I've mentioned previously that I lived in Taipei, Taiwan for a year teaching ESL to kids. One of the best years of my life! There were so many culinary delights in Taiwan. Best fried rice ever. The rice box places with their endless combinations of flavors. Oh, the dumplings. There was a hand-made dumpling place right near the school where I worked. Great place for lunch. I also found one of the best sandwiches I've ever eaten (in my life) in Taipei. Fantastic local placed called Toasteria with the best paninis! My favorite was the BBQ Chicken Panini with Cheddar and Basil.
Finding a Little Piece of Home in Taipei: Fantastic Paninis
My weekend ritual alternated between the cafe near my apartment where I would indulge in the best bacon fried rice ever and Toasteria - the best panini ever! Toasteria has expanded quite a bit since my time in Taiwan. At the time I was there, I frequented the original Toasteria which was a bit like a hole in the wall. A small counter with stools and just a few tables which were exposed to the street and a fully open front - no doors. Perfect for people watching. Here is my ode to Toasteria in Taipei!
Toasteria was a whole experience. I sat at a tiny table and ordered an iced cappuccino every time. French fries cost extra and I always splurged. In addition to the best paninis ever, they had incredible French fries - very important for me since potatoes are my favorite food in the world. I know, I know, if you frequent my website you are rolling your eyes about how many times I declare my love of potatoes!
Back to Toasteria - I can't forget the pickles they served in a little side dish. These garlicky chopped pickles and olives were insane! Totally addicting. When the BBQ chicken panini with cheddar and basil arrived, I devoured it. Not a crumb left on my plate. The combination of chicken, bbq sauce, red onion, basil and cheddar was music to my culinary palate.
BBQ Chicken Panini only has a few ingredients
Costco exists in Taipei and I shopped there when I craved some of the Western staples I couldn't get easily in Taiwan. Cheese, sour cream, American snacks, bagels, breads, muffins, maple syrup, tortillas, etc. Sometimes when I ate at Toasteria I watched them make my panini right from the counter. It always amused me when I could see the big bag of shredded orange cheddar and the label: Kirkland. Same with the bread.
Over the years since my Taiwan adventure, I have thought of that incredible panini and made it a bunch of times. All you need is a rotisserie chicken, good bread, your favorite BBQ sauce (I like Stubb's Original), red onion, fresh basil and orange cheddar. That's it! Do you have a panini press? No? That's fine. You can use a skillet as the weight to press the sandwich and it works great! I do actually have a consumer-grade panini press and it's okay, but not great. It's inconsistent with how it toasts the bread. So for this recipe, I used my trusty skillet as my panini press.
Once More with Feeling: Use Good Bread for this BBQ Chicken Panini
For a panini you need a sturdy bread that can be paninied. A panini is a pressed sandwich so the bread has to be able to handle it. To be frank, garden-variety white bread is NOT going to give you a good result. If you are in Massachusetts and you have access to Nashoba Brook Bakery bread, I recommend their sliced French bread. Their bakery is in West Concord, MA but their product is also available at Hannaford
which is where I usually get it. Also, of course, Iggy's Bread in Cambridge, MA near Alewife station has excellent bread. If you are not in Massachusetts, try to get a loaf of good quality bread from your favorite bakery. A thinner-sliced, sturdy bread like the French bread I use, is great. Or a thicker bread (like a Texas Toast) which still has the consistency of a generic white bread, but is thicker and sturdier, can work too. Please trust me when I say that your panini will taste infinitely better if you use a good quality bread. There. I am now stepping down from my use-good-quality-bread soap box.
This panini takes very little time to put together and are perfect for lunch or dinner. Remember, a cooked rotisserie chicken is SO CHEAP. They are $4.99 at my grocery store. Five bucks and a few other cheap ingredients and you've got a gourmet panini coming right up! I hope you give this one a try.