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Slightly Fancy Fall Sammich

2012 October 23

Usually, I am kind of anti-sandwich. It’s mostly based on my dislike of gross deli meats — which can be a little slimy and full of preservatives and chemicals and bits of things that are decidedly un-meat-like — as well as my fondness for hot lunches. A hot lunch, even if it’s just a humble soup or reheated leftovers, on a plate with silverware and a napkin somehow becomes a bit luxurious in a largely cold-ham-and-cheese-between-bread-at-my-desk-kind of world.

But I am willing to make exceptions, particularly in the face of fancy condiments, melty cheese or really great ingredients. And this sandwich is definitely one of my exceptions. Its salty-sweet-gooey-crunchy melts the heart of this sandwich hater instantly.

It’s basically a sort of fancy hot ham and cheese sandwich. With apples. That’s it (I have tried to make it work with pears, my fellow pear-lovers, but they just aren’t tart enough to cut it here). But it tastes like fall to me. Magical fall, actually, which is what happens with really great ingredients come together in a simple, pretty much un-fussed-with preparation. There is something about strolling Eastern Market on a crisp Saturday morning to find the crunchiest, tartest apples then ducking inside for prosciutto from Canales‘, a bag of ciabatta rolls from the bakery and sampling a bunch of cheeses at Bowers before admitting I’m just there for a little bit of havarti and heading home to make lunch. I always end up feeling like I’ve accomplished something, even if that’s all I’ve done all day. Slightly fancy sandwiches will do that for you.

Don’t fret if you don’t have some kind of giant, plug-in panini maker; I don’t have one either. You don’t need one (for this sandwich or really any hot sandwich at all). Two cast iron skillets will do. Heck, I think you could pull this off with a cast iron skillet and a brick wrapped in foil if you had to! Heat both skillets, one smaller than the other, and mash the smaller one on top of your sandwich while it’s in the big one. Sure, you’ll need to flip it and you might get the Lodge logo imprinted on your sammich, but that’s a small price to pay for not having to store a big clunky electric appliance in your tiny kitchen.

Fall “Hot Ham and Cheese” Sandwiches

This recipe is easily cut in half for one person — the sandwich can be wrapped in foil and warmed in an office toaster oven for a delicious one-person lunch. For a fast-and-tasty dinner for two, I like to pair with with a hearty minestrone soup. For best results, use the freshest, least fussed-with ingredients you can find.

Makes 2 sandwiches

Ingredients

2 ciabatta rolls

6  slices havarti cheese (about 1/4 pound)

6 slices prosciutto (about 1/4 pound)

1/2 tart apple, such as Granny Smith or Honeycrisp, cored and sliced between 1/8- and 1/16-inch thin on a mandolin or V-slicer

1 Tablespoon butter, divided into 4 pieces, at room temperature

Method

Slice most of the way through the ciabatta rolls so they open like books. Cut the havarti slices in half and line each side of the ciabatta with three half-slices. Place three prosciutto slices on one side of each sandwich. Arrange the apple slices on top of the prosciutto, in an overlapping pattern, like fish scales.

Heat two frying pans (one smaller than the other) over medium-high heat. Melt one piece of butter in the larger pan and spread a second piece of butter on the top of the first sandwich. Place butter-topped sandwich in the larger pan and place the smaller pan on top, gently pressing down, for about 2 minutes (you can munch on leftover apple bits with your free hand while you press).

Remove top pan, flip sandwich and press again for 2 minutes or until bread is crispy and cheese is melted.

Repeat with second sandwich.

Serve warm or wrap in foil and store in ‘fridge for up to two days.

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