How to make your own pic­ture-perfect panini

Cecil Whig - - JUMPSTART -

Pani­nis are those de­li­cious squished sand­wiches you’ve prob­a­bly or­dered from your fa­vorite up­scale diner, but maybe never con­sid­ered mak­ing at home. I know that was me for the longest time. Not any more. My fa­vorite com­bos are, nat­u­rally, ham and swiss or tur­key and ched­dar. I also love us­ing left­over grilled veg­gies. Here are some of my fa­vorite tips!

First and fore­most, it’s about the bread. Buy the soft­est baguette you can find. Even the frozen par baked baguettes are awe­some (you just bake them first be­fore us­ing).

Next, it’s about how you grill up your panini. I’ve made them in panini mak­ers, waf­fle irons, on the out­side grill and in a sauté pan. Un­sur­pris­ingly, the panini maker works best, but the waf­fle iron is sur­pris­ingly good (just don’t push the lid down, oth­er­wise it can pierce the bread).

Now it’s time to con­sider what amaz­ing stuff­ings you want to make. I per­son­ally LOVE home­made may­on­naise and I’d sug­gest mak­ing up a batch (see the ba­sic recipe below and all the vari­a­tions) but don’t put the mayo on in­stead use it for dip­ping. Mayo can make things soggy and it can burn when it drips out of the panini.

Now, here’s some­thing I to­tally stand by but I of­ten get push back on — I think no mat­ter how you grill your panini, it needs a lit­tle but­ter or, if you pre­fer, olive oil. This is es­sen­tial.

I usu­ally don’t put but­ter/oil on the bread when I first place the panini in the pan (or panini maker) be­cause I like my panini in­sides super hot and by that time the but­ter can burn. In­stead, I put a smear of but­ter on at the last minute. Since you are prob­a­bly won­der­ing how you do that when a baguette top can be quite round, you sim­ply flip the top of the baguette up­side down so the rounded part is on the in­side and the flat part is on the out­side.

And one thing to con­sider be­fore you get go­ing is to be care­ful about us­ing in­gre­di­ents that get soggy. I hardly ever put to­ma­toes or pi­men­tos (roasted red bell pep­pers mar­i­nated in oil) in my panini un­less I am plan­ning to eat it right then and there. In­stead I serve them the side. I do the same with the greens.

I like my panini pretty ba­sic with sim­ple de­tails and above all, I try not to over stuff them be­cause it’s a sad day when your panini falls apart. Fol­low these tips and en­joy! Home­made May­on­naise

Makes about 1 1/2 cups 1 large very fresh egg 1⁄2 tea­spoon kosher salt 1⁄2 tea­spoon dry mus­tard pow­der 1 pinch sugar 1 pinch cayenne pep­per 1 1⁄4 cups canola or other neu­tral oil 2 ta­ble­spoons white vine­gar 1 to 2 ta­ble­spoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 1⁄2 lemon), or to taste

Place the egg in a stand­ing mixer and whip at medium speed un­til wellmixed. In a medium bowl, com­bine the salt, mus­tard pow­der, sugar and cayenne, and beat into the egg un­til well blended. Turn the blender to its high­est speed and add 1⁄2 cup of the oil in a slow stream, un­til the mix­ture emul­si­fies and thick­ens. As it does so, you can add the oil more quickly.

Add the vine­gar and con­tinue blend­ing. Add the re­main­ing oil and con­tinue blend­ing. Taste care­fully, and ad­just the fla­vor by adding lemon juice or more vine­gar, and beat un­til the mix­ture reaches may­on­naise con­sis­tency. Vari­a­tions: Spicy Mayo: put in a few squeezes of your fa­vorite hostage and ad­just to your lik­ing.

Horseradish: Beat in freshly grated or pre­pared horseradish to taste.

Ai­oli: Add the pulp of half a roasted head of gar­lic (or to taste) to the egg and pro­ceed as above.

Herb Spread: Af­ter mak­ing the ba­sic may­on­naise, beat in finely chopped fresh herbs, such as basil, cilantro, or rosemary.

Cook­ing at Home is a weekly col­umn where Re­becca dishes on what she’s been mak­ing.

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