There are some holy grail of ingredient combinations and I swear, we found it in this panini! Extra savory bread, fatty avocado, sinfully good bacon? Yes, please.
I genuinely love a good sandwich for any meal of the day. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack. Doesn’t matter to me. #sandwichfan for life, ya know?
I whole heartedly believe the trick to a top notch panini is mayo. On the outside. Instead of butter. Have you heard this trick before? Usually it comes up in the good old, How to Make the Best Grilled Cheese. The trick is never the cheese, it’s in the mayo on the bread! If you haven’t tried it, you should. If you think it’s gross, I hear you, I get it, I’m with you. I respectfully disagree and go back to, if you haven’t tried it, you should.
The mayo on the bread helps the bread toast up with a little extra flavor. It’s the thing that will take you from, this is good, to, what is that je ne sais quoi in your sandwich?!
But then, there’s the candied bacon. I know, it’s kind of a lot when you have to prep ingredients just to put ingredients on a sandwich. Again, I hear you, I get it, I’m with you. By no means is an excellent panini predicated on this candied bacon, but damn, it’s good.
Candied bacon is actually really simple. I just toss about half a cup of brown sugar in a bowl and then dunk the strips (preferably of thick cut) bacon into the brown sugar and get them nice and coated. Then, I put them on a cooling rack on a baking sheet and into a cold oven. As the oven heats up to 350 the bacon cooks and gets all caramely good.
I’ve done candied bacon on the stove top, and while it does work, the oven method seems to be best. When you use the cooling rack, the bacon isn’t cooking up in it’s own fat – key #1 – so it’s not getting too hot and therefore not burning the sugar. And then key #2 is that it’s slowly heating up, so again, the sugar isn’t burning. You let it cool and it gets all sticky and hardens up a bit and then gives your sandwich a little pop of heat.
I also use a panini maker for this, and while you don’t need one, I do love mine! You can also use a grill pan and then place another heavy pan on top of the sandwich to press it into the grill pan and get the marks (and pressed sandwich vibe).
But don’t skip the mayo!
Turkey Paninis with Candied Bacon and Avocado
- 1 lb thick cut bacon
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp cayenne optional
- 8 slices bread I love Trader Joe’s San Fran bread
- 1/2-1 lb sliced turkey
- 1 tomato sliced
- 4-8 slices pepper jack cheese
- 1 avocado sliced
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- mayo & mustard, optional, for sandwiches
- lettuce, optional
- Prepare baking sheet with foil and place a cooling rack on top of the baking sheet; spray cooling rack lightly with cooking spray to prevent sticking. Set aside.
- Coat bacon in brown sugar and line cooling rack with bacon slices.
- Place in the cold oven set to 350. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the bacon reaches desired crispiness.
- Allow to cool and harden at least 5 minutes before using.
- Prepare bread by spreading mayonnaise on the outside of the slices.
- Heat up panini maker; if using a grill pan, wait to heat the pan until your sandwiches are assembled.
- Layer sandwiches with cheese on one side of the bread and make this the side you place down first. The cheese will stick to the bread making it easier to flip.
- If you are using a grill pan, lightly spray the grill pay with cooking spray and place your sandwich(es) down on the pan; place a heavier pot on top to press the sandwich into the grill pan. If you are using a panini maker, place two sandwiches on the grill and gently close the top applying light pressure. (Do not press so hard that your fillings spill out.)
- Monitor the bread for toastiness; remove from grill pan or panini maker when done.
- Optional: I add lettuce and mayo/mustard to the inside of the bread on the slices without cheese once the paninis are done. Nobody likes hot lettuce!