Ham & Brie Panini with Strawberry Chutney - Recipe

Sandwiches have been a standard lunch item for years. You can get a sandwich almost anywhere in the world and the variety is unlimited. Sandwiches can be sweet, savory, meaty, cheesy or a combination. Everyone has their favorite, or select favorites for specific occasions. I love a good PB&J at night when I'm feeling peckish and a good, meaty sub with veggies and mayo on a crusty baguette for lunch. It takes me back to my Paris days. Regardless, the best part about sandwiches is that you can make them with anything. If you want, they can be different every single time. 

One thing I love to do is try foods from different cultures and regions. Normally I won't brave them in the kitchen until after I try them at a restaurant. Indian food is not something I have a ton of experience with except for chutneys. I'm not a huge fan of curry and I haven't had the chance to branch into that particular world. I've had chutneys before on various dishes but there was a sandwich I ordered at a restaurant in Dallas with a sun-dried tomato chutney I can't get out of my head. This recipe was inspired by that sandwich. 

It all started with the cheese. Brie is a great base for many flavors because it's mild and creamy. I am personally not a fan of the rind so I slice it off. I purchased a traditional brie round, cut out two wedges, removed the rind and sliced. If you want to make things a little easier on yourself, you can purchase soft brie that is edible. It's fantastic with warm, crusty bread. After choosing the cheese, building the rest of the sandwich was easy. Ham was an obvious choice to pair with the brie and for the chutney, I wanted a fruity touch. Something different and out of the box. Strawberries combine well with the sweet, savory notes of ham and the light, creaminess of brie. Of course, it all rounded out with the jalapeno which added a touch of spice that brought everything together.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 jalapeno, chopped
1 cup strawberries
2-3 springs of thyme, leaves removed
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 garlic clove, minced
4 slices of Sourdough bread
2 slices of Applewood Honey Ham
2 tablespoons butter
4 ounces Brie Cheese

1. Heat one tablespoon of vegetable oil over medium to high heat. Add the jalapeno. Cook for about 5 minutes until softened. Add strawberries, garlic and thyme leaves cooking 5-7 minutes longer. Turn the heat off and let cool.

2. Mix the strawberry mixture with lime juice. Add to a blender or food processor and grind till the chutney is chunky but smooth. If you'd prefer a more coarse consistency, grind by hand. 

3. Preheat a non-stick skillet or a panini press. Spread one tablespoon of butter on one side of each slice of bread. On one unbuttered side, spread about 2 ounces of the Brie. On another slice's unbuttered side, spread a tablespoon or so of the chutney. Add 2 slices of ham to the chutney side and close the sandwich.

4. Place the sandwich on the panini press and let cook 5-7 minutes until the bread is browned and the cheese is melted. If using a skillet, cook like a grilled cheese sandwich. Cook one side for about 4-5 minutes, flip and cook 4-5 minutes longer. Serve.

Yields: 2 sandwiches
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15-20 minutes
Total Time: 25-30 minutes

This sandwich does not take long to make at all, if you prepare the chutney in advance. It also doesn't take much work so it's great for lunch or a quick dinner. If you can't find Brie or you're not a fan, this would also be tasty with Havarti, Gouda or Mozzarella cheese. How do you like to give sandwiches a new twist?