Some people have those special electric panini presses they use to make hot crusty sandwiches. I use my waffle iron.
I actually learned to do this about 50 years ago when I was a teenager, visiting at my friend Sue’s house after school. She would make snack sandwiches using two slices of white bread and a slice of cheese that she put into the waffle iron. The iron pressed square waffle-y dents in the bread which yielded a crisp cheesy sandwich, a little like grilled cheese only much better.
The waffle iron I own now is for thick Belgian-style waffles and it is perfect for pretend panini. The main difference is that I can’t make such thick sandwiches as a real panini iron can handle. Instead I have to think of thin slices of very tasty items such as sharp cheddar, smokey ham, salami, prosciutto, Swiss cheese or smoked Gouda cheese. Another way to boost the flavor is to use thinly sliced onion or a flavorful spread such as pesto, chutney, mustard, tapenade or red pepper mayonnaise. There are a million little yummy things in jars that you can spread on bread these days. Just experiment with your favorites.
Another trick is to use slightly soft bread. A really sturdy, whole or multigrain is a bit too resistant and won’t yield to the iron the way it will in a real Panini iron. That oatmeal bread I offered a recipe for a couple weeks ago is perfect. So will most commercial rye and pumpernickel breads, not to mention old-fashioned white. For a slightly crisper exterior, you can brush the sides of the iron with a little oil, but it is not necessary.
2 slices of moderately soft bread
Cheese, sliced thinly to cover bread
Onion, a few rings, thinly sliced, optional
Meat, thinly sliced for filling, optional
Mustard, chutney, mayonnaise or other spread, optional, to taste
Preheat the waffle iron at a medium setting. Assemble the sandwich and brush the iron’s sides with a little oil if you wish. Put the sandwich inside and close the iron, pressing down gently. Since irons vary, check after about three minutes. Toast the sandwich until it is brown and crisp.
Milk Toast. Ellen Askren in Houlton emailed me with this: “My mother, who is 89, is wondering if you have ever come across a recipe for Milk Toast. She remembers her mother making it in large pans in the oven of the big old cookstove.” I wonder if there is someone out there who recalls how this very old-fashioned dish was made? Do you toast the bread then bake it in milk or what? I’d love to hear from you.
Send queries or answers to Sandy Oliver, 1061 Main Road, Islesboro 04848. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. For recipes, tell us where they came from. List ingredients, specify number of servings and do not abbreviate measurements. Include name, address and daytime phone number.