This past weekend, I was getting lunch with Ben at The Great Wazu, which is a local deli with very colorful and inspired names for sandwiches. For example, they have a sandwich called “The Sal,” which was invented by…you guessed it…some guy named Sal. On this particular afternoon, Ben selected a “Grilled Chicken Panini” from the panini menu. What arrived upon checkout was anything other than the paninis I had come to know and love. Instead of bread, this particular panini was wrapped in a tortilla and grilled.
How awesome is that?!! I had to recreate it immediately. Hence, my chicken and black bean panini. Why had I never thought to do something like that before? I always have tortillas floating around in the bottom of my fridge – not because I have a particular penchant for them on a regular basis, but because I occasionally have cravings for burritos and then after two nights I’ve usually had my fill but the 16-pack of tortillas I bought for the occasion still lingers since I only used four tortillas. Sue me.
So, I got to work. Of course, I didn’t have nearly half of the tasty ingredients found in Ben’s panini handy in my own kitchen, so I improvised. Here’s what I wound up with:
1) chicken – check
2) black beans – check
3) half of an onion well past its prime but it hadn’t started sprouting yet – check
4) garlic (always) – check
5) leftover broccoli from a recent stir-fry that probably wouldn’t work well in a panini but I had it and I wanted to use it so I threw it in there – check
6) American cheese – che……wait, what?
OK, I’m sorry. I know paninis are synonymous with beautiful melty ooey gooey cheese. Forgive me for saying this, but the only quasi-acceptable cheese I had on hand (ie, not cottage or cream) was some sliced American deli cheese. And you know what? When I threw that puppy in with everything else, in seriously tasted good! I know, I’m as shocked as you are!
And because I have a new-found love of Sriracha, I threw some of that in there. Well, wouldn’t you know that when you heat all that up, wrap it in a warmed tortilla, and squish it on a grill pan you get a mighty tasty lunch?
Life is full of amazing things sometimes. And because I just love taking pictures of nicely sliced slanted sandwiches, here’s another shot…
I always slice my sandwiches diagonally now. I’m just not happy eating a sandwich unless I’m chomping on the corners. I’m weird like that.
These chicken and black bean paninis defy the conventional idea of a panini. Instead of bread, these use tortillas and have an amazing crispy texture when pressed on a grill.
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 4 whole wheat tortillas, enchilada size (regular would suffice)
- 1 15-oz. can of black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1/2 cup chopped broccoli florets
- 1/2 small onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 4 slices of American cheese (or other melting cheese of choice)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 tsp Sriracha (or other hot sauce)
- 2 tsps extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp chili powder
- Heat a grill pan (or grill) on high heat. If using a grill pan, spray with cooking spray. While the grill gets hot, season the chicken breasts on both sides with salt, pepper, and chili powder.
- Throw the chicken on the grill and cook for about 4-5 minutes per side, depending on thickness, until cooked through.
- Meanwhile, in a medium-sized skillet, heat the olive oil until hot. Add the onions, garlic, and broccoli to the pan. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the onions are soft and the broccoli begins to get tender.
- Add the beans and Sriracha. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- When the chicken is done, let it rest for about 5-10 minutes to allow for the juices to redistribute. Then slice the chicken diagonally into thin strips.
- Take a tortilla and warm it in the microwave for 15 seconds, or on the grill top, just until it becomes warm and pliable. Take a quarter of the filling and put it in the center of the tortilla. Place a slice of cheese on top. Tuck the sides of the tortilla in and roll the bottom edge over the top edge, creating a tight little burrito. Repeat with the other three paninis.
- On a well-greased grill pan (or grill), place the paninis and weight the down with a sandwich press or heavy object (like another small pan or pot). When the tortilla has firmed up and you see nice grill marks, flip it to the other side and repeat. It should take about 2-3 minutes per side.
- Slice diagonally and serve immediately.