Way back in 2002, Sarah decided that she wanted a guitar for Christmas. She asked for money from her family so that she could go out and buy a guitar and learn how to play. The only problem was that she knew nothing about guitars.
[Enter handsome guitar player friend, named Dave]
Sarah asked if I could help her pick out a guitar and then give her lessons. Since I thought she was pretty much the hottest girl ever, I agreed.
So shortly after Christmas, we met up in Des Moines so Sarah could get her guitar. Of course, I saw this as an opportunity to really charm her and win her heart. So I took her out to lunch at the nicest restaurant that I knew of…Panera. I know, I know…most people would not even consider Panera to be a nice restaurant (or even a restaurant for that matter – it’s more of a cafe/bakery). But for a 19-year-old college guy, Panera was about as fancy as it got. We ordered our food and I pulled out the big guns – I bought her lunch. We enjoyed out first meal together on our first semi-date and the rest is history.
Ever since then, Panera has held a special place in our hearts (and stomachs). One of our all-time favorite sandwiches from Panera is the Frontega Chicken Panini. Smoked & pulled white meat chicken, mozzarella, tomatoes, red onions, chopped basil & chipotle mayonnaise, grilled hot on Focaccia bread. So good! We decided to try our hand at homemade Frontega Chicken. We made a few minor adjustments to the original recipe, but it was still awesome!
We started by slicing two chewy ciabatta rolls and spreading creamy chipotle mayo on all four slices of bread. For the mayo, we just added 1/2 teaspoon of dried chipotle flakes and 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika to 1/4 cup mayo. So easy!
Next we sliced up a leftover chicken breast we had from the chicken noodle soup we made a couple of nights before and placed that on the two bottom slices.
We topped the chicken with fresh tomato and basil. Basil is such a small and simple ingredient to add, but you have to use it on this sandwich!!! It takes the flavor over the top!
And of course, a panini isn’t a panini without some cheese. We used some sharp white cheddar instead of the standard mozzarella.
After assembling the sandwich, we put it on our homemade panini press. Obviously, if you have a panini press in your home, you can just use that to cook the sandwiches. If you don’t own a panini press, you can preheat two heavy baking stones in a 500 degree oven and then just set the sandwiches between the two hot stones and cook for 10 minutes. You can also use standard cookie sheets if you don’t own baking stones, but you’ll need to add a little bit of weight to the top cookie sheet (a brick wrapped in foil works really well).
One bite of this sandwich and we were back on our first date! The only difference this time is that we now have three kids running around us screaming at the top of their lungs as we gaze into each others eyes…