have some leftover steak from a dinner out on the town? have some pork chop, chicken or sausage leftover from dinner earlier in the week? not sure what to do with it because it’s not quite enough for a meal on it’s own? make a panini with it! this is something i love to do with leftover bits of meat that i otherwise might not end up eating. today i used a bit of leftover chicken from the lemon chicken i made a few nights ago. i have been taking the leftover pasta and veggies to work for a few days now and ended up with an extra chicken cutlet in the end so it was perfect today for lunch!
if you don’t have leftover meat of course you can use deli meats or pan fry, grill or broil a thin piece of chicken or whatever you like. or you could make it vegetarian with some leftover grilled veggies, zucchini sounds good to me! don’t let those leftovers go to waste either 🙂
use whatever you have in the house. whatever bread you have should work ok, even if it’s a bit stale. i had ciabatta since that is what i served with my lemon chicken a few nights ago. ciabatta doesn’t usually have a lot of height so if i had cut traditional (vertical) slices my panini would have been quite petite, which is fine if you are looking for a snack. but i opted to cut a chunk of the bread off and then slice it vertically. the problem here is that you don’t want the crust sides to be facing the pan because then the nooks and crannies won’t get nice and crispy when you grill it. simple solution: put the crust facing in. this might sound odd but it actually works quite well. if you are working with a loaf of bread that has a significantly domed top, then just cut a bit of that off to flatten it out. simple. the same thing works quite well with baguettes, which tend to be quite narrow.
use whatever condiments you like. i had some spicy ranch dressing on hand so i coated the crust sides (to be the insides) of my bread with a light layer (both pieces) of this dressing. melty cheese on a panini is a MUST in my world. again, use whatever you have. i had a small chunk of manchego in the fridge- another ingredient that might have gotten overlooked since there wasn’t really much of it left. i sliced it very thin and layered it over the ranch dressing with some thin sliced vine tomato. i always put a bit of cheese onto both pieces of bread because once it melts it acts as a “glue” that helps to hold the sandwich together. i then sliced my leftover chicken cutlet on a bias and layered that on top of the tomato. if you don’t cut your meat into slices it will be much harder to eat. if i had had some flat leaf spinach on had i would have added that- it is always so good on grilled sandwiches.
i have a calphalon grill/panini pan that i LOVE. i mean, i use this pan so much that if it happens to “wear out” someday, i will be devastated and have to run out and buy a new one. it is great for paninis, burgers, salmon, sausages, veggies etc, etc…
but you could also use a traditional frying pan and then another smaller pan as the “press” for your sandwich. if you are going to invest in a grill or panini pan, just make sure it is heavy so that heat will be evenly distributed and well-retained when you are cooking. you can use an electric panini press of course, if you have one, i just don’t feel the need for another electrical appliance like that since i have the tools to do the job without it. and with a tiny kitchen with limited storage space (this is a gross underexageration: my second bedroom has become a pantry for my kitchen supplies lol). i have even grilled paninis outdoors before and used a heavy pan or a foil wrapped brick as a press in that case. use what you have!
i preheated my pan on medium high for about 5 minutes and then melted 2 tbsp on unsalted butter directly in the pan. swish the butter around to coat and then put your completed sandwich with one side down into the pan. place the press over the sandwich and give it a press. let it cook until you can smell it and see a tiny bit of smoke, about 4 to 5 minutes. carefully flip the sandwich with a large spatula and repeat on the other side to your desired doneness. don’t cook over too high a heat or the bread will burn before the cheese melts.
let it sit for a couple of minutes, cut in half and enjoy while still warm!
basic panini ingredients:
- some sort of prepared and thinly sliced meat or veggies
- two pieces of bread
- a sauce or condiment (think mayo, salad dressing, mustard etc)
- veggies for toppings
- butter for the pan
- layer panini ingredients: sauce on both pieces of bread, cheese on both pieces, veggies and/or meat in between
- heat pan, press, or grill to medium high
- butter or oil your pan or grill
- grill approx. 4 to 5 minutes on each side, pressing opposite side while cooking
- remove and let rest a couple of minutes
- slice in half and serve
you could even make a breakfast panini! i sometimes have leftover omelette and it is soooooo good as the “meat” in a panini! 😀