Cheddar, Ham & Apple Panini

 

I love butternut squash soup, but my husband is not a fan—he considers it to be too sweet.  However, when I make this sandwich, he is more than willing to consume it.  I like to use a rustic wheat bread, either made at home or purchased from a bakery, because it has a little more heft and bite than the usual supermarket, pre-packaged sliced loaves.  In order to give the bread a nice crunchy exterior during the cooking process, it’s necessary to coat the surface with a fat.  The traditional fat used when making panini or grilled cheese sandwiches is softened butter or margarine, but many, most notably Martha Stewart, use mayonnaise.  I’ve tried all of the above and have found that each has its merits.  Mayonnaise provides a delightfully crunchy crust, while butter and margarine provide more flavor.  In this recipe, I prefer to use butter due to the flavor component.  Finally, while I like the saltiness and smokiness of ham in this sandwich, it’s equally delicious with turkey—and in lieu of honey, you could combine canned jellied cranberry sauce with the Dijon mustard for a sandwich spread.  Yum!  If you’d like to serve this with my favorite butternut squash soup, you can find the recipe on the CincyShopper Blog: Copycat Panera Bread Autumn Squash Soup.  It’s so good!

 

3 Tbsp Dijon mustard

2-3 Tbsp honey, to taste

8 slices of rustic wheat bread

4 Tbsp softened butter, margarine, or mayonnaise (see note)

16 slices of thinly sliced sharp white cheddar cheese

8 slices of thinly sliced smoked ham, preferably Virginia ham

1 apple, quartered, cored, and thinly sliced

 

1. To make the sandwich spread, mix the Dijon mustard and honey together in a small bowl.  I recommend starting with only 2 Tbsp honey, then taste the mixture and add more depending on how sweet you’d like the spread to be.

2. Place 4 slices of bread on a cutting board.  Spread each slice with 1/2 Tbsp of your fat of choice.  Flip the slices over and spread each slice with roughly 3/4 Tbsp of the mustard & honey mixture.

3. To build the sandwiches, place two slices of cheddar cheese onto each slice of bread, overlapping if necessary.  Next, place 2 slices of ham per sandwich on top of the cheese, followed by a layer of thinly sliced apples.  Finally, place two more slices of cheddar over the apples, overlapping if necessary.

4. Spread one side of the remaining 4 slices of bread with the mustard and honey mixture, about 3/4 Tbsp per slice.  Place the slices of bread spread-side down on top of the assembled sandwiches.  Then, spread the remaining fat onto the top sides of the bread.

5.  Place the sandwiches in a panini press and cook them on medium-high heat until they are golden brown and the cheese has melted, about 3 minutes.  Conversely, cook them on a griddle or in a skillet as you would a grilled cheese sandwich.  Once cooked, slice the sandwiches in half and serve immediately.

Makes 4 sandwiches (in case you hadn’t already figured that one out)

 

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