Serious Cheese: Nothing Says Autumn Like Grilled Cheese and Apples

Serious Cheese

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On Tuesdays, Jamie Forrest of drops by with Serious Cheese. Here, pairing cheese with apples, which are just now hitting the peak of deliciousness.



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You know it's autumn in the Northeast when your lips begin to chap, when organic grapes are reasonably priced, and when crisp, juicy, sweet-tart apples hit farmers' markets. Autumn is also a great season for cheese: aged wheels made with the sweet, grassy milk of summertime are just now coming into their own. Indeed, I've always been a big fan of pairing cheese with apples (and apple cider), and so every September my mind begins to think about new and interesting ways to put them together.

First off, you want to start with a great match. A classic pairing is a soft, sweet blue cheese like Roquefort with a tart, crisp apple like Granny Smith. However, I have also found that Granny Smiths are a bit too mild, and when matched with a strong cheese like Roquefort, they often get drowned out. Not to worry, I have a solution for you: I happen to know, because I am just that geeky, that Stayman Winesap apples go really well with Roquefort. Try it, and let us know what you think in the comments.

Some other good pairings are a sweet-tart aged Cheddar like Montgomery or Cabot Clothbound with a sweet-tart apple variety like Mutsu; or a Loire-valley goat cheese like Valencay with a sweeter apple like Suncrisp Suffice it to say, it's tough to screw up here. Cheese and apples both have a sweet-tart flavor profile, so most apples will go well with most cheeses.

Another key to making a good apple grilled cheese sandwich is slicing the apples really thinly and sautéeing them in a little butter beforehand. You don't want to cook them for too long--you still want to maintain some firmness and a little bit of the crispiness--but you also don't want raw apples in your grilled cheese.

What kind of bread is best? I find that hearty multi-grain, rye, or pumpernickel breads work best for these sandwiches. Lastly, I like to brown one side of the bread first in a little butter, and then rub a halved clove of garlic against the toasted side. Then flip the slices of bread around, and pile on some of the semi-cooked apple slices as well as the cheese. After all this prep, you're finally ready to cook the sandwich till it browns, and enjoy.

What about you? Have you created similar concoctions this time of year? What are your other fall cheese favorites?