Made in Peirce: Mastering the Panini Press

Photo by Greg Sailor ’08

Reilly Brock ’12, resident of the Kenyon College Food Coop and chef/co-owner of the Last Call Food Cart, is guest authoring this post. 

Skilled Peirce chefs hit the panini press like the football team hits the weights, replacing the “Ka-thud-thud” of dropped dumbbells with the sizzle of onions on the press’s ribbed iron surface. The panini press is essential to a well-made Peirce meal, as it’s the only real heating agent available to the student chef. The panini press allows you to melt any Peirce ingredients into a party of flavor. The standards, of course, are quesadillas and hot sandwiches, but why stop there? Break up the monotony of typical press fare with these two recipes (after the jump).

Apple Cinnamon Cream Cheese Melt

Ingredients: Apple slices, bagel, butter, cream cheese, cinnamon.

Take an apple and slice it into thin wedges. Apply a small amount of butter to each wedge (you don’t have to, but the butter adds great flavor and helps them brown). Bring the apple wedges to the panini press, put a panini paper down, add your apples, cover them with another panini paper and cook until soft and lightly browned. Next, toast your bagel (I recommend cinnamon raisin or plain) and spread a layer of cream cheese on one half. Top with the warm apple segments and lightly dust with cinnamon from the spice rack. Serve hot.

Grilled Cheese with Caramelized Onions

I really love caramelized onions. Something truly magical occurs when you sauté onions slow and low, mellowing their harsh bite and drawing out their natural sweetness. A while back, my friend Everett mentioned that he had caramelized onions on the panini press with good results. So the other day I decided to try it for myself.

Ingredients: Sandwich roll, Colby jack cheese, onions, olive oil.

Take some sliced onions from the sandwich station (you may also find them at the salad station) and bring them over to the panini press. Apply a light coating of olive oil from the salad bar to the press and then toss on your onions. Cook, moving the onions around frequently, until the onions are browned and have reduced considerably in size. I’ve found that the best way to do this is to continually form a pile of onions in the middle of the griddle, periodically flipping it. Piling the onions together prevents the smaller slices from burning, facilitating equal cooking time. Once caramelized, remove the onions from the press and slide them into a bowl. Next, grab some bread from the sandwich area (I chose the Italian hoagie rolls), apply two slices of cheese (I went with Colby-Jack) and top the cheese with the caramelized onions. Finally, panini your sandwich using papers to avoid scorching the bread). Enjoy!

WARNING: My love of onions almost got me in trouble with AVI. Apparently, you aren’t technically allowed to use the panini press as a sauté  pan due to potential onion or pepper allergies. I had no idea such things existed. To avoid the ire of AVI, try attempting this sandwich at extendo, when most of the prep cooks are elsewhere. If they’re really on your ass, resort to using protection (panini papers) to keep your onions from touching the griddle. I can’t guarantee good caramelization without oil or direct contact with the cast iron, but at least this will prevent your onions from harming anyone.

10 responses

  1. The real key to getting anything good out of the panini press is to close the lid, then place a plate on top, and press forward slightly on the plate. This will allow the lid to press evenly and the makings of your sandwich won’t slide out the back.

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