I love when it is panini night at our home, the smell of browned butter and toasting bread. That crisp bread crunch and then the soft and silky melted cheese are culinary perfection. From melted Swiss cheese and onions to cheddar and bacon this meal is not only simple but packed full of flavor.

The challenge is to grill the bread correctly and achieve those deep grill marks with out burning, then getting the cheese to melt evenly but still hold its shape. The solution, use good and sturdy artisan bread that has 1/2 inch slices. Choose good cheeses, it is a must, sample as many as you can from your deli then make your selection. Letting your cheese sit out for about 5 to 10 minutes to get the chill off before grilling ensures even melting. Using a panini press that evenly heats the griddle plates is key, you can guarantee a crips texture, golden color and perfectly warm melted cheese filing.

You can find this exact model panini press in my pantry, I love the Cuisinart grill and panini press. The plates heat up quickly and evenly which toasts the bread or what ever you want to press in it. The simple to see green light turns on when your panini is ready, there is no guess work. The griddle plates are nonstick so your clean up time is a breeze, no more burnt on cheese remains. Along the backside there is a drip pan for catching any butter or olive oil run off.

Perfect Side Dishes for A Panini

Roasted tomato soup is the top side dish for any panini. With a creamy and silky texture this soup calls for melted cheddar, jack and cheese sandwich to be dunked then swooped up into your mouth to enjoy all that salty and rich flavors.

Arugula salad with lemon vinaigrette, the peppery flavor from the arugula and the bitter yet salty vinaigrette balance the fattiness of all that cheese. Use the same olive oil to brush over the bread for your the sandwich and in the salad dressing, the flavors marry the ingredients perfectly.

Sweet potato fries with a sprinkling of sea salt are a delicious addition to a warm spice panini grilled cheese sandwich. Think about adding rich Indian flavors such as sliced roasted curry chicken, chutney and gouda cheese.

Tips

If you choose to use a grill pan instead of a panini press, heat the pan on medium-low heat for 10 minutes. Place the buttered grilled cheese sandwich in the pan and reduce heat to low, add a small plate on top of it and a heavy soup can. That weight will press your sandwich perfectly.  Once the bread is golden brown and the cheese is melted remove it, sprinkle some finishing salt and fresh ground black pepper over the top or add some fresh chopped herbs.

Slicing, what is the right way to slice a grilled cheese sandwich? After many tasty tests my family and I have found that slicing the sandwich diagonally is the best way. That long cut releases a bit of the trapped heat and has more surface area to dip into the soup. Letting the panini rest for 3 minutes before slicing helps the melted cheese set up so it does not run onto the plate.

Enjoy the recipes below, try them and let me know how you enjoyed all the incredible layers of flavor. This is a family fun night meal, have the ingredients placed on the counter, the press warmed and dinner plates waiting. Kids LOVE making these, at least mine do, spreading the butter and stacking up the ingredients gives them such confidence. They also love to hold the press handle down and watch the cheese slowly melt and the bread brown. Enjoy one of my top 5 comfort foods, share your pictures over on Instagram with the #katescuriouskitchen

How to Cook A Panini

Pre-heat your panini press, carefully place your sandwich on the hot grill plates. Close down the top part of the press and cook according to the manufactures direction, usually 3-5 minutes. Remove with care, the sandwich will be very hot, wipe down the grill with a folded paper towel.  Place hot sandwich on a plate or cutting board, continue to cook additional panini sandwiches.

Brie, Arugula and Prosciutto Panini: Brush the outside of both pieces of bread with olive oil. Turn over and spread 1-2 tablespoon of sweet hot chutney on the inside of each bread slice. Add very thin slices of brie to each piece of bread. Next, add the prosciutto on top of the cheese, add a bit of baby arugula on top of that. Place the sandwich together and cook the panini as to your grills directions.

Texas Brisket Panini: Spread softened butter to the outside of two thick slices of sourdough bread. Take 1-2 tablespoons of grain mustard or your favorite BBQ sauce and spread on the inside of the bread slices. Add 2 -3 slices of Colby jack or cheddar cheese to each bread slice. Now add your cooked brisket to one side and top with pickles. Place the sandwich together and cook on the panini grill as per the grills instructions.

Chicken Caprese Panini: Split a ciabatta roll in half or slice two pieces of rustic artisan bread. Brush the inside and outside with olive oil. Evenly spread 1 tablespoon of pesto on the inside of the bread. Place two slices of fresh mozzarella on top of the pesto and two thin slices of tomato on top of the cheese. Add some pre cooked rotisserie chicken to one side a  drizzle of balsamic vinegar and carefully place the sandwich together. Cook as per your panini grills directions.

Cheers!

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