Panini, sandwiches traditionally cooked in a ridged press, are hard to get wrong, but also surprisingly hard to get just right.
To turn a crowd-pleasing combination of smoked turkey and melty cheddar cheese into an inspired lunch, we needed a condiment with some big personality. To that end, we turned to our Simple Cranberry Sauce, spreading it onto both slices of bread for maximum tart, fruity impact. For a fresh finishing touch, we added some baby arugula.
To achieve the signature ridged grill marks without a press, we used a grill pan as the base and a Dutch oven as a weight on top.
A hearty rustic bread with a crusty exterior and substantial, slightly chewy crumb worked best_tasters found that softer sandwich breads flattened out too much.
For easy cleanup, cover the bottom of the Dutch oven with aluminum foil. If you don’t have a nonstick grill pan you can use a nonstick skillet. Buy a rustic 8-inch loaf (often called a boule) with a good crust and cut it into 1/2-inch slices.
SMOKED TURKEY PANINI WITH SIMPLE CRANBERRY SAUCE
Start to finish: 30 minutes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 (1/2-inch-thick) slices rustic white bread
1/4 cup Simple Cranberry Sauce (recipe below)
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8 ounces thinly sliced cheddar cheese
8 ounces thinly sliced smoked turkey
2 ounces (2 cups) baby arugula
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 200 F. Brush oil evenly over 1 side of each slice of bread. Flip bread over and spread cranberry sauce evenly over each second side. Assemble 4 sandwiches by layering ingredients as follows between prepared bread (with cranberry sauce inside sandwich): half of cheddar, turkey, arugula, and remaining cheddar.
Heat 12-inch nonstick grill pan or nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot, about 1 minute. Place 2 sandwiches in pan, set Dutch oven on top, and cook until bread is golden and crisp, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer sandwiches to wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet and keep warm in oven. Wipe out skillet with paper towels and repeat with remaining 2 sandwiches. Serve.
Simple Cranberry Sauce:
Cooked fruit sauces combine fruit and a careful selection of complementary ingredients; they pair perfectly with a range of savory foods, bringing sweetness and brightness to salty, creamy, or intensely umami-rich dishes.
The key to making a great fruit sauce is treating the different types of fruit in different ways to best bring out their unique characters: Sour fruits need their tartness tamed without becoming cloying, and sweet fruits need their flavors coaxed out and balanced with acidic seasonings.
For our classic cranberry sauce, we found simplest was also best: After testing different sweeteners and cooking liquids, we found that white sugar and water let the natural flavor of the fresh cranberries shine. We cooked the sauce just long enough to thicken it and break down some of the berries, but not so long that we lost all the cranberries’ signature “pop.”
For a bright and lively peach sauce, we used wine, thyme, mustard, and vinegar to create an aromatic, savory-leaning backbone. For a bold, luxurious cherry sauce, we called on red wine and port to underscore the pure cherry flavor.
Finally, we paired plums with sesame oil, ginger, and lime juice, then processed and strained the sauce for a smooth texture.
Makes about 2 1/4 cups
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This sauce also makes a great accompaniment to cheese and meat platters. If using frozen cranberries, do not defrost them; just add about 2 minutes to the simmering time.
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
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1 (12-ounce) bag fresh or frozen cranberries
Bring sugar, water, and salt to boil in medium saucepan, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar. Stir in cranberries and return to boil. Reduce to simmer and cook until slightly thickened and about two-thirds of berries have popped open, about 5 minutes. Transfer to bowl and let cool to room temperature, about 2 hours. (Cranberry sauce can be refrigerated for up to 1 week; bring to room temperature before serving.)
The Associated Press contributed to this article.