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It’s never easy for a rival to hear Alton say, “You will not be The Next Iron Chef,” but for Chef Eric Greenspan last Sunday, his elimination was particularly challenging, given that he disagreed with the panel’s reasoning behind it. He told us in this exclusive exit interview that he has “tons of respect for all the judges on the show,” but ultimately maintains that “my dish was well-balanced and the flavors spoke to what I find delicious based on past experience and my own palette. I know I wasn’t outcooked.”
In this week’s installment of Rival Recipes, we’re giving Chef Greenspan a final chance to redeem himself in another showdown, this time against Chef Alex Guarnaschelli with one of his all-time favorite culinary subjects: the sandwich.
Not surprising since he is the grilled cheese guru, Chef Eric has chosen to bring The Champ, a next-level grilled cheese sandwich, to the battle while Chef Alex is featuring a Croque Madam Sandwich, a French-inspired ham and cheese sandwich. Both between-bread creations boast layers of rich, buttery cheese, but Chef Eric’s is built on dark raisin bread with an apricot-caper spread while Chef Alex’s comes together on thick-cut sourdough and is topped with a fried egg.
Now it’s up to you, Next Iron Chef fans, to choose whose sandwich reigns supreme. Are you craving Chef Greenspan’s sweet and savory beauty with peppery arugula, or would you prefer Chef Guarnaschelli’s meaty bite with smooth béchamel sauce? Vote for the winner below, and be sure to tune in Sunday at 9pm/8c to find out how the rivals put their signature spins on everyday canned foods.
See below for detailed recipes from both chefs.
Serves 4 Sandwiches
15 dried apricots
1 tablespoon nonpareil capers
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
8 slices dark raisin bread
5 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
4 small handfuls arugula
8 ounces Taleggio cheese, rind removed, at room temperature
4 pinches fleur de sel
Place apricots in small saucepan and add water just to cover. Bring to full boil and immediately remove from heat. Mix in capers, mustard and olive oil. Pulse in blender to chunky consistency; set aside.
Spread one side of each bread slice evenly (to the edges) with 1/2 tablespoon butter. With buttered sides down, top four slices with 2 tablespoons of apricot mixture, handful of arugula and equal portions of cheese. Top with remaining slices, buttered side up.
Place large skillet over high heat, and melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Reduce heat to low and add sandwiches. Cook until browned and crisp on both sides, about 2 minutes a side. Transfer to a platter lined with paper towels, and sprinkle each with a pinch of fleur de sel. Cut in half and serve.
Recipe courtesy Eric Greenspan, The Foundry on Melrose
Croque Madame Sandwich
6 ounces unsalted butter, divided
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup whole milk
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
8 slices thick sourdough bread
8 to 12 slices good-quality ham (about 3/4 pound)
12 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated, divided
Make the bechamel sauce: In a small saucepan, melt 1 ounce butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until you smell the flour and butter cooking, 2 to 3 minutes. Do not allow it to brown. Add the milk and bay leaf and cook, stirring from time to time, until the mixture thickens like a soup, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and stir in the Parmesan. Transfer to a bowl to cool.
Arrange 4 slices of the bread on a flat surface. Top each with 2 to 3 slices of ham. Mix together half of the Gruyere cheese and the bechamel sauce. Taste for seasoning. Spread a little of the sauce on top of the ham and top each with another slice of bread.
Heat a large cast iron skillet and, when hot, add half of the remaining butter. Add 2 of the sandwiches and brown on one side, 2 minutes. Turn on the other side and brown 2 more minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet and repeat with the remaining butter and sandwiches. Spread the remaining bechamel on top of the sandwiches and top with the other half of the Gruyere cheese.
Wipe any crumbs from the cast iron skillet and spray with nonstick spray. Crack 4 eggs into the skillet, leaving a little room between each. (Alternatively, fry 2 at a time). While the eggs are frying, place the sandwiches under the broiler and broil until the top becomes golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Season the eggs with salt and top each sandwich with a fried egg. Serve immediately.
Recipe courtesy Alex Guarnaschelli, FoodNetwork.com