Blue cheese and apple pair nicely on crusty bread

Entertaining

Sandwich recipe puts gourmet twist on old-fashioned grilled cheese

Sunday Gourmet

January 11, 2004|By Betty Rosbottom | Betty Rosbottom,Tribune Media Services

On a recent visit to New York City, I met a good friend for lunch in a small downtown restaurant. The place we chose was an adjunct of a well-known bakery and as a result, sandwiches made with freshly baked bread were the star attraction. My lunch partner ordered a tuna panini while I opted for blue cheese and apple served on toasted walnut bread. Although both sandwiches were tempting, the latter was far more interesting, so I took notes determined to try it at home.

This week I have the perfect occasion to serve these delectable blue cheese inventions. Out-of-town friends, scheduled for a weekend visit, are planning to arrive around noon on Saturday -- just in time for lunch.

I searched in vain for walnut peasant bread, but found none in the small town where I live. A crusty sourdough loaf made an admirable substitute. As for the cheese, a creamy blue from Italy or France worked best. American Maytag Blue could also be featured. A sprinkling of chopped pecans over the cheese added the crunch of nuts missing in the bread, while slices of Granny Smith completed the filling.

Along with the sandwiches, I plan to add a touch of color to the plates by garnishing each with a salad of arugula or baby spinach tossed in a red wine vinaigrette.

For dessert, a platter of chocolate chip cookies or brownies sounds like a good finish.

Sandwiches With Gorgonzola, Apples and Pecans

Makes 4 servings

1/2 Granny Smith apple, cored but unpeeled, very thinly sliced

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

8 crusty sourdough bread slices ( A- to 1/2 -inch thick) cut from a 1-pound loaf

8 ounces creamy blue cheese such as gorgonzola, gorgonzola dolce, Fourme d'Ambert or Bleu d'Auvergne, thickly sliced

4 tablespoons chopped pecans

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Toss apple slices with lemon juice in a nonreactive bowl.

For each sandwich, place about one-fourth (2 ounces) of cheese on one slice of bread. Sprinkle a tablespoon of chopped pecans over cheese and press down with your fingers. Add 3 to 4 apple slices, then cover with another bread slice. Brush both sides of the sandwich with a tablespoon of melted butter.

Repeat to make 3 more sandwiches. Place enough sandwiches to fit comfortably in a preheated stove-top grill pan and press down on the top of each sandwich with a metal spatula. Cook until browned on one side. Turn, and continue cooking other side, pressing down with spatula often, until browned and grill marks appear.

Remove and cover sandwiches loosely with foil; repeat until all sandwiches have been grilled. (If you don't have a grill pan, you can use a large, heavy skillet. Coat the bottom of the pan with a thin film of vegetable oil and heat until hot. Place sandwiches, which have been brushed with butter, in a single layer in skillet and cook as in a grill pan.) Halve sandwiches and serve while warm.

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