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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Chicken and Herb Cheese Panini

 We eat a lot of sandwiches in our house, but this has to be my very favorite of all time. I wish I could say that the idea for this sandwich was my own, but - alas - it is not. I have to thank Panera for this one. Unfortunately, they've already "retired" this sandwich; how dare they!?! Last winter, they had this great hot panini with turkey, herbed cheese spread, and a cranberry moutarde. To be honest, it didn't taste much like a mustard based spread, which suits me fine; it seemed more like a cranberry relish. I make a mean cranberry-orange marmalade that I thought might taste divine in this application. So, after I realized my favorite sandwich was not going to make it to their regular menu, I decided to start making my own version at home.

The first step was to realize that it had my favorite cheese spread on it. Boursin cheese is one of those products that I dream about. I look for reasons to have company over so that I might justify having the stuff in my refrigerator. It's not figure friendly, and, when it's in my refrigerator, I feel compelled to eat half a baguette at a time slathered in the stuff. The good news? For a sandwich application, the Boursin Light tastes great! Hallelujah!

The next step is to choose the correct bread. This requires a high quality ciabatta bread. I often make my own, but certain little babies have been keeping from spending much time in the kitchen lately. I've recently found a brand of ciabatta that I really like called New French Bakery "Take and Bake." It's only in limited stores, but if it's in yours, grab it!

Cut yourself a nice sized sandwich and then slice the bread in half to open it up. Slather one side with the Boursin cheese. On the other side, I spread my cranberry-orange marmalade. You could probably approximate the flavor by mixing cranberry sauce and orange marmalade. Then pile on a nice bit of fresh spinach. The last item is the chicken or turkey. There are a number of ways you can fulfill the meat quota on this sandwich. You can use some leftover meat from a roast chicken or turkey dinner. You could slice chicken from a grocery store rotisserie bird. You could also pan saute a chicken breast (or tenderloin) with a little salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika and then slice it to put on the sandwich. That's the route I took the last two times I made this sandwich.

 After putting the sandwich together, get your panini "press" set up. I don't have a real one, so I just used a saute pan with a cast iron skillet pressing it down. Pre-heat the pan and lightly brush the outside of the sandwich with olive oil before toasting over medium heat. Grill until lightly golden on each side.

The combination of flavors in this sandwich is divine! It's such a nice change of pace from your standard grilled cheese sandwich. Who needs Panera, anyway?

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