Chipotle Chicken Panini with Fresh Mozzarella, Basil, and Red Onion

chipotle-chicken-panini-with-fresh-mozzarella-basil-and-red-onion

Happy Tuesday!

I am so embarrassed. I went an entire month without blogging. What’s even more embarrassing? I cooked plenty of food, and took plenty of pictures–I just haven’t had time to write about it…

Here’s the whole host of excuses…

1.) I moved.

2.) I got a new job.

3.) As of Saturday, I am now MARRIED. Yay!

I will try to stay on top of this–I promise. It was really hard for me to choose what to post as I have made infinite meals since the last time I posted, but this one is a definite winner and perfect work week meal.

Anyway, I don’t know about you, but every now and again, I have a craving for Panera. I was inspired to re-create their Chicken Frontega Panini–and not only do I think I nailed the same flavor profile, but I think this actually tastes better.

Before I got married, I had a bridal shower, and man was I spoiled! I got all these kitchen gadgets, but my favorite of all is my panini press. I used to rough it out by using a grill pan and placing another cast iron skillet on top to get those grill marks, but it is never perfect. And if you’re one of those people who thinks a panini press is a glorified grilled cheese maker, I will seriously take an issue with you. Panini presses are much more industrial and have the finesse to seriously bring your sandwich game to a whole other level.

So Public Service Announcement: Get a panini press if you don’t have one already! I recommend a Cuisinart. My machine was not only used for pressing the bread, but it was also used to grill the chicken. Who wants copious amounts of dishes, especially during the week? Not this girl!

This powerful tool is my secret weapon for saving time and making an unforgettable sandwich.

When Zach and I ate this, we were lost for words. You will be equally speechless. Dinner in 15 minutes (including time to grill the chicken) has never been so good. Enjoy!

Ingredients (Serving Four)

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce + 1 or 2 teaspoons liquid from can

**Alternatively, you can buy Chipotle Mayo already made–I recommend “Just Mayo’s Chipoltle”–it’s fantastic!**

  • 1 loaf focaccia bread, cut into quarters or 4 focaccia buns                                                                                                                                                                                                              **Thicker bread is always great in a panini press, but here’s a little secret–I used just Maier’s Italian bread (nothing special), and this still came outstanding. I will certainly not discourage the garlicly, herb goodness of focaccia, but even if you just have plain white bread, you’ll be okay–promise. 
  • 2 chicken breasts (about 8 ounces each), grilled on the panini press (first)
  • Four tablespoons of garlic powder
  • Two tablespoons of salt and pepper, divided
  • 8oz mozzarella ball, sliced (try to get it fresh in water!)
  • 1 plum tomato, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 small red onion, sliced very thinly
  • 10-12 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade (ribbons) or leave leaves (how pun-y!) whole

Directions

1.) First, season your chicken with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Plug in your panini press and get it really hot. Spray the panini press with cooking spray.

2.) Once the press is hot enough, grill the chicken in the press. Don’t push down all the way, but as the chicken cooks (about 6-8 minutes), gradually press to flatten the chicken.

3.) While the chicken is cooking, prep your toppings. Slice the tomato, red onion, mozzarella, and chiffonade the basil.

4.) If you are making chipotle mayo, add mayonnaise, chipotle pepper, and adobo sauce to a mini food processor bowl then process until smooth. If you don’t feel like making a huge mess and don’t mind a chunkier sauce, hand chop the pepper up very finely then stir with sauce into mayonnaise. Taste and add more sauce to your liking. If you don’t feel like making a sauce, then at this time get out your store bought, but delicious chipotle mayo.

5.) Take your chicken off the grill once there are substantial grill marks, and the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. Leave chicken aside to cool for a second. Once chicken has cooled a bit, slice chicken length wise into strips.

6.) Assemble! Smear about a tablespoon of chipotle mayo on each side of the bread. Next, add your chicken strips on top of each slide (go across evenly.) If desired, add more chipotle mayo on the chicken itself. Next, add the cheese slices (one-two slices of mozzarella for each side of the sandwich. Lastly, top the sandwich with sliced tomato, red onion, and basil. Press top layer of sandwich on top of the bottom layer.

7.) Spray your panini press once again. Also, spray your sandwich on both sides with cooking spray. As you did with the chicken, you should gradually press down on the sandwich and cook until golden brown. Cut diagonally for best appearance. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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