Don’t have space or money to install a full kitchen in your craft brewery? You can still offer a great menu with one or more simple kitchen “electrics.” Let’s look at what you can do with a panini maker. These typically cost anywhere between $20 and $100. A versatile panini maker can be used to cook all kinds of sandwich style foods creatively and quickly.
In my opinion, there are several key things to the perfect panini:
- Bread that is not soggy and somewhat dense so it does not fall apart when cooking or eating
- Flavor brushed on the grill or the bread before cooking (oil, butter, etc.) that will also add a nice browning to the bread
- Not too messy to eat with your hands (like a typical sandwich is generally eaten)
- Something moist on the meat or vegetables to bind them together and add flavor (such as cheese, sauce, condiments like aoli)
- If you use cheese, put it directly on the brad and put the remaining ingredients on top. The cheese is the glue that holds it all together.
There are entire television shows and cookbooks dedicated to sandwiches. The sky is the limit in terms of flavor profiles and ingredients. Here are 5 five great examples to get you started.
#1. Grilled Beef and Onion Sandwich
Yum, right? For this melt in your mouth beef sandwich, you will need 2 thick (not soggy) slices of bread; Dijon Mustard; Shredded Gruyere; Caramelized onion (ringed or not, it’s fine); and, of course, grilled beef (shredded or thinly sliced). Start off by spreading mustard on the two slices, then layer shredded Gruyere followed by grilled beef slices, onions, and a bit more Gruyere. Put your assembly on a panini maker and cook until golden.
Caprese is a customer favorite and appeals to vegetarians that eat dairy. Apply the inside of your Italian bread or divided sub roll with a little olive oil (herbed or garlic seasoned oil is great if you have some). Add fresh mozzarella, fresh sliced basil, fresh sliced tomato and some seasonings (salt and pepper, maybe some garlic powder). Press and wait until it’s golden. You can also have many twists on the classic. To make a smoked caprese, use smoke mozzarella. For eggplant-mozzarella caprese, ditch the tomatoes for eggplant slices. For anchovy caprese, sprinkle capers and add some anchovy fillets to the standard. For Prosciutto Caprese, use three slices of prosciutto instead of or in addition to the tomatoes.
#3. A Fruit Dessert
If you are looking for dessert ideas for you craft brewery, a panini maker can also come in handy. Sprinkle a little sugar on sliced fruit, preferably figs, stone fruits or pineapple. Press and grill for a decadent dessert. You can also serve press-grilled fruit slices alone or with cake or ice cream for dessert.
#4. Mexican Fajita Melt
Apply a little olive oil on the sides of a split sub roll or a tortilla wrap. Fill it with sauteed onions and peppers, shredded cheese (jack cheese will do fine), and thinly sliced or shredded roast beef, chicken or pork. Get fancy and add some fajita seasoning, lime juice or cumin. Grill it in your panini maker until golden.
#5. Grilled Smashed Potatoes
Who doesn’t love to drink great craft ale with smashed potatoes on the side, right? Boil or microwave the potatoes first. Place them on the press and grill until crispy. Add flavor to the potatoes before cooking by stirring in or topping with some butter or oil, salt, pepper, seasoned salt, red pepper flakes or cayenne, garlic powder, chive, green onion or paprika. Hey, create your own house seasoning!
These are just but a few foods you can make on your panini press. With a little ingenuity, you can turn your panini maker into a heck of a multitasker.