Sunday, January 21, 2007

Adventures in Food: The King of Paninis

So I got a Griddler for Christmas. In case you haven't heard of it, it's product from Cuisnart that can be used as a contact grill (like the George Foreman grill), a griddle, an open grill (just pop the hinge so it opens all the way), and a panini press. This thing is all kinds of wonderful. For one thing, it sounds sort of like a Batman villain. Also, we've been getting tons of use out of it; I think we've used it at least 3 or 4 times a week thus far. I miss grilling in the winter time (which, despite the lack of snow, has officially settled in here in Rhode Island, as it's damn cold), so any excuse and method to pull it off indoors is something I can wholeheartedly embrace. We've probably gotten the most mileage out of the panini press function, though, because warm sandwiches are usually a real rarity around our house. Simple enough concept for a quick snack, hearty enough to be a meal. Erin and I appreciate that sort of versatility.

So of course, the real trick is trying to invent new paninis to actually try. Well, the real trick for me, anyway. As Erin is quick to admit, she's an extremely picky eater and is content to go with the stuff she knows, leaving me to explore most culinary frontiers on my own. Not that my explorations lead me all that much farther past what I already know, either, but still.

So anyway, the other day I was trying to think up new warm sandwich creations, while at the same time thinking about this really terrible cover of "Suspicious Minds" (my favorite Elvis song) I heard over the P.A. in the grocery store earlier in the day. The conclusion I reached was, in this particular set of circumstances, probably inevitable - The Elvis Panini. The King's penchant for fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches is pretty legendary, and I have to admit that they always sounded pretty good, if also a little bit fatal. But, I reasoned, if you grilled it, you might just postpone the massive coronary, at least long enough to actually finish the sandwich, anyway.

First I took some ciabatta bread we had floating around and lightly brushed the exterior with a super-tiny amount of olive oil so it wouldn't burn on the grill plates (and also so it wouldn't taste like peanut butter, bananas, and olive oil, which seemed to be a less than savory combination). I spread on some Jif Honey Peanut Butter and cut up a little more than half a banana into discs that I placed closely together on top of the PB. Then I put it on the Griddler, pressed down on the handle for 30 seconds (so you get those grill marks), then let up on the handle and left it in to cook/toast/whatever for another 5 minutes.

The results? It was good - not great, but good. I certainly enjoyed it, but it wasn't quite the King of All Sandwiches that I was hoping for. Maybe I should have used sourdough instead of ciabatta, or maybe regular Jif instead of the honey kind. Probably could have used more peanut butter than I did, too, the more I think of it. And maybe the bananas were a little too ripe - they were about a day or so from being perfect banana bread fodder, so the banana taste was super strong, almost overpowering, really. And hey, maybe this sort of thing really does need to be fried, you know? Frying makes everything tastier. Possibly even footwear.

But all second guessing aside, it was pretty tasty, warm, and gooey. It just could be even more so. I think further experimentation is required to truly perfect the Elvis Panini. I figure I owe it to the world. It may be my one lasting gift to science. The responsibility I'm facing here is astounding.
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