White beans and greens melt

Shout out to people who like vegetables!
*sandwich not vegetarian

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Read Time: 8 minutes

Meltuary week two starts now!

For the entire month of January, we will be celebrating what I have named Meltuary: a celebration of all things cheesy and melty.

This second week of Meltuary is going hard in the paint for veggies surrounded by melty cheese. This sandwich is a rich combination of collards, cannellini beans, cheese, and pickled pepper mayonnaise that helps to balance flavors out.

I know what you’re saying, “Beans on a sandwich!? Is this guy, British!?”


I’ve said this before. My wife loves collards. And because of this, I think that means that I love collards?

It wasn’t always this way. I did not like collards as a kid, but I have grown to love her recipe. I wrote about a collard and cornbread sandwich about a year ago and most of those sandwiches and this one are using the same bourbon brown sugar collard recipe. This sandwich is perfect for leftover collards, so if you have a favorite recipe, use that, and then you can make these sandwiches on the second or third day.

Inspiration for this sandwich?

Our white beans and greens melt is a unique sandwich, but the components are inspired by two sandwiches I’ve either tasted or read about.


JT’s Genuine Sandwich Shop
Beans and Greens melt

A few months ago, I wrote about a roast pork and greens sandwich and mentioned JT’s Genuine Sandwich Shop here in Chicago as one of the inspirations. When I was eating that sandwich, my wife ordered their Beans and Greens melt and she shared a couple of bites, and it was very good. That sandwich has caramelized onions, white beans, and grilled rapini—also known as broccoli rabe.

We were discussing that sandwich at the time and my wife (remember she loves collards) suggested recreating the sandwich with a certain other green vegetable.

Official menu description: Grilled rapini, white beans, caramelized onion, provolone cheese, Calabrian chili aioli, grilled Tuscan bread

Turkey and the Wolf
Collard green melt

Turkey and the Wolf is a well-known New Orleans restaurant with a following for its sandwiches. I’ve never tried their collard green melt, but it has some pretty interesting components and we borrowed at least one idea from their concept.

If you like the idea of this particular collard green melt, you can find the recipe all over the internet. Here’s Turkey and the Wolf’s Collard Green Melt recipe from Bon Appetit.

Turkey and the Wolf’s chef/owner also owns Big Kids in Chicago which I wrote about briefly when I made SPAM sandwiches.

Official menu description: slow-cooked collards, Swiss cheese, pickled cherry pepper dressing, coleslaw on rye bread, served hot.

Lets get into making this sandwich. Feel free to use this navigation to jump around and find what you need.

First, we need some bread.

Semolina sourdough loaf

I usually try to split up my bread options from week to week, but since this loaf recipe required quite a bit of testing, I ended up making it many times over the past few weeks and now I’m writing about it again for this white beans and greens melt.

This week I baked several loaves, but I left out the sesame seed coating. I also started trying to score simple designs on the loaves. I’ve never really done much of this before and this design part is a work in progress. We’ll see how far I get before I decide to give up on it.

Just like most sourdough recipes, this isn’t a beginner bread dough. First off, you need a sourdough starter, and secondly, you need a kitchen scale that measures grams. You also need a Dutch oven that is large enough to hold the loaf while it bakes. I have baked this same dough on a pizza stone in my oven with good results, so maybe I will update my recipe to include those instructions as well.

This was one of the first designs I scored. I cut a little too deep on the middle score, so it came out too large and wide.
Bread always needs to cool on a rack.

My semolina sourdough recipe requires an overnight spent in the refrigerator for the dough after it is shaped. Scoring the dough directly after you remove it from the fridge makes the dough firmer and easier to cut into designs.

These small blisters on the baked loaf are a good thing. They come from C02 slowly rising to the surface of the dough. This typically happens during an extended cold fermentation time, which my recipe requires.

The overnight fermentation time in this recipe doesn’t just make it easier to score, it helps to produce blisters on the outside of the baked loaf, and it contributes to a more pronounced sourdough flavor in the final bread.

This loaf makes about 10 slices of 1/2-inch bread. But if you need more, the recipe is easy enough to double.
A loaf in the hand is worth two in the bush because it’s just stupid to put bread in a bush.

I did make this loaf once after I ran out of semolina, and I just substituted the semolina for more bread flour in the exact same gram amount and it worked really well. So, if you don’t want to buy semolina, or you’re out, you can still bake this one.

17 hours and 20 minutes
Semolina sourdough sandwich loaf

Want a great sourdough recipe for a round or oval loaf? This is a good one. Get ready though, my process for making this loaf starts with feeding your sourdough starter two days prior to the finished product. Check the notes under the recipe instructions for any tips and required tools.

