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Author Notes: Pickled Granny Smith apples, crispy bacon, and sharp white cheddar griddled between two slices of sourdough bread. —Riley Wofford
- 3/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 star anise pod
- 1 Granny Smith apple, cored and thinly sliced
- 12 slices thick-cut bacon
- 8 (1/2-inch thick) slices sourdough bread
- 1 1/2 cups shredded white cheddar cheese
- Combine the vinegar, water, sugar, salt, and star anise in a small saucepan over high heat, stirring until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Bring to a boil. Place the apples in a small bowl. Once the liquid comes to a boil, pour over the apples. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour. Drain the apple slices and pat dry with paper towels.
- Meanwhile, place a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook for about 6 minutes, until golden and crispy on both sides. Drain on paper towels.
- Preheat a panini press. Place 4 bread slices on a clean work surface. Divide the cheddar cheese, bacon, and pickled apples between the bread slices and top the sandwiches with the remaining bread slices. Grill the sandwiches for 4 to 5 minutes, until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is melted. Transfer the sandwiches to a cutting board. Cut each sandwich in half and serve.