Sandwich #35–“Fall Dinner Party, Part 2” Caramelized Onion, Mozzarella, and Basil Panini

By 300 Sandwiches

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When Manhattan friends venture to our Brooklyn apartment, we have to hear the usual complaints. “I got lost!” “Is it safe around there?” “Are there liquor stores around you?” “How am I going to get back to the city from there?” Dude, it’s not Bagdad. It’s Brooklyn!

Still, our dinner guests made it to our place with few moans and groans. And they brought wine. In return, we fed them.

E made “Filthy Rich Pizzas”–black truffles, quail egg and duck confit on homemade dough for the main course. I made paninis for appetizers. Earlier I posted the bacon, manchego cheese and argula panini, but I also had to make a vegetarian option for E’s cousin and some “not so fond of swine” friends that were also present.

E’s “Filthy Rich Pizza”–black truffles, quail egg, duck confit on homemade pizza dough-reh-mi! My man takes dinner parties seriously.

The vegetarian paninis went just as fast as the bacon and cheese ones. The basil brightened up the sweet caramelized onion with the mozzarella. And who doesn’t love melted mozzarella? The sandwiches were so rich I only needed to make two and cut them up into bite sized pieces. I had to bat away hungry hands long enough to steal this photo above–I almost didn’t get any shots of the finished product!

“E, can I borrow your girlfriend for one night just so I can get one sandwich?” a friend asked. E’s friends think he’s the smartest man on earth for figuring out a way to get his woman to cook for him (I wasn’t hypnotized, people! I LIKE the challenge! Besides, I gotta eat, too!). “Your woman makes you sandwiches every day? Damn. My woman has never made me a sandwich.”

“You’re getting a raw deal, my friend,” E replies.

After the paninis, E made three of those delicious duck confit and black truffled pizzas, each one coming out even tastier than the first (I might have to post the recipe for it as well. More on that later). He proudly cut each one and served up slices while I refreshed drinks. Yet again, he triumphed in the kitchen. “And I get to make more duck fat with the leftovers!” E declared. It’s one of his favorite hobbies.

The dinner party ended with homemade chocolate cake with sprinkles (thanks, K and J) and wine on our balcony as a small thunderstorm passed through. I sat on E’s lap and stole kisses as conversation about travels and dating and work carried on. Our cholesterol counts likely rose 10 points after all that cheese and meat. But no one was hungry after dinner, and no one had harsh hangovers the next day after bottles of free-flowing wine and Champagne. I’d call that a fine time.

2 slices oversized bread (this time I used 7 grain bread, and the slices were longer than 6 inches!)
1 onion, cut into thick slices
3 tablespoons butter
2 pinches sugar (optional, but I recommend it)
1 pinch salt
1/3 ball mozzarella, sliced
1/4 cup basil
1 cup arugula
2 tbsp olive oil
black pepper to taste

Caramelize onion first: heat butter in a large skillet on medium heat. Add slices of onion and cook slowly over medium heat until translucent. Add pinch of salt halfway through and, if you wish, add sugar (Julia Child does it. I did it, it was tasty. But some call this loathsome. Do what feels good.) Stir frequently, like every minute or two, so they don’t burn, but cook until onions are brown like almonds or walnuts. Cooking time will likely take about 30-40 minutes. Set aside.

Drizzle olive oil on both sides of bread. On one piece of bread, layer on thin slices of mozzarella, then layer on caramelized onion. Throw on arugula (dressed in olive oil and pepper, of course). Finish with basil, then layer on a few more thin slices of mozzarella (having cheese on both the bottom and top of the sandwich helps to keep the sandwich together as the cheese melts). Top with other slice of bread, and drizzle more olive oil on top to make give the bread color when it toasts. Place in pan and place panini press on top.  Toast for 2-3 minutes on each side, turning once carefully. Remove from pan and cut into bite sized pieces. Serves two extremely hungry people, or cut it into quarters for hearty appetizer portions for four.

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