Sandwich #34–“Fall Dinner Party” Bacon, Arugula and Manchego Cheese Panini

By 300 Sandwiches

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Fall arrived this weekend. E and I wanted to commemorate the event, along with his cousin’s birthday, with a dinner party at our place. Since E and I moved to Brooklyn to partake in some hard core nesting, we’d rather entertain at our place and be asleep by midnight than battle traffic to head back into the city and go to a loud club or to some crowded bar and fight for a cab home when the sun comes up. Cohabitation has turned us into the complete opposite of our 25-year-old selves.

As expected, E and I have different roles when running a party. I greet people at the door and pour drinks while managing the flow of dirty dishes. I make sure E has ample work space for cooking by clearing the dirty pots and pans as guests mingle. E is like Emeril Lagasse–he stands in the kitchen and amuses others by whipping up lamb chops or boiling lobster or cooking French Onion soup while our friends sit wide-eyed on one side of the long bar that divides the kitchen from the living room. He gets a rise out of the “oohs” and “aahs” of house guests marveling at his culinary skills. He doesn’t yell “BAM!” with each course, but his cooking is well worth the subway ride in from the city.

Some of the first dates we had involved E cooking for me at his East Village apartment. He would pour wine and flirt with me while we snacked on tuna tartare or cheese and bread. His carefully structured “Dinner Party” Spotify playlist–full of Diana Krall and Nat King Cole tracks–would play on his surround sound stereo. Candles would be lit and his studio apartment would smell of sautéed meat. The first night he cooked for me, he seduced me into helping him shuck fresh scallops, though I’d just gotten a manicure to accessorize my “date chic” attire (little black dress, blazer, heels, fresh blowout). I obliged. Those scallops were tasty. As were the roasted tomatoes that accompanied them. I came back for more dinners at E’s place. And breakfasts. And I ruined many more manicures helping him cook.

Tonight, E and I were both cooking. He planned homemade pizzas with duck confit, quail eggs, black truffles and basil, or based on the ingredients, what I called “The Filthy Rich Pizza.” I wanted to give friends a chance to sample some of my fall-inspired sandwiches, so I made paninis as an appetizer.

The bacon, arugula and manchego cheese panini was a hit. “I would marry you after this one sandwich! Forget the 299 others!” one of E’s friend declared. But it’s not for those on a diet or who make a living modeling bikinis–it’s a decadent, fat-rich meal. It’s great to make as an appetizer for several people or for a group brunch, but so heavy that I sliced it into bite-sized pieces and fed 8 hungry guests sufficiently (I did make another panini after several requests).

I made the same sandwich again for breakfast the next day for E and I and cut up into quarters (pictured above). Still full from Saturday night’s meal, we could only finished one half between us.

2 slices oversized bread (I used country white bread for mine)
1/4 pound bacon (or about 4 strips of bacon)
3/4 cup arugula
1/4 cup (or 2 ounces), manchego cheese, sliced into thin domino size slices
1 tablespoon chopped basil
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon black pepper

Cook bacon until crisp, then set aside on paper towel to soak up extra grease. Butter both slices of bread. Layer on thin slices of cheese, then place bacon on top. Dress arugula lightly with a teaspoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Then place arugula on top of the bacon. Finally layer on a few very thin slices of manchego cheese on top of the greens, so the cheese can hold both the top and bottom slices together on the sandwich. Place top piece of bread on top. Toast in large skillet for about two minutes each. Place weight on top to hold sandwich down and evenly heat throughout. Carefully flip once with spatula during cooking. Remove from pan and cut into sections with a serrated knife. This recipe yields one large whole sandwich, which can be cut into 4 large bite sized portions.

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