Friday, November 11, 2005
A Pressing Need
What would you get if you were a food blog writer in a Williams-Sonoma store?
That’s the question that was put out there by Jennifer from Taste Everything Once www.tasteeverythingonce.blogspot.com who is the lucky recipient of a generous W-S gift certificate. Well, when I was recently confronted with the same problem, I bought myself a fancy scale to weigh ingredients, or if I overdo the baking, portion sizes for Weight Watchers!
Jennifer, however, is looking for “entertainment must haves.” While I entertain quite a lot, I would call my style rustic at best or family style at my most accurate, so beyond a pretty and practical really big casserole dish (and a few nice trivets to put it on) I’m out of ideas.
But I thought of my current favorite kitchen gadget, and thought if Jennifer is willing to expand her concept a bit, I could heartily recommend a nice size panini press/grill.
I resisted one as long as I could, but when I finally succumbed it was love at first grill mark. Not only can you make yourself fabulous grilled cheese sandwiches when you just need that comfort hit, you can use it to grill all kinds of bits and bites of carbs, proteins and vegetables for yourself and company.
If you need to justify it for “entertaining,” I do find no one can resist a properly grilled panini. Make some minis for appetizers, or use it to grill bread for bruschettas. Plus you can use it to make the main course, too.
My recommendation is to get one with removable plates (much easier to clean) and one that has a slight slant so that the grease and juices drain into a reservoir (preferably removable for easy cleaning.)
I’d also check into the hinge and see if it floats a bit to accommodate thicker ingredients.
Those are the basics I’d recommend. My grill also came with waffle plates (which I didn’t need) and quesadilla plates (which I believe no one needs). I’ve seen more expensive ones that convert into open grills and have other features. I do admit, heat control might be nice.
Now, here’s the true confession part – I got mine for $30 at Costco. It’s made by VillaWare, a company that also makes much bigger and more elaborate grills. Plastic bits and pieces have already broken off. A few springs mysteriously fell out with no apparent place to replace them. It is a little small for entertaining; I have to make sandwiches in batches. But it works well and I’ve learned its idiosyncrasies and it has earned its right to counter space. I had wanted one of the fancy presses from Williams-Sonoma or Sur la Table, but I couldn’t justify the expense until I knew if I’d use it. So I bought the cheapie and now can’t justify replacing it with a more expensive one.
Pass the grilled Portobello mushroom and red pepper, goat cheese and pesto sauce, I feel a panini coming on!
My grill is no longer offered by Costco.
Williams-Sonoma offers a nice range of panini presses and grills at: