Generally speaking I am not a fan of “one hit wonder” appliances. You know the ones that take up space on your counter or worse yet get relegated to the back of some shelf in your basement. Now, in no way, shape or form am I referring to my beloved Cuisinart–jack-of-all trades or even the ole reliable Kitchen Aid, whose skills may be varied although I only call on it to mix–that value alone rendering it invaluable. I am talking about the bread machines, pasta rollers (apologies to all you homemade pasta fanatics, I have yet to be wooed away from the boxed stuff), ice cone makers and such.
But there are two one hit wonders that are on my “Wouldn’t Want to Live Without” list. The first being a rice cooker, which until my recent dumpling adventure had only been used to…make rice, and the other being my panini press.
I deliberated over the need for a panini maker even after some of my most trusted advisers told me it was a must have (yes, I’m talking about you, Mom). In fact, I held off for almost two years and it wasn’t until last Christmas when I had some returns to make at Crate and Barrel that I decided to take the plunge. I mean with the returns it was basically free, right?
Anyway, fast forward to today and not a weekend goes by where the panini press is not put into action. Even after the initial glow of “banana & nutella panini for breakfast,” “ham & cheese panini for lunch” and “leftover steak, tallegio and arugula panini for dinner,” that workhorse is still getting plenty of play.
Sure, my beloved cheese plays a crucial role but there’s more to it than that. The panini maker accelerates the cooking process and encourages all of the ingredients to meld in a way that would normally take time. And let’s talk about those ingredients. The options are limitless because with the weight of the press toasting the slices of bread, a cohesive sandwich is almost certain to result.
Factor one, tastiness; factor two, ease; I think you know where this is heading. Panini make perfect food for a crowd. Of course we’re talking casual but it could be an early supper with kids, an evening playing games around the fire or movie night. Paired with a soup, a salad or better yet, both, and you’ve got a meal.
There are two ways to go in this Panini Party scenario: Make Your Own or Chef’s Choice. With the former, you’ll need to put out a wide variety of ingredients: three cheeses; two meats; a bunch of vegetables; a fruit or two; some mustards, spreads and chutneys; and maybe two different breads. For the latter you’ll need to settle on two different sandwiches, to make your life manageable yet still offering your guests some choice. Deciding on which two sandwiches to serve will likely prove to be your toughest task. Here’s a panini recipe that I developed with some experimentation. I hope you give it a go but keep in mind that with a panini press you can’t go wrong, so feel free to do some experimentation of your own.
PS: If anyone has a favorite panini combo that they’d like to share in the “Comments” section, please do!
- 6 slices of Hebrew National kosher salami, slices cut 1/4" thick
- 1 Tbls whole grain Dijon mustard
- 2 slices of Swiss cheese, ideally at room temperature
- 1/2 cup of sauerkraut, drained
- 2 slices seeded rye bread
- pickle slices for serving, I used bread & butter slices but use your favorite
- Preheat your panini press.
- Place the salami slices on the press and close to sear, approximately 2-3 minutes. Set aside and blot extra oil with a paper towel.
- Meanwhile, spread mustard on one slice of bread.
- Top both pieces of bread with a slice of folded Swiss. Follow by topping one side with the sauerkraut and then the salami slices.
- Close the sandwich and place on the panini press.
- Grill until golden brown and the cheese has melted, about 4 minutes.
- Serve immediately, with pickles, for the complete deli experience.