- The Washington Times - Monday, January 26, 2004

Sandwiches made with freshly baked bread can be a star attraction at lunch. A friend and I met recently at a small downtown restaurant in New York City, an adjunct of a well-known bakery. My lunch partner ordered a tuna panini; 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.

I now have the perfect occasion to serve these delectable blue cheese inventions — when out-of-town guests arrive just in time for lunch.

I have prepared several variations of the New York sandwiches. I searched in vain for walnut peasant bread in local bread shops, but found none in the small town where I live. Surprisingly, a crusty sourdough loaf made an admirable substitute.

As for the cheese, a creamy blue worked best. Both Gorgonzola and Gorgonzola dolce, an Italian blue cheese with a slightly sweet finish, were winners, but French blues such as Fourme d’Ambert and Bleu d’Auvergne could also be featured, as could American Maytag blue. A sprinkling of chopped pecans over the cheese added the crunch of nuts missing in the bread, while crisp, tart 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 dressing.

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

Sandwiches with Gorgonzola, apples and pecans

½ Granny Smith apple, cored but unpeeled, very thinly sliced

8 crusty sourdough bread slices (3/8- to ½-inch thick) cut from a 1-pound loaf

½ teaspoon lemon juice

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 ¼ of the 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 the sandwiches; serve while warm. Makes 4 servings.

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