SMOKED AND CURED ingredients have historically meant preservation during long, harsh winters, while the hearty bulk of whole-grain bread provides lasting energy to get through the day. Here, smoked Dutch gouda and air-dried prosciutto lend depth to a grilled sandwich that’s kissed by the surprising sweet heat of plum chutney. Held between slices of seeded rye with a caramelized onion crust, the smooth, creamy cheese gets a textural boost from a final sprinkling of crispy onion, a popular and versatile garnish for Scandinavian street food. As the days shorten and the cold sets in, with this smoky-sweet sandwich in my repertoire, I’m ready. Something tells me, though, I’ll be making these well past the thaw. I hope you will, too. [NOTES: For this sandwich, I used the excellent “Spicy Plum Chutney” from The Virginia Chutney Co. It’s well worth the effort of ordering: http://www.virginiachutney.com. As for the onions, look for Lars’ Own, the all-natural, imported crispy onions that I found at Whole Foods. They are deeply golden with a pleasant crunch, are crumbled in nice-sized bits, and have an appropriate onion-y (not just fried) flavor. If you can’t find them in your favorite specialty food store, you can order them directly: http://www.larsown.com. (Lars’ Own is a Dutch company specializing in traditional Scandinavian and Northern European foods.) I suppose you could also test-drive the sandwich with French’s brand fried onions, but to date I haven’t attempted this—in part because I am not a fan of buying products whose ingredients unnecessarily contain the suffix -ose.] —Allison Cay Parker
Select a skillet large enough to hold the two slices of rye side by side in the flat bottom of the pan. Ideally, you will also have a domed lid that fits the pan and will not touch the sandwiches as they cook. Preheat the dry skillet over medium heat.
Spread a thin layer of butter onto one side of each bread slice, then place the slices butter-side down in the skillet. (If you are concerned about a messy pan, you can prepare the bread slices on a cutting board or countertop, then transfer them to the skillet later.)
Layer ingredients in the following way: on one slice of bread, spread the chutney and top with a third of the cheese; on the same slice, lay down the prosciutto and sprinkle on another third of cheese. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on the second bread slice.
Turn heat down to medium-low and place the lid over the skillet. Cook the sandwiches until the cheese appears evenly melted, 3-4 minutes depending on the thickness of your bread.
Remove the lid and sprinkle the crispy onions on the slice with the prosciutto. Flip the second, cheese-only slice of bread on top and press down to seal the sandwich.
Dial the heat back up to medium and grill another half minute or so on each side, pressing down on the sandwich. The bread should be golden brown on each side.
Remove to a cutting board and let rest for 1 minute, then slice in half using a serrated bread knife.
Serve with thick-cut, oven-baked fries or vegetable slaw. Pair with a glass of merlot. Recommended: 2004 Reserve Merlot from Lieb Family Cellars (North Fork, Long Island), with its plum, black cherry, and cedar palate.