Paninis are one of my favorite simple dinners! They are perfect for using up leftovers and making them into something tasty and new. Like this chicken pesto panini, which is full of Italian flavors and makes great use of leftover chicken!
One thing I love doing is thinking of different paninis I can make from leftovers. Not only am I using up yesterday’s dinner instead of letting go to waste, but I’m using it in a way which makes it a completely different dinner!
I mean, I’m happy to be able to pull out some leftovers and just eat them for lunch as is. And possibly even still in the storage container. I’m not the only one, am I? 🙂 However, when I can make dinner on night one and make a new dinner from the same food a couple of nights later, that’s even better. Lately I’ve been working on a grilled butterflied chicken recipe (though it might end up being game hens – we’ll see!), which means I have plenty of leftover chicken eat up.
What to do? Make a chicken panini and slather it with a pesto aioli! Sounds like a plan to me.
Way back only a few months after I started this blog I shared my Turkey Panini with Cranberry Mustard to make the most of Thanksgiving leftovers, and this past year I shared my Roast Beef and Horseradish Mayo Panini to make the most of Christmas leftovers. Now it’s time to make the most out of every day, I roasted up a chicken leftovers.
Of course this time there’s no yummy cranberry sauce to mix up into a sweet and spicy condiment, so you do need to do a little more work to make this panini. To give the sandwich a big flavor boost, I caramelized some onions and then whipped up a basil aioli. Which means, of course, that this isn’t a five minute meal. Sorry! But I think it is totally worth it to wait for the 40 or so minutes it takes for onions to get all browned and amazing.
You want amazing, right?
Yes, you do. Which is why you are also going to put away that mayonnaise. I see it there. Put it back. In the interests of science, I did try using regular mayo instead of making an aioli, and it was night and day. Take the few minutes, and pull out your whisk! Aioli is the way to go.
Your taste buds will thank you.
Not sure about caramelized onions? Here’s a helpful article: Caramelized Onions – Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them.
Once you’ve done the prep, making the paninis is as easy as ever. You just need some good, sturdy bread – I like a nice sliced sourdough, but a dense white or ciabatta rolls are both great choices, a couple of extras – like lettuce and tomatoes, and a panini pan.
I have a stove top panini pan which does an excellent job and cooks two paninis at a time. It’s a Calphalon Panini Pan and it comes with a grill pan and a heavy press to put on top.
And now it’s time for me to be going because that pesto chicken panini smells really good and I think it’s time for dinner.
– Happy Eating, Annemarie
Italian Chicken Pesto Panini
Balsamic Caramelized Onions
- 2 medium white onions
- 2 tbsp olive oil, or a mix of olive oil and butter
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 pinch granulated sugar
- 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tbsp lemon juice, plus more if needed
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
- 1/2 cup mixed vegetable oil and olive oil
- 4 tbsp finely chopped fresh basil
- 2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
- 8 slices sourdough bread, or ciabatta buns
- 1 1/2 lbs sliced cooked chicken breast
- 4 oz sliced fontina cheese
- sliced tomatoes
Balsamic Caramelized Onions
- Halve the onions and slice them into 1/8 inch slices. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium to medium-low heat. Add the onions, salt, and sugar. Cook the onions until they are soft and deep brown, stirring occasionally. This will take about 40-45 minutes.
- Have a cup of water nearby as you caramelize. If the onions are getting too brown before they are fully soft, splash a little water in and continue cooking. Once the onions are done, add the balsamic vinegar and take the onions off the heat.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolk, salt, lemon juice, and mustard. The yolk will get light colored and then darken a bit. Now is the time to start adding the oil. Whisking the egg mixture constantly, begin adding the oil in a slow, steady stream until all the oil is used and the sauce has thickened. Stir in the basil and parmesan. Taste and add more salt or lemon juice as needed.
- Heat up a panini pan on medium until hot.
- Brush a little oil onto the bread on the outside of the slices (the side which will be on the outside of your sandwich). Spread each slice of bread with some of the basil aioli. Then layer in the chicken, cheese, and caramelized onion.
- Cook each panini until they are well browned on both sides and the cheese is melted, about 2-3 minutes per side. Pry open the panini and add the lettuce and tomato.
- Any mildly spiced leftover chicken will work in this recipe.
- If you want to cook the chicken for the panini, I would suggest brining the chicken in a brine of 2 cups water, 1/4 cup kosher salt, and 2 tablespoons sugar for 30 minutes. Then you can grill the chicken covered on high, 2 minutes per side; followed by low until cooked through. Or use the pan method in my Broccoli and Chicken Salad.
- I have a Calphalon Panini Pan.