I like to call this a grilled ploughman’s sandwich. I lived in England for a few years, and of the many fond memories I have from that experience, a simple one is the Ploughman’s Lunch – the ubiquitous pub meal which is essentially a cheese board. It’s a presentation that’s refreshingly basic – and delicious, a satisfying and delightfully hearty combination of slabs of sharp cheese (usually aged cheddar), a dollop of spicy-sweet-savory chutney (or pickle), smears of piquant mustard, and wedges of fresh fruit (often apple), heaped on a platter with thick slices of country-style bread. Ready to assemble and devour to your taste.
I used the ploughman’s lunch as inspiration for this grilled cheese sandwich, essentially layering all of the traditional ingredients into a double-fisted melty sandwich, oozing cheese and balanced with fresh greens, crisp fruit, and a homemade apple-chile chutney similar to piccalli, which is the English version of Indian spiced pickles. Happy New Year!
Ploughman’s Grilled Cheese with Apple Chile Chutney
Makes one hefty sandwich
2 slices sourdough or ciabatta bread, cut 1/2-inch thick
Salted butter, softened
2 ounces coarsely grated aged hard cheese, such as sharp Cheddar or Gruyere
Red onion slices
Thinly sliced apple, such as Granny Smith or Fuji
Baby kale leaves or arugula
2 tablespoons Apple Chile Chutney (recipe below)
Butter one side of each bread slice. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add one bread slice to the skillet, butter-side down. Mound the cheese evenly over the bread. Cover the pan and cook until the cheese is mostly melted, 2 to 3 minutes. Place a layer of onion over the cheese, then top with apple slices and kale leaves. Spread 1 to 2 spoonfuls of chutney over the kale, but not entirely to the edges. Place the second bread slice over the chutney, butter side up. Using a spatula, carefully flip the sandwich and gently press down. Cover the skillet and cook until the cheese is thoroughly melted and the bread is golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate and cut in half. Eat immediately.
Apple Chile Chutney
Add a mix of mild and hot chile peppers for flavor and heat. I used a red jalapeño and sweet Hungarian and Gypsy peppers in this batch. Makes about 2 cups.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion chopped
2 to 3 red chile peppers, depending on size and heat, stemmed and seeded, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons grated peeled ginger, with juices
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Combine all of the ingredients in a large saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the chutney thickens, about 20 minutes. Cool completely, then transfer to a jar and refrigerate. The chutney will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.