Look to the Salad

by on April 28, 2008

It never would have crossed my mind to pair roast beef with apples if Rachel of Coconut & Lime hadn’t suggested it as part of my new On Your Grill series. Rachel writes:

My dream panino? A variation of a salad I had years ago that
included gorgonzola, thinly sliced tart apples and thin, rare slices of
roast beef.

That sure sounds dreamy, doesn’t it? What a smart idea to look to a great salad for inspiration. In a way, panini are kind of like composed salads – complementary ingredients bound together inside some great bread. So I decided to go ahead and give this great-sounding salad the panini treatment. Want to skip ahead? Click here for the final recipe.

Roast Beef with Gorgonzola & Apple Panini – Attempt #1

  • Bread: French baguette
  • Meat: Roast beef
  • Cheese: Gorgonzola
  • Condiments: Mayonnaise
  • “Goodies”: Granny Smith apples

THE PREPARATION: I started out with the apples. When Rachel said “tart”, I immediately thought Granny Smith. I cored and sliced one up into thin, flat slices and squeezed lemon juice over them to keep them from browning. So far so good.

This sandwich seemed like it was going to be pretty straightforward, except for the gorgonzola. Its flavor is just so pronounced that I knew I was going to face some challenges in balancing it. I’m not the hugest gorgonzola fan, but I do enjoy it in moderation. Since this sandwich was going to be on an open-sided baguette, I thought a sliced format would be the best way to go (in my buffalo chicken panini recipe I used crumbled blue cheese, but that one was in a pita so the crumbles were somewhat contained). I should once and for all invest in a good cheese slicer, because trying to break off a thin slice of gorgonzola with a regular knife proved to be a rather sticky endeavor! Nonetheless, I got my slices.

THE CONSTRUCTION: I cut off a 5-inch section of my French baguette and sliced it again lengthwise. Then I spread a little mayo inside the bottom half of the bread to give the sandwich a little moisture, but without adding any real competing flavor. Next went on the roast beef – two slices from my grocery store’s deli counter. Rachel’s description of “thin, rare slices” made me long for some beautiful carpaccio, but such is not found at my local Vons. I covered the roast beef with four slices of apple and then the gorgonzola and top half of the baguette.

I put the sandwich on the grill at 375 degrees and set the timer for 5 minutes, thinking I’d likely need a longer-than-usual cook time due to the thickness of the baguette. An additional 30 seconds after the timer and it was done.

THE RESULTS: Looks pretty, but holy gorgonzola! Looking at the photo now, it definitely appeared that there would be no escaping the gorgonzola flavor. From a volume standpoint, it’s the same amount of cheese I would normally use on panini, but gorgonzola is kind of like ultra-concentrated laundry detergent – a little goes a long way! In a salad, it’s much easier to moderate it. I could barely taste the apples and they should have been prominent as well. Now, it still was a good sandwich – I kept taking more bites “just to check” – but my instinct told me to give it another try with a milder blue cheese.

Roast Beef with Blue Cheese & Apple Panini – Attempt #2

Fortunately, I planned ahead on the chance the gorgonzola didn’t work out. I bought a Rosenborg Danish blue cheese which my local cheesemonger (aka, the nearest person I could find in the cheese section at Vons) assured me would be milder in flavor. It came pre-sliced, which was a plus! The slices were thinner than my gorgonzola ones, so for that reason alone I knew the pungency would be dialed down a bit.

Onto the grill went a second sandwich, this time with the Danish blue.

THE RESULTS:

The dream panino comes to life! I much, much preferred this version. The creamy, tangy (and somewhat milder) blue cheese was a fantastic complement to the sweet tartness of the apples. The roast beef, which had been seasoned with garlic and other spices, provided a wonderful savory component. You kind of have to open your mouth big to get through the crispy baguette but it’s worth it to get all of these great flavors in one bite. Roast beef has met its panini match – thanks, Rachel, for a fantastic idea!

> Get the final recipe!

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Grace April 29, 2008 at 4:40 pm

three cheers for the cheesemonger! (random thought: monger is a fun word. it should be used more often. breadmonger. candymonger. cellular-service monger.) 🙂

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