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Grilled Cheese Ace, Eric Greenspan, Shares his Recipe for Johnny Apple Cheese, aka Johnny Pastrami

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Photo by Lesley Balla

Eric Greenspan was serving his short rib-and-taleggio grilled cheese at The Foundry on Melrose before he won an award at The Grilled Cheese Invitational, but once that trophy was his, the cheesiness just took off. Three years later, not only does he keep coming up with big and bold grilled cheese combos for his Melrose restaurant, he has a whole grilled cheese restaurant in the works.

To come up with the sandwich that started it all, Greenspan simply looked at his cheese cart. He uses raisin bread, which you usually find on a cheese plate, the ripe Italian cheese taleggio, a fruity condiment--in this case, an apricot-caper chutney--and adds some arugula and oven-dried tomatoes.

"If you're intimidated by a cheese plate, with our grilled cheese sandwich, now you're eating off of one," says the chef. "And for those who might look down on a grilled cheese, we hit them with a wee bit of zazzle and it gets them to open up. Dining should be fun, and we try to make it that way here."

That short rib grilled cheese won first place at The Grilled Cheese Invitational in 2008, and a People's Choice Award in 2010. It's even been featured on the Food Network's Best Thing I Ever Ate. Greenspan's grilled cheese sandwiches aren't for the faint of heart.

The chef is still conjuring up ideas for this year's Invitational, which takes place on Saturday (Apr. 23), but this week, but he's serving up one new sandwich at The Foundry all week: The Johnny Apple Cheese, aka The Johnny Pastrami.

The sandwich is a gooey mess of Tillamook cheddar and pastrami with just a hint of sweetness from apple chutney and fresh apple slices. If he did make this for the GCI, it could definitely be a contender. But should you miss it at the restaurant or the cheesy competition this weekend, Greenspan shares the recipe with us so you can make it at home:

Johnny Apple Cheese aka Johnny Pastrami
Makes 4 sandwiches

½ pound butter
½ cup mustard seeds
5 granny smith apples, cored and sliced thin
1 medium onion, sliced thin
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons honey
½ cup apple cider
½ cup cider vinegar
8 slices of extra sour sourdough bread
16 slices aged sharp Tillamook Cheddar
1 pound pastrami, sliced thin

1. For for the apple mustard chutney: In a pan over medium heat, heat two tablespoons of butter until it foams. Add the mustard seeds and toast in the pan for 1 minute, and then add most of the apples (reserve 8 slices) and onions and cook until tender. Add honey, cider, vinegar and Dijon mustard, and reduce until the liquid is absorbed. Take off heat and puree in a blender until mostly smooth.

2. In a large pan (cast iron is best) or griddle, melt half of the remaining butter and 4 slices of bread. Top each slice of bread with 2 slices of cheddar cheese and toast until golden brown. When the cheese is melted, add ¼ of the pastrami to each slice, a dollop of chutney, and two thin slices of raw green apple. Cover with remaining bread. Add remaining butter, flip sandwich and grill until other side is equally golden brown. Cut each sandwich in half and serve hot, preferably with a frilly toothpick.

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