Apple and Mustard Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Note: This approach with two heavy skillets (cast iron is particularly good) is to create a panini-press effect. A firm-tart apple, such as the Granny Smith, works best with the mustard and cheese. A mandoline — a hand-held slicer — will cut the apples thin enough so they soften while the sandwich is grilled. From “The Apple Lover’s Cookbook,” by Amy Traverso.
• 1 1/2 tbsp. salted butter, at room temperature
• 4 slices sourdough bread
• 2 tsp. whole-grain mustard
• About 1/3 of a large firm-tart apple (about 3 oz.), unpeeled, cored and sliced very thin (see Note)
• 4 oz. sharp Cheddar, aged Gouda, Gruyère or havarti cheese, thinly sliced
• Quick Bread-and-Butter Apple Pickles (see recipe), if desired
Set 2 heavy skillets (a 10- to 12-inch, and an 8- to 10-inch) over medium heat and let them get very hot. If using a panini press, set to 350 degrees.
Meanwhile, butter 1 side of each bread slice, then lay the slices buttered-side down on a cutting board. Spread equal portions of mustard on 2 of the bread slices, then divide up the apple slices into 2 portions and lay on top of the mustard.
Divide up the cheese slices and lay over the apples. Top the sandwiches with the remaining bread slices, buttered-side up.
Lay the sandwiches in the largest skillet. Cook until the bottom is browned, 3 to 4 minutes, then flip. Set the preheated medium-size skillet on top of the sandwiches so it functions as a press. If your skillet isn’t very heavy, weigh it down with a water-filled kettle, a few large cans of tomatoes, etc. Cook until both sides are evenly browned, about 2 minutes more. If using a panini press, lay the sandwiches in the press and bring down the cover. Cook the sandwiches until crisp and bubbling, 4 to 6 minutes. Serve with Quick Bread-and Butter Apple Pickles.
Quick Bread-and-Butter Apple Pickles
Makes about 4 cups.
Note: A mandoline is a handheld slicer. Firm-sweet apples include the Braeburn, Honeycrisp, Jazz and SweeTango. From “The Apple Lover’s Cookbook,” by Amy Traverso.
• 1 large seedless (English) cucumber, unpeeled
• 1 tbsp. kosher salt
• 2 large firm-sweet apples (about 1 lb. total), unpeeled and quartered lengthwise (see Note)
• 2 medium shallots
• 1 c. rice vinegar
• 1/2 c. water
• 1/2 c. honey
• 1 tbsp. sugar
• 1 cinnamon stick
• 1 sprig fresh tarragon, cut into 4 pieces
Cut off the ends of the cucumber and discard. Slice the cucumber with a mandoline as thinly as possible. Put in a colander and toss with the salt. Let sit for at least 20 minutes.
For each apple quarter, trim the seeds and core, then thinly slice on the mandoline. Slice the shallots on the mandoline as well, then put them in a medium bowl with the apples.
In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, water, honey and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Add the cinnamon stick and tarragon and pour the mixture over the apples and shallots.
Rinse the cucumbers well and lightly blot dry with paper towels while still in the colander. Add the cucumber slices to the bowl with the apples and stir well. Let sit for at least 30 minutes before serving. Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.