Photo: Iain Bagwell
Spread outsides of sandwiches with butter. Cook in a preheated panini press 2 to 3 minutes or until golden.
Pick a sturdy bread
- Raisin-nut bread
- French bread
- Slider buns or dinner rolls
- Challah or brioche
- Pumpernickel, rye, or hearty white bread
Choose a cheese
- Brie, Gruyère, or Swiss
- Sharp white Cheddar
- Creamy goat cheese
- Blue cheese
- Cream cheese
Spread some flavor inside
- Apple butter
- Coarse-grained, Dijon, or honey mustard
- Herbed butter (for outsides of sandwiches)
- Fruit preserves or pepper jelly
Add a favorite topping (or two)
- Caramelized onions
- Sautéed apples or pears
- Sliced fresh fruit or vegetables
- Dried apricots
- Fresh herbs
- Thinly sliced deli meat
- Cooked bacon slices
- Smoked salmon
- Chopped toasted nuts
Five Combos We Love
We particularly love these inspired, melt-in-your-mouth concoctions paired with these affordable wines recommended by wine director Richard Robinson of The Wine Shop at Western Supermarket in Mountain Brook, Alabama.
1. Salty-Sweet Bacon Panini
Brie with apple butter and bacon on raisin-walnut bread.
Wine suggestion: "For white, try a Chenin Blanc, such as Champalou Vouvray from the Loire Valley ($17) or a California version such as Ballentine Vineyards ($17). If you just have to have red, then try Beaujolais or California Pinot Noir."
2. Fruit-and-Nut Sliders
Sharp white Cheddar with honey mustard, thinly sliced Golden Delicious apples, and toasted pecans on slider buns or dinner rolls.
Wine suggestion: "A good cool-climate Chardonnay would be great with this one, but I would encourage giving white Rhône a try. Rich and exotic, these wines possess wonderful food affinity and crowd-pleasing versatility. Try La Vieille Ferme from the Luberon ($8), Côtes du Rhône Blanc from Famille Perrin ($11), or E. Guigal ($14)."
3. Caramelized Onion Bliss
Blue cheese with caramelized onions and sautéed pears on brioche or challah bread.
Wine suggestion: "The intense complexity of ingredients calls for a wine of equal complexity, but one that will complement, not compete. Leitz' Dragonstone Riesling ($16) would be a great choice, but any good-quality Spätlese or even Auslese-level Riesling would be wonderful as well. A village-level red Burgundy or an Oregon Pinot Noir such as Stoller ($21) would be fine choices for red."
4. Fancy Ham and Cheese
Gruyère with coarse-grained mustard, thinly sliced ham, dried apricot halves, and toasted pistachios on French bread slices.
Wine suggestion: "A vibrant rosé comes to mind, such as exhilarating Bandol ($29 to $34) or slightly softer version from Cassis ($29). A less expensive option is the fruity-yet-dry Tempranillo version from Cune in Spain's Rioja region. Domaine du Fonsainte 'Gris du Gris' from Corbieres ($13) would also work beautifully."
5. Creamy Dill and Salmon Bites
Creamy goat cheese with smoked salmon on hearty white bread brushed with dill butter.
Wine suggestion: "The obvious choice here is Sauvignon Blanc, such as Neil Ellis ($14) or Southern Right ($13). The smoked salmon element opens the door to a top-flite Pinot Grigio, such as Jermann ($22)."