Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Grilled Chicken Panini

I had planned to make chicken for dinner - something that would require preparation, a sauce, time in the oven, and time under the broiler.  Then, I noticed the forecast - hot.  Who wants to stand around a hot kitchen for an hour, sweltering?  Not me.  I had to think of an alternate plan.
So, I had bread.  I had chicken.  Just the perfect pair for a grilled chicken panini!  So, I went in search of an interesting new recipe and found a great one at The Pioneer Woman.  Grilled marinated chicken, roasted red peppers, sun dried tomatoes, molto bene!
I did end up making a few small changes: basil & Parmesan instead of pesto (there is plenty of garlic in the tomatoes and oil in the recipe to achieve the flavor, but without having to buy or make pesto separately), bottled roasted red peppers instead of freshly roasted (to save time and because Mezzetta tastes great), Italian bread, different distribution of oil, and olive oil instead of butter for the bread (just personal preference).
It was a good dinner and a good recipe.  So, next time you want to make a yummy Italian-style sandwich, look no further - you've got your recipe right here!

Grilled Chicken Panini
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

1/4 cup oil-packed sun dried tomatoes (with Italian herbs is fine)
3 tbsp chopped basil
2 tbsp grated Parmesan
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (plus extra for brushing on bread)
4 boneless, skinless chicken half-breasts

1/4 cup mayonnaise
12 slices Italian bread
3/4 cups chopped roasted red peppers
12 deli slices mozzarella (I used cheddar-mozzarella)

1.  Place the sun dried tomatoes, basil, Parmesan, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in the small bowl of a food processor.  Process until well blended and fairly smooth.

2.  Mix half of the mixture with 1 tbsp olive oil.  Pour the oil mixture into a large Ziplock bag.  Pound the chicken to an even thickness (or you can purchase thin-sliced breasts).  Place the chicken in the bag and seal the top.  Move the chicken around until it is completely coated with the mixture.  Place in the refrigerator to marinate for 1-2 hours.

3.  Meanwhile: mix the second half of the tomato mixture with the mayonnaise in a small bowl.  Cover and chill while the chicken marinates (this will give the flavors time to blend).

4.  Preheat your gas grill to high (clean and oil the grate before you begin).  Grill the marinated chicken, flipping halfway through, until cooked through.  Transfer to a plate and let rest for 5-10 minutes.

5.  Slice the chicken.  Slicing across the half-breasts will make larger pieces, making the sandwiches easier to flip while cooking.  Slicing lengthwise and then across will make bite-sized pieces, which are trickier to work with, but easier to eat.

6.  Preheat a pan or griddle to medium-low.

7.  Spread the mayonnaise sauce on half of the bread slices.  Place the chicken slices on top of the sauced bread slices.  Sprinkle the roasted red peppers over the chicken.  Lay two pieces of cheese over the filling on each of the 6 bread slices.  Top each with a second slice of bread to make sandwiches.  Spray or lightly brush the tops of the bread with olive oil.

8.  Place the sandwiches in the heated pan or griddle, oiled sides down.  Spray or lightly brush the second sides with olive oil.

9.  Use a grill press (or a heavy pan or a foil-wrapped, clean brick) to press the sandwiches as they cook.  I place a piece of parchment or waxed paper between the sandwich and the press to avoid any sticking.

10.  When the first side of the sandwiches are golden brown, flip them over and cook the second side.  Use the grill press to press the sandwiches again as they cook.

11.  Cut and serve!

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