Ham & Cheese Panini with Fig Jam

Fig Jam purchased at Jacuzzi Family Vineyards in Sonoma, CA.

Fig Jam purchased at Jacuzzi Family Vineyards in Sonoma, CA.

While Americans often refer to a grilled sandwich as a Panini, when we say “panini,” we’re actually using the Italian word for “small bread rolls” (in the plural). Panino is the singular and “panino imbottito” is the phrase used for “stuffed panino” or sandwich. So this posting should be titled, Panino Imbottito with Ham, Cheese, and Fig Jam,” but I’m not that imbottito with myself (i.e. full of myself). Or am I?

After cooking with figs last week, I had a hankering to use the fig jam I purchased awhile back at the Jacuzzi Family Vineyards wine and olive oil tasting center.

Fig jam is pretty sweet, so it’s a great counterpoint to the salty, black forest ham that I’m using in this sandwich. If you don’t live near Sonoma, you can purchase fig jam at Amazon.com. I’ve added a link to the right to make it easy to find.

Although my husband laughed when I bought yet another cooking gadget, I use this Cuisinart Gridder Gourmet all the time.

Although my husband laughed when I bought yet another cooking gadget, I use this Cuisinart Gridder Gourmet all the time.

I’m going to be using my Cuisinart Griddler Gourmet which can function as an indoor grill or a panini press or open up into a griddle. You can use a frying pan right on the stove and just put a heavy lid on top of the sandwich. I do love my “griddler gourmet” though and use it a lot more than I thought I would.

Great bread is one of the most important components of this sandwich.

Great bread is one of the most important components of this sandwich.

For this sandwich, I purchased Black Forest Ham. In the US, that term doesn’t mean as much as it does in Europe, where Black Forest Ham is a protected designation and therefore is required to come from the Black Forest in Germany. I know that the ham I’m buying has a spicy, sharp flavor that I like. A Virginia ham, or Smithfield ham would also work well for this sandwich because of its salty and strong flavor, but a honey-cured ham might prove too sweet to pair with fig jam.

I’ve also chosen a Jarslberg Cheese. It’s a Norwegian cheese in the Swiss Emmentaler-style family of cheeses. It’s less sharp than Emmentaler, which satisfies my personal taste, while still providing that tangy counterpoint to the other flavors in the sandwich.

Ive chosen a La Brea brand French Loaf and spread a generous amount of Fig Jam on it.

I've chosen a La Brea brand French Loaf and spread a generous amount of Fig Jam on it.

This photo shows the amount of jam I chose to use. The La Brea French loaf is nice and crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. Most panini you find in Italian cafés are made with Ciabatta and when made properly, chefs use the whole loaf, splitting it horizontally. The loaf I chose was too big to do that, so I cut slices off of it.

The sandwich is ready to go into the grill

The sandwich is ready to go into the grill

I added some iceberg lettuce to the sandwich because that was what I had on hand. You might choose something with a little more bite, like arugula. (I love that arugula is called Rocket in the UK).

Sandwich grilling under medium-high heat

Sandwich grilling under medium-high heat

I grilled the sandwich under medium-high heat for about 10 minutes. I really wanted the cheese to melt without burning the bread, so I watched the sandwich carefully.

The finished sandwich

The finished sandwich

This was a thoroughly satisfying sandwich. To make it even richer, you can add butter or brush olive oil on the outside of the bread so that it browns even more as it grills. You could also use Salami rather than Ham. This version is a nice, relatively lite (I used low fat Jarlsberg cheese and there is no mayonnaise or aioli) sandwich. Buon Apetite!

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