told stories with their own creative license. It was like Donna was right there with us. And she was … because that’s was true comfort food is.
I have always made these sandwiches without changing one single thing. The only reason I now consider changing things is because I can see the potential for variety … not improvement. As I worked with the ham, cheese and mustard, I realized how good these sandwiches would be on a pretzel roll! Or as a panini on sourdough bread! You could heat them on a grill if it’s just too hot to heat up the kitchen with the oven. Maybe stovetop grilled cheese? Throw in a little pineapple? That would ruin it for my oldest brother … which is what perfect little sisters do, right? 😉
These sandwiches transport very well, making a great option for tailgates, picnics, and potlucks. Add a side of coleslaw or a veggie tray and your meal is complete!
Donna's Baked Ham & Cheese Sandwiches
- 1/4 cup butter melted
- 1 tablespoon Horseradish mustard
- 1 tablespoon finely diced onion
- 1 tablespoons poppy seeds
- 1 pound sliced/shaved deli ham
- 8-12 slices Swiss cheese
- 8-12 wheat (or white) buns
- Combine first four ingredients and cook over low heat until onion is tender; remove from heat and cool a bit.
- Spread mixture on inside of cut buns.
- Divide ham and cheese evenly among the bottom halves of the buns, covering with the top half.
- Line a 9"x13" baking pan with aluminum foil and place buns inside. Cover with aluminum foil.
- Bake at 250-300º for 30 minutes.