Saturday, April 09, 2011

Grilled Chicken, Smoked Gouda, and Arugula Panini

There is a delightful pleasure derived when serving a meal that is really enjoyed by those eating it. After last week’s rookie but successful run at a barbecued chicken cordon bleu sandwich, tonight we attempted a chicken sandwich that required a bit more finesse. It was fantastic.

I am not trying to overly spiritualize making a meal, but there is something right about Christians gathered together for fellowship over well cooked food; and not just the eating part, but spending the afternoon lighting the fire, preparing the ingredients, cooking and serving the food, all of which works together—in the ebb and flow of conversation—to be a Christian joy. OK, enough said.

Since last Saturday’s chicken sandwiches were a success, we thought we would try something new tonight with company: Grill chicken panini with smoked gouda and arugula. Preparing the food was amazingly simple, but the grilling did require a few techniques beyond slamming some meat on and flipping it over high heat with barbecue sauce until it’s burned.

Sorry, that sounds terribly derogatory. But, I have learned that the majority of grilling well is managing the fire. Learning to use just the right amount of briquettes, placing them to create zones of heat, and being patient for the amount of heat to raise (or lower) to the correct temperature zone is critical. Oh, and keep the lid on and don’t flip the food more than once or twice.

I pounded down the chicken breasts to less than 1/2" thick (smacking chicken with a cast iron pan is kind of fun), smeared them with olive oil, chili powder, kosher salt, and black pepper, and then grilled them over direct high heat for 3–5 minutes per side, lid closed as much as possible, and flipping them only once if possible. After taking the finished chicken inside, and while the fire burned itself towards low heat, I smeared olive oil on one side of a slice of tuscan bread, placed the chicken breasts, smoked gouda, and arugula on the bread, spread a mixture of mayonnaise and dijon mustard on the second slice of bread, and put the sandwiches together. I smeared more olive oil on the top of the second piece of bread and headed back out to the grill.

Once the fire was at low heat, I placed the sandwiches on the grill and covered them with a baking sheet and placed a large, heavy object (I used an empty cast iron dutch oven) on top of the baking sheet, squishing the sandwiches panini style. After about 3 minutes, I uncovered them, flipped the sandwiches, replaced the baking sheet and weight, and toasted the other side.

Frankly, they were fabulous. These are definitely going in the “we should do these again department.”

Oh, and did I say that because we had special friends over tonight, we topped off the evening with homemade cheesecake?

Heavenly, indeed.

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