Chicken and Brie Panini Sandwiches with Sliced Pears and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

A few weeks ago, I had an early lunch with a dear friend of mine at a lovely café with a European flair that left me longing to walk the streets of Paris almost as much as Woody Allen’s new movie, Midnight in Paris.

We had mochas and tea and dined on savory, stuffed crêpes.  The crêpe I chose was filled with turkey breast and Brie cheese.  A delightful combo.  The flavors got me thinking: this would make a delicious panini, and I could use baked chicken, which is one of my cooking staples.  The only problem?  I’ve never made a panini sandwich.

Well, it turns out that paninis are ridiculously simple to make, even if your kitchen is lacking a panini press, like mine is.  Instead, you can use a grill pan and keep the sandwiches pressed together by using a small frying pan weighted with tin cans from the pantry.

Chicken and Brie Panini Sandwiches with Sliced Pears and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Makes 2 sandwiches.

Ingredients:
4 slices of fresh bread, (I used a soft ciabatta)
1 baked chicken breast, sliced in half, lengthwise (you can substitute turkey breast or use a rotisserie chicken, or omit the meat and make a tasty vegetarian panini)
1/2 of an Anjou pear, core removed
fresh lemon juice
1/2 wedge of Brie cheese
sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil

Equipment:
panini press or grill pan with a weighted skillet
mandoline
small sheet pan

Method:
About an hour before dinner, I began by drizzling my chicken breast with extra virgin olive oil and seasoning it with freshly ground black pepper.  I omitted salt, because I felt the Brie would be salty enough.  I baked the chicken on a small sheet pan at 350°F for about 35-40 minutes.  The chicken is done when there is no pink in the center and the juices run clear.  You can also grill the chicken or use thinly sliced turkey breast.

Once the chicken is done, remove it from the oven, and allow it to cool.  The juices should redistribute before you cut it in half, so that the meat stays moist and won’t dry out.

Place the Brie in the freezer to allow it to firm up for a few minutes.  It will be easier to slice that way!  Then move on to the pear.

I wanted to show the Brie so that the size would be apparent...

I used my hand mandoline to thinly slice the Anjou pear.  Then I sprinkled the slices with a bit of fresh lemon juice so that they wouldn’t brown.

The Anjou pears looked best at the market, but Bosch pears would be equally good here.

There were plenty of extra pear slices which I plated up along with the sandwiches and garnished with some freshly ground black pepper.

Remove the Brie from the freezer and slice 1/2 of the wedge into thin slices.  I used about 3 slices per sandwich.  If the slices were long, I cut them in half.

Oh gosh, I love Brie cheese!

Then it was time to assemble!  I began with a single slice of ciabatta.  Next, I topped it with a thin layer of pear slices (I would double the amount of pear slices next time, because the flavor was sweet and subtle, but I wanted to taste it even more).

The pear was yummy. I will definitely add more slices next time!

On top of the pear slices, I put one-half of the chicken breast, sliced lengthwise.

Baked chicken comes next...

Then I added 3-4 sliced sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil.

On my short list of culinary favorites...the sun-dried tomato.

I could eat it just like that...

On top of the sun-dried tomatoes, I put 3 generous slices of Brie.

I like my sandwiches cheesy!

Finally, I topped the panini with another piece of ciabatta and sent it to the grill pan.

Mon mari grilled them up for me, and I think they turned out splendidly for my first attempt at panini sandwiches.  Next time, I might go with a simple Brie and pear panini…hmm, maybe tomorrow for lunch?!?

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