Inspired by my growling stomach, I decided there was nothing I wanted more than some sort of sandwich. Why did I want a sandwich? Honestly, it’s because all I wanted to do was eat bread. I decided to try something new that I had not yet made before so I found inspiration in Real Foods by my house in the Marina. It probably looked like I went down the aisle in the grocery store and picked out all of my favorite food and threw it in the cart to someone watching. This is the outcome of going shopping and feeling like you’re so hungry you are slowly withering away. Thankfully I had the idea to turn the sandwich into a panini,because if it wasn’t smushed down a little bit I would probably look like a barbarian eating it. I’m a hungry girl, okay?
I tried making this panini more interesting than a different version of a grilled cheese, so I added a few extra components. For the sauce, I created a homemade garlic aioli with rosemary. The rosemary gave the sauce balance as it counteracted the strong flavors of salt and garlic by giving the sauce some depth in herbal flavors. I then also decided that caramelizing the onion would take away the strong bitterness of a fresh onion and compliment the brie cheese and garlic aioli. The caramelized onion and grilled pear that I picked for the panini make for a perfect combination of salty and sweet. You will also notice I did not substitute the chicken for processed meat. Taking the extra time to cook a nice chicken breast does not only make for a more tasty sandwich, but also makes for a heartier/healthier meal. Below is the ingredient list for making 2 panini’s and the components that make it so awesome. When it’s gone you will want to get up and make another, trust me because that’s what we did. Why not make everyone in the office jealous of your packed lunch?
1 Wedge Brie Cheese
1 Red Onion (to be caramelized)
2 Pears (I bought Red Bartlett Pears, you can use any)
1 Loaf Focaccia Bread
1 Chicken Breast per sandwich
2 Tbs Olive Oil (I really just drizzled it into the pan, but I would assume that much)
Homemade Garlic Aioli
1/2 Cup Olive Oil
1 Tsp Rosemary
3 Cloves Garlic
For the chicken: Turn stove on medium-high heat, use medium sized non-stick sauce pan (or bigger if cooking more than 2 chicken breasts), cook for about 20 minutes, flipping chicken every 5 or so minutes.
Pour olive oil in the medium pan to coat the bottom and give a good base for the chicken
Put pan on medium-high heat with olive oil
Lay raw (thawed if frozen) chicken in pan on olive oil
Season chicken lightly with garlic salt (I usually do this to both sides of the chicken once I flip it)
Do the same with pepper (apply to your own taste, I really love pepper so I put a little more than most)
Most importantly keep an eye on your chicken and don’t let it burn while it’s cooking!
After about 20 minutes the chicken should be cooked all the way through
Slice chicken in half so that the breast is thinner not shorter (hamburger bun style!)
For the garlic aioli: get out a food processor or blender if you do no have one. I used a magic bullet for mine because I don’t have a food processor, so it’s doable for everyone!
Pour 1/2 cup olive oil in blender
Add the egg (you can use just egg white if you want)
Throw in 3 cloves garlic (if you do not have a food processor chop up the garlic before adding).
Squeeze half lemon into blender (you can add more if you want after)
Season with the rosemary, salt and pepper. I would advise to use minimal salt, as the olive oil already has a salty taste.
Blend together until it is creamy
*I then put my aioli in the fridge to help it become more solid.
For the caramelized onion: Get out small frying pan and medium cutting board. Cook for about 10 minutes
Slice up the onions into long skinny pieces
While preparing the onions have the stove on a medium-high heat until the 2 Tsp of olive oil is crackling
Add onions and reduce heat to medium-low
Stir the onions every few minutes to ensure that they are not burning
Onions should slowly turn to a rich brown color
You may add salt or any other seasoning you would like (I just used olive oil)
Take off stove after about 10 minutes and onions are a deep brown (not burnt!!)
For the pears: Take out large piece of foil. Preheat oven to lowest temperature. Use medium cutting board. Keep pears in oven on lowest temperature while cooking aioli, chicken and onions
Slice the pears into very thin whole slices and put onto foil.
Put pears in foil in the oven and keep in the oven until panini is ready to be made
I did not add any seasoning to the pear
Making the Panini: Get out large cutting board. I used a George Foreman panini maker but you could also try doing it on a grill.
Start with slicing the pears and putting them in the oven, to then preparing the chicken, followed by caramelizing the onions and lastly the preparation of the aioli. Once all ingredients are prepared to the final product, on a large cutting board cut the focaccia loaf into medium sized sandwiches. Add garlic aioli to top, bottom, or both slices of bread. I used both because lets face it, the more garlic the better. Cut into brie cheese and add to the top slice of bread. You may add as much brie as you want, like the garlic aioli I also added a decent amount of cheese. That is the point of a panini right? On the bottom slice of the sandwich layer the chicken breast slices, grilled pear, caramelized onion and arugula on top. Put the top slice with the brie cheese on the other half and slide it into the panini maker. Press the panini maker lid closed and let it sit in there for about 3-5 minutes, keep an eye on it the whole time.
This panini definitely had more instruction than the Salmon and Arugula Salad I last talked about, but it looks scarier than it really is! All the tasks are simple and easy. If you are trying this at home and need more guidance please email me, I’d be more than happy to help you make my new favorite panini!
Let me remind you, all food tastes better with wine and company