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~ Roasted-Chicken Caesar-Salad Focaccia-Panini ~

IMG_2531Those of you who know me know that I consider a high-quality, well-constructed sandwich to be the perfect, well-balanced, portion-controlled meal.  For me, a sandwich is much more than just putting a few ingredients between two slices of bread to stave off a hunger attack.  Like meal making, sandwich making requires thought, and, I consider myself to be a very thoughtful sandwich crafter.  I have eaten enough good and bad sandwiches in my lifetime to qualify as a sandwich snob.  Sandwich ingredients can be cheap or expensive, simple or exotic, but, right down to the choice of bread and condiment, the ingredients must play together like a symphony. If one component is not in concert with the others, that is not a perfect sandwich performance.  

IMG_2514A perfect sandwich should be a party in your mouth!

IMG_1078"A restaurant is only as good as its Caesar salad and a Caesar salad is only as good as its Caesar dressing."  As a lover of Caesar salad, especially chicken Caesar salad, I can attest to that.  I want the romaine crisp, the Parmesan freshly grated, the dressing garlic-y, and, I like mine with a few shaved onions and tomato wedges in it as well (hard-cooked eggs or avocado are good too).  The chicken, of course, must be freshly roasted or grilled.

IMG_2004Good croutons play a significant role in a Caesar salad.  Up until a few years ago, the French baguette was my #1 choice.  Then, one day, while looking at one of ~ My Rosemary & Cracked Black Pepper Focaccia ~, it occurred to me to make croutons for a chicken Ceasar salad with a bit of it.  It didn't take long for my sandwich-loving brain to combine the chicken Caesar salad with sliced focaccia to come up with one of my favorite "salad sandwich" combinations! 

(Note:  You can find my recipes for ~ "Hail Caesar", Roasted Chicken Salad a la Mel ~, and, ~ How to: Make Croutons (& Toasts) ~ in Category 2.  Just click on the Related Article link below to go directly to ~ My Rosemary & Cracked Black Pepper Focaccia ~ recipe.)

Ever Wonder What it feels like to be a Panino?

IMG_2489"Panino" is singular for "panini".  One panino, two panini!

IMG_2214A panini press is basically a double-sided appliance that cooks both sides of a sandwich at once. Much like a grill pan, the grids of a panini press give these sandwiches their signature grill marks.  There are several good brands, in all price ranges, on the market.  My Cuisinart Griddler is about 5 years old.  It doesn't take up too much space, controls heat perfectly, and, I love it. This gadget has earned its rightful place on my kitchen counter!

IMG_22952  3" x 3"-squares of 1"-1 1/2"-thick focaccia, preferably rosemary focaccia, cut in half lengthwise to form 4 total bread slices

1/2  cup Caesar dressing, preferably homemade

3/4  cup grated Asiago cheese

1  6-ounce roasted chicken breast, at room temperature, cut into very thin slices

2-3  slices crisply-fried bacon, well-drained and at room temperature, sliced into 1/2" strips

1/4  cup  shaved (very-thinly sliced) yellow or sweet onion, red onion may be substituted

2  small Campari tomatoes, each cut into 4, 1/4"-thick slices

1/2  cup shredded romaine lettuce

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing grids on panini press

IMG_2239 IMG_2226~ Step 1. Grate the Asiago cheese and place 3/4 cup of it in a In a 1-cup food storage container.  I use a mini-food processor to grate the cheese.  Prepare the Caesar salad dressing and add 1/2 cup of it to the grated cheese.  Stir to combine and set aside while prepping the other ingredients.

IMG_2250Note:  This is more dressing than you need, but you'll enjoy having extra, for dipping, at tableside.

IMG_2258~ Steps 2 & 3. I roast a chicken weekly. Why?  I like having it for salads & sandwiches. Slice chicken as directed.  Fry and prep bacon as directed.

IMG_2261 IMG_2286 IMG_2276Steps 4, 5 & 6.  Slice the onion as directed, followed by the tomatoes and romaine lettuce.  I like to place the tomato slices on a paper-towel lined plate for a moment or two -- this removes the excess moisture from them.

IMG_2365It's time to assemble & grill the panini.  If you don't have a panini press, these are delicious as is, so, don't let it stop you from enjoying them!  

IMG_2303~ Step 7.  Slice each square of foccacia as directed, open each one up, like you would a book and spread a generous tablespoon of Caesar dressing over the top of the insides of both.  In the following order, layer the ingredients on the bottom half of each:

IMG_2312 IMG_2316 IMG_23211/2 of the sliced chicken

1/2 of the sliced onion

1/2 of the romaine chiffonade

IMG_2327 IMG_2333 IMG_23714  slices of tomato

1/2 of the bacon

top of the sandwich

Preheat the press to medium-high and when the light goes on, spray the grids, top and bottom with no-stick spray.

IMG_2378~ Step 8.  Place the assembled sandwiches on the hot grill grids.

Note:  On my Cuisinart griddler, two of these will fit, side by side, nicely.

IMG_2385Place the top of the press on the sandwiches. Firmly, but gently, using the press's handle, press down on the sandwiches for 30-45 seconds.  You are NOT trying to squish the sandwiches, but, you are trying to put just enough pressure on them to steam and crisp the bread a bit.  Let go.

Continue to cook panini until bubbly and golden brown, about 3-4 minutes.  Using a spatula remove sandwiches from panini press and allow to rest 1-2 minutes before eating: 

IMG_2501It's 'wichcraft!!!

IMG_2591Roasted-Chicken Caesar-Salad Focaccia-Panini:  Recipe yields 2 hearty panini sandwiches.

Special Equipment List: mini-food processor or cheese grater; 1-cup food storage container w/lid; cutting board; chef's knife; paper towels; serrated bread knife; panini press; large spatula

IMG_6378 PICT0998Cook's Note: For two more of my favorite "salad sandwiches", click into Categories 2, 14, 20 or 26 to get my recipes for ~ Simplicity:  Creamy, Crunchy, "Classic" Egg Salad ~, and, ~ Creamy, Chunky & Crunchy "Classic Tuna Salad ~!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014) 


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