Save the silverware and eat roast beef and carmelized onion panini!December 11, 2006
Dispense with the fork and the knife. Away with that white dinner napkin.
Sometimes you just want food you can pick up with your hands and gnaw on. Among these foods, hot pressed sandwiches (and french fries) must be royalty.
Since our former panini press met an unfortunate end (involving a three foot drop and untimely meeting with the kitchen floor), we’ve been deprived of hot pressed sandwiches. I blame faulty construction of obviously flimsy sandwich presses that can’t stand one small toss off a kitchen counter. My husband prefers to blame me for creating circumstances where said press could topple off said counter. You say banana, I say tomato.
Anyway, we now have in our possession a far superior (and sturdier) panini press that can conquer the great heights of my husband’s roast beef-havarti-carmelized onion-spicy mustard-Italian bread-style sandwich. Even the name is a mouthful. The sandwich may sound simple, but it is oh-so-satisfying. The trick is to combine quality ingredients — a mound of lovingly carmelized onions, freshly roasted sliced beef, a big thick crusty loaf of bread, and superior brown mustard with those little mustard seeds strewn throughout. Pile those ingredients high and fire up your panini press. You won’t be sorry — and, bonus, you can use your bare mits to heave that sandwich right up to your maw. Enjoy!
We will not discuss the death of our first panini press. It’s one of those controversial stories that in no way makes me look good. So I will just tell you that my wife is a wonderful person and all is forgotten about the unfortunate events surrounding its fall.
While there is nothing to say about the tragic loss of a loyal, faithful and fantastic kitchen gadget, there are things to say about panini. First, they are awesome. I know it’s just a toasted sandwich. I know what’s in the sandwich I make here isn’t super special. But, the press gives so much via the toasting and the compression of the bread that it really makes a simple sandwich both more delicious and more posh.
Second, panini are great for parties, especially parties this time of the year surrounding sporting events—most of which in the US involve the word Bowl proceeded by a large corporate sponsor and, if you are lucky, some sort of agriculture product (e.g. The FedEx Orange Bowl or The Allstate Sugar Bowl or, yes, the Papajohns.com Bowl). You can pre-make a stack of these sandwiches and have people toast themselves or start churning them out once the game starts.
Finally, there are two little prep issues for this dish that I think the are important—the onions and the bread. The onions here are caramelized. This means they take a long time to cook for them to become dark brown and delicious. Unfortunately, this means this isn’t a quick into your fridge and pile things up sort of sandwich. But if you invest the time, the results are worth it. The good part is that you can do caramelize the onions in advance. Simply move them to a bowl when you are done, cover and refrigerate. They keep well for a couple days.
As for the bread, slice it thick. I think this is something you really have to understand when making panini. It’s crucial because thick bread allows the true benefits of the compression and the toasting. If you don’t use thick bread, the oil given off by the cheese or moisture given off by other ingredients will cause the bread to get soaked and not toast. The result is a flimsy sandwich. So when in doubt, make your slice thicker.
If you have a name for our ‘wich, we’d love it. If you’ve got other panini tips, we’d love them even more. Otherwise, I hope you enjoy and share your thoughts.
Roast Beef and Caramelized Onion Panini
Yields: 4-6 large sandwiches
1 loaf rustic Italian bread
2 large onion (sliced)
1 lbs roast beef
1/2 brown mustard
1/2 lbs havarti cheese
2 Tbsp. butter
dark brown mustard
1. In a large pan over medium heat, add the butter. Let the butter melt and coat the pan. Add the onions to the pan. Lightly salt. Cook for 30 to 45 min stirring regularly until a deep brown. Remove from heat place in a covered container. Refrigerate until you are ready to use.
2. Preheat your panini press to high.
3. Slice the bread into thick slices (3/4’’ – 1’’ ). Coat both slices liberally with brown mustard.
4. Layer on the havarti, onion and the roast beef and complete the construction of the sandwich.
5. Place on press for 5-7 min. The sandwich should be toasted and brown. Let rest for 2-3 min. Slice, serve and enjoy!