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Shop before you savor

Purchase ingredients for southwest chicken panini before cooking

Published: Tuesday, May 1, 2012 5:00 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, May 1, 2012 5:01 p.m. CDT
Caption
(Herald Photos by Lisa Pesavento - lpesavento@morrisdailyherald.com)
Compile a shopping list before you make southwest chicken panini, and you will make things much easier on yourself once you go to cook the sandwiches.

The best way to prepare a recipe with a lot of ingredients is with a shopping list.

Some things, like sugar, garlic, olive oil or butter, you may have on hand. So leave those out if you have enough in your pantry.

Shopping list

•  2 bunches cilantro

•  12 garlic cloves (about 1 to 2 heads)

•  3 jalapenos

•  2 limes

•  Olive oil

•  Mayonnaise

•  Chipotle in Abodo (small can)

•  Butter

•  12 slices crusty bread, or 6 ciabatta rolls

•  6 slices Pepper Jack Cheese, thin slice

•  Rotisserie chicken

If you have never made a panini, you are in for a treat. All a panini is is a pressed sandwich. You do not have to have a panini press to make a panini sandwich. However, if you do, be sure to use it to make panini’s.

The major thing that a panini press does is to put grill marks in the bread, in addition to cooking both sides at once.

If you like the look of grill marks, make your sandwich on the grill. Place a clean, heavy object (such as a fry pan) on top of the sandwich as it is cooking. Flip over and do the same to the other side. Don’t press too hard so that the bread gets stuck in the grates of the grill. An oiled, medium heat grill is best. You can also do this on the stovetop in a fry pan. Same premise, only no grill marks.

I happen to think that my younger sister, Laura, has made paninis for almost 50 years. Her grilled cheese sandwiches were pretty flat, probably from pushing on them with the spatula. She was a trendsetter and didn’t even know it.

The first thing to prepare is the cilantro mixture which will add a fresh and unique taste to this sandwich, with a kick. It is essentially a cilantro pesto without the pine nuts. It is a bright green and adds a unique and southwestern taste to the Panini.

My granddaughter, Ashlynn, wanted to help me prepare this, so I let her pull the leaves off the cilantro. I figured that would keep her busy. She was very diligent and did a great job for a 3 year old. The only problem was that I was finding pieces of cilantro all over my kitchen, a week later! Who said that good help is hard to find?

The cilantro pesto is more than ample to make six sandwiches. Use the leftovers on other sandwiches or add them to other sauces, even soups. Try adding it to potato salad or egg salad. The possibilities are endless.

If you do not use gloves (I suggest you do, however) when seeding and chopping the jalapeños, do not put your hands any where near your eyes. If you do, you will regret it. Same goes if you are wearing gloves. Keep your hands away from your face. Good rule to live by when working with jalapenos, or even onions.

The cilantro pesto will keep up to five days in the refrigerator.

Making the chipotle mayonnaise gets a little trickier. Puree the entire can of chipotle in adobo. Adobo is the chili, and trust me, it is one of the strong ones! In other words, a little goes a long way.

The recipe calls for 3 teaspoons of chipotle in adobo, but you need to be the judge. Also, the longer it sits in the refrigerator, the spicier it gets. Be warned.

For instance, you may think that you want a strong chipotle mayonnaise, so you add extra. Big mistake. You can always add more later. Be conservative with the adobo paste until you have experimented with its flavor.

Once you have pureed the chipotle in adobo and have used the amount you need, take what is left and freeze in teaspoon measures in an ice tray. This way the adobo will last longer, defrost faster and be readily available when you need it for another dish or more mayonnaise.

Add this to any sauce that needs a little kick. Or mix with hamburgers to give a little spiciness flavor, remembering that a little goes a long way.

The sugar in this mixture helps temper the spiciness.

Pepper jack or Monterey Jack cheese are both good options for this sandwich.

Roasted red pepper adds another layer of flavor to this panini. I like to buy the red peppers in a jar, pre-sliced. You can also roast your own red pepper and slice them yourself.

Rotisserie chicken is definitely the easy choice for this panini. Although, you can use any type of meat that you like. The rotisserie chicken is especially good because it is so easy to bite into with its torn pieces.

You can use bread slices for this sandwich, but I prefer to buy the ciabatta rolls. They are readily available at Walmart in their baked goods section. There are several different kinds, so pick the kind you like. The rolls are sometimes also near the deli on Walmart’s “Oops! We over-baked” cart.

If you do not like spicy things, this is not the sandwich for you.

If you would like this sandwich without the kick, only use one jalapeno in the cilantro pesto. Use only one teaspoon of the abodo puree in the mayonnaise. Perhaps you would prefer a milder cheese than the pepper jack? Swiss? Mozzarella?

Any recipe can be altered to fit your specific taste. Experiment to find the perfect blend for you and your family.

And remember ... a good cook always cleans up!

———

SOUTHWEST CHICKEN PANINI

•  6 cups fresh cilantro, leaves and stems, packed

•  12 cloves garlic

•  3 jalapenos, seeded and chopped

•  Juice of 1 lime

•  6 TB olive oil

•  3 pinches salt

•  3/4 cup mayonnaise

•  3 tsp. canned chipotle chili puree

•  3/4 tsp. sugar

•  3 TB butter, softened

•  12 slices bread, 1/2 inch thick

•  6 ozs. Monterey pepper jack cheese, thinly sliced

•  1 jar roasted red peppers

•  9 oz. Rotisserie chicken, torn into pieces

1. Puree a can of chipotle in adobo. Set aside 3 teaspoons of puree and freeze the rest for later use.

2. Process cilantro, garlic, jalapeno, lime juice and salt in food processor until minced. Slowly drizzle in oil while machine is running, forming a paste.

3. Mix mayonnaise, chipotle puree and sugar in a small bowl.

4. Spread each slice of bread with butter on one side. Spread cilantro pesto on the other side of two slices and top with cheese and chicken.  Spread the other two slices with mayo mixture and place on top of chicken, butter side up. Toast in Panini grill or in a skillet with a weight on top.

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