Sunday, February 17, 2013

Italian Grilled Cheese and a Panera Tutorial

It's the weekend and time for another great sandwich!

As you may recall I love hot sandwiches.  They just make them feel heartier...and toasty...and comforting.  So great during this cold winter we are having.

What could be more comforting that a grilled cheese sandwich.  We all grew up with them, didn't we?  I know I did.  All the ooey gooey cheese oozing out from between two toasted pieces of bread.  Today's sandwich doesn't disappoint, and it's bursting full of flavors.  It's the Italian version of a grilled cheese.  Every bit as good as the original.  Maybe be the judge!

Before we get to the recipe though I had the opportunity to learn some sandwich tips from some great people over at Panera Bread.  Don't you just love Panera?  My whole family goes there and oohs and ahhs over the pastries and bread.  And then there's the salads, sandwiches and soups that are to die for.  Well, Panera really knows how to put a great sandwich together, and I'm going to share the 7 basic rules with you so you can create masterpieces of your own. 

Here are the seven basic sandwich making rules:

1.Start with great bread: The bread should be the inspiration for the filling, not vice versa. Bread isn't the carrier for getting things into your mouth, it’s the leading principle.
2. Slice it right: Denser breads, such as Whole Grain, should be cut to no more than 5/8 inch. More tender breads, such as Tomato Basil, should be sliced thicker (¾ inch). This ensures a happy marriage of bread and ingredients, plus you’ll make a sandwich that won’t fall apart.
3. Keep it simple: Keep the number of ingredients low but make sure they’re of the highest quality. Too many sandwiches are impressive to the eye but not to the palate. Here’s another way to look at it: The average mouth should be able to get all the elements in one bite. Stay away from the Dagwood effect.
4. Use a thin veneer of spread: Whether its mayo, mustard, or something special, spread it uniformly and completely across the surface of the bread. Every bite should feature its flavor.
5. Include an element of freshness: a slice of ripe tomato, a sprinkling of fresh herbs, some crunchy lettuce, or a bit of raw onion on a hot sandwich. A fresh pop makes the difference between a good sandwich and a great one.
6. Cut it carefully: Lots of promising sandwiches are ruined in the final stage by a dull knife. Use a serrated knife and let its weight do the work. Use a long sawing motion like you’re carving a turkey.
7. Eat it now: Sandwiches should be eaten within a couple hours of construction. You can extend their life by not putting tomatoes or spreads on the bread, but generally speaking, sandwiches are best when consumed immediately.

Isn't it interesting that there is a method and formula to making great sandwiches?  Hope you found these as helpful as I did.  Now onto today's recipe....yum!  Great ready for some cheesy goodness!

Italian Grilled Cheese
serves 2

Homemade or store-bought pesto
4 slices Italian bread, each no more than 1-inch thick
4 slices mozzarella cheese, sliced thin

Line two of the bread slices with mozzarella and spread pesto on the other two bread slices, then put them together to make two sandwiches.

Butter both sides (on the outside) of each sandwich.  Place them in a heated skillet over medium heat.  Cover with a lid.  Cook, flipping once when the first side is golden brown.  Cover and cook the second size until the mozzarella melts and the bread is golden and toasty. Serve immediately.

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