Lost in Midlife column: The Queen of the Great Panini

Tracy Beckerman
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Cherokee County News Advocate

Columns share an author’s personal perspective.

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Every once in a while, I discover some new dish that I fall in love with, and then I order it whenever I go out to eat.

For example, there was a point in time when I was really into duck. I had sampled a crispy duck at a new restaurant and it was love at first duck. For six months I ordered it every time I saw it on a menu. Then one day a pair of mallards arrived in our backyard and the next thing we knew, the place was silly with cute little duckies. That pretty much ruined the whole duck dinner thing for me.

Right now, my obsession is paninis. In case you are not familiar with it, a panini is basically a grilled cheese sandwich for grownups. Instead of American cheese on white bread, it is usually made with mozzarella or fontina cheese on focaccia, with other things stuffed into it, such as chicken, pesto, roasted peppers, etc. “Panini” is the Italian name for sandwich, which, I think, is a much nicer name than “Grilled Cheese,” or even the French term, “Croque Monsieur” (pronounced “croak miss-yur”) which makes me think of female frogs.

Kind of an appetite killer, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, ever since I sampled my first panini, I have been on a quest to find the perfect panini, with just the right blend of melted cheesiness and crispy breadiness. After traveling far and wide and sampling many a panini, I have determined that:

a) There are a lot of places that call a panini a panini, but in reality they are just serving glorified Hot Pockets,

b) No one actually does make the perfect panini, and since I think so,

c) I am a panini snob and furthermore,

d) I still don’t like the name Croque Monsieur.

Once I determined that there was no restaurant that served the perfect panini, I felt it was my duty, as a panini lover, to make one myself.

So, the first thing I did was run out and buy a super-duper, magic panini maker. Then I went out and I bought a beautiful focaccia, some fresh grilled chicken, fresh mozzarella, tomato and pesto. I came home, lightly browned the inside slices of bread, added all the rest of the ingredients between the slices, and then put my soon-to-be panini in my brand new, super-duper, magic panini maker and closed the lid.

A moment later a friend called and we started talking about “The Crown” and who was the better Queen, and then I suddenly smelled smoke.

I hung up, whirled around, and found my perfect panini was now a blackened panini hockey puck.

Fortunately I am over my panini phase and have moved onto bruschetta.

It needs no cooking.

You can follow Tracy on Twitter @TracyBeckerman and become a fan on Facebook at www.facebook.com/LostinSuburbiaFanPage.