Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Tribute to Grilled Cheese #2: Cranberry & Pecan Grilled Goat Cheese Sandwich, and a visit to Antonelli's Cheese Shop

by Jaelyn

#2 in Our Tribute to Grilled Cheese!

I had the most inspiring trip yesterday to Antonelli's Cheese Shop in Austin.  Cheesemonger Kara was kind enough to walk me through some of the intricacies of grilled cheese, including which cheeses melt the best, which cheese to avoid, and which cheeses rarely leave the store because they are so good you have to eat them there.  OK, OK, I made that last one up.  But seriously, some of the cheeses I sampled were so good, they made me not ever want to use my mouth for talking again.  My mouth now has better things to do - or rather, better cheeses to eat!  I'll share Kara's tips along with her own Grilled Cheese recipe later this series- so don't forget to come back and check it out!  Sign up for our email list (on the right side of the screen) if you want to be sure and get all the latest info directly in your inbox!

Today's recipe was inspired by one of my favorite salad combinations - greens with dried cranberries, feta/goat cheese, toasted pecans and balsamic vinaigrette.  It's just the right combination of creamy, sweet and tart - the strong flavors of each ingredient complimenting each other perfectly!

With Kara the Cheesemonger's help, I selected two artisan cheeses for use in this sandwich:  a goat's milk feta from Pure Luck Farm and Dairy and a Majorero (a firmer goat's cheese from Spain).  I know not everyone will have access to these specific cheeses, so in the recipe below I have included two types of cheeses that should be widely available.  Flavors vary fairly widely even within individual styles of cheese, so if possible, sample before you buy.  However, you should be pretty safe with the types of cheeses here - no matter what, I'm sure it will be delicious!   Happy cheesing!

Grilled Cheese Tip #2:  Bring your cheese to room temperature before adding to the sandwich.  - I mentioned this within the last recipe, but as I left the cheese shop yesterday, the cheesemongers reminded me again - so now we know for sure not to skip this important step!

Ingredients (per sandwich)
  • Bread:  Good quality Ciabatta OR other chewy bread
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 c. shredded or crumbled Chevre (goat cheese), room temperature (I used Majorero which can be shredded.  If the goat cheese you use is softer/crumblier, it might not melt. But that doesn't mean it won't be yummy!)
  • 1/4 c. whole pecans
  • 1/8 c.  Mild-flavored goat Feta, room temperature (can substitute mild cow's feta.  If your feta is very strongly flavored, just use a little less)
       Balsamic Cranberries (enough for 2 sandwiches)
  • 1/2 c. Dried cranberries
  • 1 c. Balsamic vinegar
  • pinch each of white pepper, fine ground sea salt, and ground sage

1.  Spread pecans on a cookie sheet and bake in a 350F oven until toasted - appr. 5 minutes.  Watch closely, as nuts can scorch quickly.  Remove from oven and set aside.
2.  Prepare the Balsamic Cranberries.  Add the cramberries, balsamic vinegar and seasonings to a small saucepan on med-high.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low, simmer.  Cranberries will soak up some of the liquid while at the same time the vinegar is reducing.  Turn off heat when liquid is reduced by half.
2.  Cut ciabatta loaf into 4-inch sections.  Slice section in half crosswise to form sandwich top and bottom.  Try to slice it so the pieces are equal thickness.  Brush both sides of each slice with olive oil.
3.  Heat skillet over med-high heat.  Place top and bottom slices of bread, face-side down, in skillet.  Cook until toasted golden.
4.  Flip pieces of bread over in the skillet and immediately add the feta to the bottom slice and the goat cheese to the top slice.  Cover with a lid to help melt/warm the cheese.
6.  When cheese is starting to melt, add 2 spoonfuls of cranberries to top of bottom slice (reserve the balsamic liquid), then add a layer of pecans.  Add the top slice of bread, press sandwich down with a spatula, and let layers of cheese melt together for 1-2 minutes.
7.  Remove from skillet, serve with greens.  Drizzle greens and sandwich with reduced balsamic liquid.
Enjoy the crispy, creamy, tart, sweet, chewy goodness!  I love this sandwich!

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