A man wants to know he has the right tool for the job. To drive a nail, you need a hammer. To do anything else, you need duct tape.
That about covers it. Good night.
Surprisingly, though, in the kitchen you run into the occasional situation where a hammer and duct tape are not enough. I am not making this up. The wife says it has something to do with keeping the food edible and I should not try to tell her duct tape is high in fiber though it no doubt is.
We have many kitchen tools, though we’re not big on gadgets. We tend to subscribe to AltonBrown’s “Death to Uni-taskers” idea: kitchen items that only do one thing – and therefore are used once or so a year – are seldom worth the money when other tools, properly used, will do that same thing and many others as well. So, you might think that we would never buy a Panini maker.
But, you would be wrong.
A couple years ago, we bought a Breville Panini Maker when it was on sale at Williams Sonoma. This gadget is named like a uni-tasker, but it is much more. We bought it because it not only makes great sandwiches, it functions as an indoor grill. We grill chicken, steaks, even salmon on this thing and they are all done to near perfection in around six minutes. It is especially handy if you are just throwing grilled meat into something else like a pasta dish. Your ingredient is done in six minutes and there is no running in and out of the house just for an ingredient.
That is not to knock Panini, even if the name sounds like a schoolyard taunt. A Panini is a sandwich that got dressed up to go to the prom. That fancied up sandwich pairs nicely with other simple things such as salads or soups.
Cheese is key to making the whole thing work, but after that it’s up to you. A Panini is as much a concept to play with as it is a specific recipe. Here is one that I came up with recently. It keeps the meat simple and uses chopped up vegetables to add flavor and texture.
1 slice prosciutto per sandwich
½ pound mushrooms, sliced in two
2 medium zucchini, chopped into half inch rounds
½ large onion, sliced roughly
dash of balsamic vinegar
1 slice (or so if your bread is big) provolone cheese per sandwich
Sun-dried tomato mayo (recipe follows)
Put a few tablespoons of marinated sun-dried tomatoes, a clove of garlic and just enough olive oil (could come from the oil in the tomatoes) to make sure they will whir up in a food processor. Whir them up to be as smooth as possible. Combine that with a half cup mayonnaise.
Grill your veggies. You can put them on the Breville or toss them in a shaker basket and put them on the regular grill. When they are starting to char, remove them and let them cool a bit. Then, put them into a food processor and give them a healthy chop with a splash of balsamic vinegar in the mix. Be sure not to puree them or your sandwich will be a mess. You should leave them with plenty of texture.
Take two slices of whole wheat or multi-grain bread per sandwich. Paint one side of each slice with olive oil. On the other sides, paint them with the sun-dried tomato mayo.
Put a slice of prosciutto on the mayo side of a bread slice. Spread a layer of grilled veggies on top. Place a slice of cheese over all that and cap it with the other mayo side of another bread slice. Place that on your pre-heated Panini grill and close the lid. It should take 3 to 5 minutes to get good grill marks and properly oozing cheese. If you start hearing lots of sizzle, your cheese is probably melting too much and oozing onto the grill.
The cheese should help glue all the veggies together as it melts. And if things start falling apart, you have my permission to use a little duct tape. LEGAL DISCLAIMER: That’s a joke, son!