I will confess that when the panini craze had just begun to sweep the country I was anti-panini. My only experience with them had been from restaurants and they just didn’t work for me. I think it was because the bread soaked up too much oil or something.
But then we tried making them at home using French bread from our local grocery. These were fabulous! The crusty bread gets nice and crunchy but because it is crust in contact with the pan and not the porous sliced edge of the bread it seems to absorb less oil (or at least that’s what I tell myself).
The trick is to squish the sandwiches before they go on the pan (we use cast iron) and then place something heavy on top of them while they cook. All of this is unnecessary of course if you have one of those fancy panini presses but since I’m not allowed to get one (grumble grumble) I make do.
In addition to the wonders of French bread panini we also discovered what is possibly the best variation of this ever. This was actually a meal of desperation one night when we really didn’t feel like shopping and wanted some comfort food.
Onto the sliced French bread I spread some mustard. Then I laid on some nice sliced sharp cheddar (we like Cabot or Cracker Barrel because they are virtually lactose free and therefore acceptable for lactose intolerant people like mom). On top of that I placed some chopped scallions and here is the secret ingredient…chopped jarred jalapeños.
You then squish the sandwich with the palm of your hand, place it on a hot but not too hot skilled, place something heavy on top and wait for the crust to get nice and crunchy and a little brown. Then flip and repeat with that side. It should be hot enough that the crust gets crispy but not so hot that it browns before your cheesy is melty.
My accompaniment of choice for the best panini ever? My own chicken and stars soup which is also obscenely easy. I use either homemade stock or Kitchen Basics (which is also very good and comes in a no salt version) and I heat it up with a little splash of white wine. I then throw in a couple tablespoons of stars and that’s it! I also occasionally throw in an egg and make egg drop soup this way.
Sadly I don’t have a photo for you, they quite literally got devoured before I had time to think of taking one. How bout this instead?:
This is where we are keeping all the canning we did this summer. It was all made by us (with the exception of two jars of jam, can you tell which ones?). Having it all in one place to oggle makes me feel very productive.