We were at a friend’s house for lunch on Sunday. Panini was served. Ummm Good. Our hosts raved about their Cuisinart Panini Press and another guest said she had bought one just like it at Crate and Barrel.
When I was standing in line for the Get Green event at Macy’s, an All Clad Panini Set was on display, right beside me, a simple non-stick, 10×12 inch grill pan and a heavy metal weight with a handle, slightly smaller than the pan. I checked the price, $130!!
Lordy! I can do that with my cast iron grill pan using the lid from my cast iron skillet for the weight.
Now, I’m not a sandwich guy, I much prefer soup for lunch; so we usually don’t have much bread around the house. But Panini that I have had — in the Club Level at Giants games and at that Sunday lunch, was so good, I had to learn to make my own. How hard can it be?
I went out and bought a loaf of Rustic Italian Bread and some shaved deli ham from the Safeway. Back home, I sliced four one-inch slices and built two sandwiches:
Bread, fresh mozzarella slices, ham slices, basil leaves, regular mozzarella slices, and the other slice of bread.
I put the cast iron grill pan over medium heat and let it heat up for three or four minutes, put the sandwiches on the grill pan, rested the lid of the cast iron skillet upsidedown on top and let it cook for about three minutes. The sandwiches were lovely when I turned them, deep brown grill marks were etched into the bread and the melting cheese was holding the sandwich together. Another three minutes and those babies were ready.
cast iron “weight” to the left
While the panini cooked, I tossed together a salad of chopped tomato, cherry tomatoes, radishes, sliced endive and ranch dressing.
That’s dinner, and a damn good one.
But wait, I’m not done with this experiment, just yet.
I’ve got this snazzy new gas grill, upon which I’ve grilled bread, that ought to work for Panini.
I got a loaf of ciabatta. I had some mozzarella, Swiss cheese and grilled sausages. I built my lunch sandwich: bread, mozzarella, split sausage, Swiss, mustard, bread.
cast iron “weight” off to the right
I put that on the grill and weighted it with a cast iron heat diffuser from the gas stove. Three minutes, turn, three minutes, done. I quickly put together a salad with stuff from the fridge. The result? Good lunch.
Even so, there were a few downers in this experience:
a. The grill marks are wider and closer together than with the grill pan, thus, a “browner” taste.
b. I sliced the ciabatta longitudinally, so the crusts were grilled. The ciabatta is crusty, too crusty for my taste when the crusts are grilled.
So based on one sandwich by each method, I’ll take the grill pan, with bread sliced across.
Thus went the grilling part of Panini making. I must get inventive with the filling, although I like the ham or sausage and cheese just fine.
LOL…I do exactly the same thing. I have a square cast iron grill pan from Lodge, and I use it all the time for panini sandwiches. I use my cast iron sandwich press for the weight. I do not heat the sandwich press because there is no need. I just flip the sandwich over. It takes about 2 minutes on each side, and I get gorgeous grill marks. Like you, I couldn’t understand why anyone would need a so-called “panini pan” and “panini press”. The pans they sell with the set is just a grill pan like any other. No need for their press that comes with the pan as a set because all you have to do is flip the sandwich over in the grill pan…lol. They’re making a lot of money on their grill pans because they’re calling “Panini Pans”…lol.