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~Cinnamon-Swirl Turkey, Apple & Apple Butter Panini~

IMG_5050Do you need a fancy-schmancy panini press to make a panini sandwich?  No, you don't.  Simply place your sandwich in a grill pan and place a heavy (cast-iron works great) skillet on top and you'll get the similar results, except, unlike cooking on a panini press, you will have to stop to flip the sandwich over half way through the process.  Don't have a grill pan either?  Worry not.  Use a nonstick skillet with a cast iron skillet on top.  As long as the sandwich is pressed, you can still call it a panini -- even without the grill marks.  Without the pressing, it's an ordinary grilled sandwich.

Panini is the Italian word for a press-grilled sandwich made with the same type of firm, crusty bread (or rolls) used to make bruschetta and crostini.  "One panino, two panini" are the singular and plural forms of the word (which derive from the Italian "pane" and Latin "panis", referring to bread), but the use of panino is uncommon and unused nowadays.  Panini sandwiches, served hot off the grill, were traditionally filled with the same thin-sliced specialty deli-meats and cheese served with or on bruschetta and crostini (ham, mortadella, salami, provolone, etc.), meaning they were associated with Italian fare, but, nowadays a panini can find itself fused with any cuisine.

IMG_2214A panini press is basically a double-sided contact grill that cooks both sides of a sandwich at once. Much like a grill pan, the grids of a panini press give these sandwiches their signature grill marks.  There are several good brands, in all price ranges, on the market.  My Cuisinart Griddler is about 5 years old.  It doesn't take up too much space, controls heat perfectly, and, I love it. This gadget has earned its rightful place on my kitchen counter.

One panino, two panini, go preheat your panini press:

IMG_5017For two panini sandwiches/4 half sandwiches:

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing panini press

4  slices cinnamon-raisin swirl bread

6  slices cheddar or cheddar-Jack cheese

2-3  tablespoons apple butter

1/2 of 1  thin-sliced unpeeled apple, your favorite type

6  strips crisply-fried bacon

1/2 pound super-thinly-sliced deli-turkey breast, your favorite type and brand

20-30  baby arugula leaves

IMG_5018 IMG_5018~Step 1.  To assemble sandwiches, place two slices of cheese on two slices of bread (the bottom half, where remaining ingredients will be layered), and, one slice on the other two slices.  Set the two slices of bread with two slices of cheese aside.

IMG_5024 IMG_5024 IMG_5024 IMG_5024~Step 2.  On the two bottom halves, slather the cheese with 1-1 1/2 tablespoons apple butter. It's tempting, but, don't be inclined to slather the bread slices with the apple butter first or bread will become soggy before you can finish assembling the sandwiches -- this is the right order of things. Place a layer of apple slices atop the apple butter on two slices of bread, 4-5 slices on each.

IMG_5034 IMG_5034 IMG_5034 IMG_5034~Step 3.  Place three bacon strips atop apples on each sandwich, followed by an even distribution of 1/4 pound of turkey breast.  Lastly, place a few baby arugula leaves atop turkey, 15-20 leaves on each sandwich.  Invert and place the remaining two cheese-topped slices of bread on top of the arugula and gently press down on the tops of sandwiches with palms of hands.

IMG_5044~Step 4.  Wrap sandwiches tightly in plastic wrap and allow to sit on the counter for 15-20 minutes, so all ingredients are at the same temperature when grilled -- this will also keep them fresh if you are grilling and serving several at a time.  Just prior to grilling as directed below, vertically slice the sandwich into two halves.  Remove the plastic wrap after slicing.

6a0120a8551282970b022ad397bca8200d 6a0120a8551282970b022ad3b7535b200b 6a0120a8551282970b022ad397bcb4200d 6a0120a8551282970b022ad397bcb4200d IMG_5047~Step 5.  Spray grill grids of panini press, top and bottom with no-stick cooking spray.  Close grill and preheat, according to manufacturer's specifications, to medium-high on grill-panini setting.  When green light turns on, place 2-4 half-sandwiches on hot grill grids.  I'm demonstrating two halves, because it is easier to photograph than four.

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3b753da200b~Step 6.  Place top of press on sandwich halves. Firmly, but gently, using the press's handle, press down for 30-45 seconds.  You're NOT trying to squish the sandwich, but, you are trying to put just enough pressure on it to steam and crisp bread a bit.  Let go.  Grill 3-4 minutes, until cheese is oozing and bread is crispy.  If they don't look perfect, they're perfect.

Transfer from grill, wait 1-1 1/2 minutes, slice on a diagonal...

IMG_5057... & serve, as is & unembellished, as the star of any party:

IMG_5083Cinnamon-Raisin Turkey, Apple & Apple Butter Swirl:  Recipe yields 2-4 servings.

Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; plastic wrap; serrated bread knife; panini contact-grill; spatula

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3717f8b200cCook's Note: Panini-croissant-crostini.  That's a lot to digest, and if you're of Italian-heritage, simmer down, lighten up, and read my post before criticizing my fun-loving play on these three mouth-watering words. Sandwich-press-grilled panini, full of cured Italian meats and cheese, substituting mini-croissants for the traditional rustic Italian bread (I've affectionately added the word crostini to describe them, because I serve them, crostini-style, as 3-4 bite appetizers), are crowd-pleasing snacks that get gobbled up at a tailgate party faster than beer flows at a fraternity house. ~ Grillmarked:  Italian-Style Panini-Croissant-Crostini ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)


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