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The cheese selections

Two cheese options were selected for this sandwich—Havarti and Butterkäse. Both options are great melting cheese and they both have a pretty mild flavor, similar to something like Monterey Jack or Muenster. If you can, buy the cheeses for your melty sandwiches in block form so that you can grate and shred your own.

Pre-shredded cheese options at your supermarket or grocery store often have additives that help to prevent cheese from clumping. I typically try to buy blocks of cheese and shred them myself, and shredded cheese also melts faster in a sandwich.

In this and most melts, you need a little cheese on the bottom AND the top piece of bread so that it holds all the middle parts together with the bread. Cheese is the glue in any melt.

One of these is Havarti and one is Butterkäse but I can’t remember which one…

Bourbon and brown sugar collards

You can buy collards already cleaned and de-stemmed, or you can buy them in bunches and do the work yourself.

I’ve written about sandwiches with collards before, but my wife is a HUGE collard fan, so we typically will make a big batch of them at least once or twice a year.

Collards seem to show up in grocery stores in late December through the early part of the spring, so now is the time to buy them. According to smarter people than myself, you can also grow them in the spring, but I typically can’t find collards at the grocery store year-round.

Our process of slow-cooking collards takes about 2 hours from trimming the greens to plating, so make sure you have some time to monitor a simmering pot if you’re interested in trying to make your own.

For each of these sandwiches, I would first warm up the collards and beans in a skillet. This accomplishes two important things, first, it makes sure the veggies are warm, and second, it helps reduce some of the residual liquid in the collards. It’s ok if the greens are a bit damp, but you don’t really want to put super soggy items in your cheesy sandwich.

Here’s my wife’s recipe for her collards. The ingredients and instructions are also in the main white beans and greens melt recipe down below.

1 hour and 50 minutes
Bourbon brown sugar collards

Serve these slightly sweet and savory collards alongside a juicy steak with some mashed potatoes for an elevated side dish of greens. You can also sandwich them between sliced cornbread for a tasty sandwich experience.

Get Recipe

Cannellini beans

I learned during the making of this sandwich that cannellini is difficult for me to remember how to spell.

This is apparently Bush’s BEST can of beans.

For the bean selection in this sandwich, I went with white kidney beans, or Cannellini beans, straight from the can (I warmed them first). I could have bought dry beans and soaked them and cooked them and all that jazz, but I felt for what we needed here, canned beans were just fine.

For all these sandwiches, I took a scoop of leftover collards from the refrigerator and added that to a pan over medium heat. Then I added a few cannellini beans to the pan with the collards and cooked them together. This worked well to warm everything up and knock the refrigerator chill off. But it also worked well because hot sandwich innards help to melt the cheese from the inside out, while the bread slices are being cooked from the outside in.

One thing I noticed during the making of these sandwiches is that the beans and the cheese sort of start to meld together in the texture department. Because of this, I found that I could use less cheese and more beans to reduce the richness of this sandwich and make it more balanced. The other thing that helps with the balance is the…

Peppadew pepper mayo

If you buy pickled peppers from the grocery salad or olive bar, make sure to get some extra pepper vinegar/oil into the container to be used in the mayonnaise.

During the process of making this sandwich, I learned that the little pickled red peppers that are typically on salad bars or in the olive/pepper section of your grocery store that I’ve always just called Peppadew peppers are a variety of Juanita peppers. Peppadew is the brand name, but the strain of peppers is Juanita. Here’s a post from America’s Test Kitchen about Peppadew peppers.

These peppers aren’t spicy, but the pepper flavor and zing from the pickling process do shine through in this mayonnaise. I was sort of skeptical at first, but the pepper and vinegar in this mayo come through more powerfully than I originally expected.

I didn’t make a dedicated recipe page for this mayo. I added it to the sandwich recipe below, and I will just list the ingredients/quantities here.

Peppadew mayonnaise

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon liquid from Peppadew peppers
  • 3 to 4 small pickled Peppadew peppers roughly chopped

Add all ingredients to a small food processor or cup for an immersion blender and blend to combine. If you do not have a blender, you can mince the peppers into a very fine dice and stir everything together. Store in the refrigerator for no more than 2 weeks.

Optional: hot sauce

We found that a few shakes of a vinegar based hot sauce worked really well in this sandwich. Something like tabasco will bring a tiny bit of heat and vinegary acid to balance out some of the richness in the cheese. Vinegar is also a best friend to collards, so it works really well as an addition to the melt.

Cool on a rack

Two resting sandwiches.

