This Panini is "In Da Club"!

by on March 3, 2008

“Bmmmm-bmmmm, bmmmm-bmmmm…Go shorty, it’s your birthday…” Even people who don’t like rap love this song. 50 Cent’s “In Da Club” was the inspiration for my latest recipe – a club sandwich, grilled panini-style. WHYYYY, pray tell?? I’m participating in my first blog event! Elly Says Opa is hosting an event called “Eat to the Beat!” and to participate you need to cook something inspired by a song. For some reason “In Da Club” came to mind – I guess because it’s one of those party anthems that gets everyone on the dance floor and I associate it with a fun time. And then I thought, “Club! That’s a sandwich!” Yep, it’s pretty literal. Now, a club sandwich is pretty much a standard – three slices of bread, toasted on the outside, turkey, bacon, cheese, tomatoes. I wanted to apply some creativity beyond just grilling these ingredients on a panini press, so I thought I’d try to integrate a special ingredient: mangoes. I crossed my fingers and hoped for a fun, festive and tasty outcome! Want to skip ahead? Click here for the final recipe.

Turkey Mango Double-Decker Club Panini – Attempt #1
  • Bread: Sourdough
  • Condiment: Avocado spread
  • Meat: Sliced turkey, bacon
  • Cheese: Swiss, cheddar
  • “Goodies”: Tomatoes, Mangoes

THE INSPIRATION: “In Da Club” by 50 Cent, for the Eat to the Beat! blog event.

THE PREPARATION: I thought an avocado spread – basically, a more spreadable guacamole – would not only provide great flavor but add color. To get the smooth consistency I wanted, I pulled my trusty mini-prep food processor out of the appliance wasteland that is my pantry. I pureed a basic guacamole recipe – 1 avocado, a teaspoon of garlic powder, 1/8 teaspoon of sea salt, 1-1/2 teaspoons of fresh lime juice, 2 tablespoons of cilantro – plus added 2 teaspoons of light sour cream for an even creamier texture. A little bland on the first try so I added another 1-1/2 teaspoons of lime juice and that punched things up a bit.

Next, I tackled the “center bread”. As you know, a traditional club sandwich is “double-decker”, with a bottom piece of bread, fillings, a center piece of bread, more fillings, and a top piece of bread. I wanted to keep this tradition with my panini-style club, but I had some concerns about how the center bread pieces might fare in the pressing. My solution: pre-press them on their own. I lightly pressed them on the panini grill at low heat for about 7 minutes.

THE CONSTRUCTION: I spread about 1-1/2 tablespoons of the avocado spread on the bottom slice of bread, layered on a few slices of quick serve fully-cooked bacon (this is so great to have on hand for making panini!), a few 1/4″ slices of mango and a slice of swiss cheese. This comprised the “downstairs” of my sandwich. Next went on the pre-grilled center bread and I built the “upstairs”: a thin layer of mayonnaise, turkey breast slices, tomato slices, cheddar and the top bread. This was getting a bit tall! Lastly, I sprayed the top with olive oil cooking spray and grilled on low heat for about 10 minutes. I went “low and slow” to ensure the cheese in the middle of this behemoth had a chance to melt without scorching the bread.

THE RESULTS: Good flavors, texture could use a little help. Despite my pre-grilling, the center bread still got a little mushier than I’d hoped. And then I remembered…I didn’t spray any olive oil on it before grilling! An olive oil “barrier” was probably more likely to keep out the extra moisture so I made a note to try that in Attempt #2. Also, I think the juice from the tomatoes may have contributed to the mushiness. This comes straight out of my 7 Tips for Making Great Panini – I should have followed my own advice! One surprising result was the importance of how to arrange the layers to maximize the sandwich’s visual appeal. When I cut it in half, the tomato and bacon layers weren’t too visible due to how I’d positioned them. The beauty of this sandwich lies in the colorful layers, so that was something else I wanted to rectify. Oh well…on to Attempt #2!

Turkey Mango Double-Decker Club Panini – Attempt #2

I learned my lesson in Attempt #1 and sprayed both sides of my center breads with olive oil this time before grilling. While I was at it, I also sprayed the outside of my bottom bread – it’s a little messy to spray the bottoms of these things, but it’s worth the extra handwashing to have the nice, crostini-like bread. To make the bacon more visible on the sandwich, I cut each slice in half and made a little carpet of bacon, covering the entire bread. You couldn’t miss it now! In place of the mayonnaise, I substituted a second layer of avocado spread – the mayonnaise wasn’t adding much flavor and definitely didn’t contribute to the colorful presentation. Lastly, I removed the seeds from the tomatoes and made sure they crossed the middle of the sandwich so they would be visible when the sandwich was cut in half.

THE RESULTS: Terrific! The middle bread held up much better this time around with the olive oil. The additional avocado spread added nice flavor and I could now see all the layers when I cut the sandwich in half. The mango is kind of a sweet little surprise in this sandwich – it tastes great with the bacon and is unexpected. All in all, I was proud of this adaptation of the traditional club.

Get the final recipe!

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Elizabeth Lewandowski August 31, 2009 at 4:45 pm

I looooove paninis and have not had great success making them! Your blog has given me the courage to continue my journey through the brave new world of panini-making.

Tuna panini? I haven’t looked close enough yet!

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