In the early years of Top Chef, the judges took forever to agree on which contestants should stay and which should go, and conversations often dragged into the wee hours. These days, the judges generally decide more quickly, but during season 7, one particularly long, lively debate required substantial refueling, and Padma Lakshmi introduced Gail Simmons to a favorite late-night snack: melted sharp cheese and spicy chiles on toast. Simmons had to know more! Lakshmi explained that she often ate this popular open-face sandwich as a child in India. A recent taste of the cheese toast at a buzzy Indian restaurant in London inspired Simmons to create her own version. Her grilled cheese crossed with chile-cheese gets a flavor boost from mango chutney spiced with fresh ginger, which lends both floral and peppery notes.
Slideshow:More Grilled Cheese Recipes
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 small onion, minced
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
2 ripe mangoes, chopped
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
1 jalapeño, minced
2 tablespoons minced cilantro
Eight 1/2-inch-thick slices of sourdough boule
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
How to Make It
In a medium saucepan, toast the seeds over moderate heat for 2 minutes. Coarsely crush.
In the same saucepan, heat the oil. Add the onion, season with salt and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 minutes. Add the vinegar, sugar and 1 tablespoon of the ginger and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vinegar is slightly reduced, 2 minutes. Add the mangoes, crushed seeds and crushed red pepper and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until the mixture resembles jam, 5 minutes. Scrape the chutney into a small bowl and let cool. Season with salt.
Heat a griddle over moderately low heat. In a large bowl, toss both cheeses with the jalapeño, cilantro and remaining 2 teaspoons of ginger. Season with salt and black pepper.
Brush 1 side of each bread slice with butter. Arrange 4 slices buttered side down on the griddle. Top each with one-fourth of the cheese mixture and 3 tablespoons of the chutney. Close the sandwiches and cook until golden, 3 minutes per side. Let rest for 2 minutes, then cut in half and serve.
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