I’m going to be writing this tip a lot during Meltuary, but if you’re able, try to rest your melt sandwiches on a cooling rack after griddling. You only need a couple of minutes, so the internals will still be warm. Just use this time to make your drink or set the table.

The reason you cool a grilled cheese or melt sandwich on a rack is that the outside of the bread will still be hot and cooking when you remove it from the pan or griddle. It doesn’t stop cooking immediately, so placing it on a flat surface will not give it anyway to cool off properly. This will cause the bread to start becoming moist from steam that has nowhere else to go. If you’ve noticed that your grilled cheese will become soggy on the plate, this is what is happening.

Allowing the sandwich to cool on a rack gives both sides of the bread a bit of time to cool off which will leave you with crispier bread instead of a soggy bottom.

The sandwich recipe and photos

Here are some photos of my white beans and greens melt. The full recipe is also just down below.

The white beans add a bit of texture and add even more creaminess to the sandwich.
Butterkäse might be one of the meltier cheeses I’ve sandwiched with.
This is a messy and rich sandwich.

Here’s the Meltuary week two recipe for white beans and greens melt!

White beans and greens melt view printable page for this recipe

This is a super cheesy and flavorful veggie melt. This particular recipe isn't vegetarian because there's bacon in the collards, but you could leave that if needed.


Ingredients:

Bourbon and brown sugar collards
  • 3 large bundles collard greens, well-washed (or 2 large bags around 16 oz each)
  • 4 slices bacon (chopped)
  • 12 of a yellow onion (sliced)
  • 3 cloves garlic (smashed)
  • 12 cup light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 12 cup bourbon
  • kosher salt and black pepper
Pickled pepper mayonnaise
  • 12 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 to 4 small pickled Peppadew peppers roughly chopped (small pickled red peppers)
  • 1 teaspoon liquid from the pickled peppers
Sandwich assembly
  • 2 slices of sourdough bread
  • 1 to 3 tablespoons pickled pepper mayonnaise (from above)
  • 1/8 to 14 cup collards (from above)
  • 15 to 20 cannellini beans (from a can)
  • 2 to 3 ounces shredded cheese (like Havarti, Butterkäse, Monterey Jack or Muenster
  • vinegary hot sauce (optional)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons butter

Directions:

Bourbon and brown sugar collards: if using collard bunches or bundles, remove stems from greens and discard.

Roll up collard leaves like a cigar and slice them into ribbons around a half-inch wide. 

In a large pot over medium heat, add bacon. Render bacon until crisp about 6 minutes. Then add and cook the onions until they are soft, about another 5 minutes.

Add garlic and cook for 1 or 2 more minutes. 

Add brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, chicken broth, and bourbon to the pot with the bacon, onion, and garlic. Stir everything to combine. 

Season with a good pinch of salt and black pepper. Bring everything to a simmer and stir in the collard greens in batches.

Cover and cook for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally until collards are tender and soft. Near the end, taste for seasoning and add any salt or black pepper that might be needed. 

Make the mayonnaise: add all mayo ingredients to a small food processor or cup for an immersion blender and blend to combine. If you do not have a blender, you can mince the peppers into very very fine dice and stir everything together.

Store pickled pepper mayonnaise in a sealed container in the refrigerator for no more than 2 weeks.

Sandwich assembly: add 3 or 4 spoons of collards and about 15 or 20 cannellini beans into a skillet over medium heat. You aren't trying to cook anything; you just want to warm everything through at this point.

While the collards and beans are warming, spread pickled pepper mayonnaise on one side (the inside) of two slices of bread.

Add half of your shredded cheese to one slice on top of the mayo.

Top the shredded cheese with the warmed-up collards and beans and then top with the rest of the cheese. Add a few shakes of your favorite hot sauce if you want. Sandwich the second slice on top of everything to complete the sandwich.

Spread half of your butter on the top of your sandwich.

Wipe out the skillet that had the collards and beans in it and place it back over medium heat.

Very carefully flip the sandwich over and place it butter-side down into the warmed-up skillet. Spread the other half of your butter on what is now the top of the sandwich.

Cook the first side for 3 to 4 minutes and then flip. 

Cook on the second side for an additional 2 to 3 minutes and continue carefully flipping until the sandwich is brown enough to your liking.

Once the outside of the sandwich is toasty and golden brown, serve and enjoy.

The hot collards and beans help melt the cheese from the inside while the heat from griddling helps melt the cheese from the outside.
Collards are not the prettiest sandwich ingredient, but they pack a big flavor impact.
Remember this sandwich next time you have leftover collards!

Check back next week for Meltuary week three!

Maybe we’ll find out if I can out sandwich the Hut?


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