It’s been awhile since I heated up the Panini press to make some crispy sandwiches! I’d made a large pot of Princess Diana Carrot Soup and wanted to use some pork in sandwiches. I also wanted to make caramelized onions for the sandwiches. Dinner would be a blending of several things I was in the mood to munch on!
The soup is simple and I made that earlier in the afternoon so that it was ready to eat. I let it simmer on the lowest setting on the back burner for an hour when it was done. The sandwiches would go fast once I started them and I didn’t want to be tripping over my own feet to get things done at once!
Before I even started the soup I took the pork loin chops out of the fridge. They were slightly frozen yet which was perfect. I trimmed the excess fat off of them and sliced them super thin. When the pork was all sliced I put it into a zippered plastic bag and added about a cup of a robust Italian salad dressing I had on hand. We had three containers of Italian dressing on the go in the fridge, for some odd reason, and it was a great chance to use one up. I put the bag back into the fridge in a container to marinate for a few hours.
Next I started caramelizing the onions. I sliced two large onions into medium sized strips, a little more than ¼” thick and put them into a large nonstick skillet I’d heated with about ¼ cup of canola oil. I researched online to see what was recommended and found everyone had a different idea. I found tips on Bon Appetit were the most helpful and stuck to using just oil and cooking them on medium low.
I stirred the onions every 5 or 10 minutes so they cooked evenly. I’d also salted them with about ½ teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of sugar as recommended on other sites. They cooked well and it did take about an hour for them to be uniformly browned and softened but not mushy. I set them aside to prep the rest of the sandwich ingredients.
My P.S. was home and starving by then so he cut the loaf of Italian bread into nice slices, slightly thicker than the average sliced bread. I used one of our oils that is infused with “Tuscan” seasonings and spread it on one side of each slice of bread with a basting brush. I went light as the oil is fairly strong flavored.
From there I just had the pork to saute and it was quick work. The thin slices cooked fast and I scooped them out of the skillet and into a bowl the minute they were done.
I turned up the heat in the skillet and reduced the remaining Italian dressing and pork juices to thicken it. It was a few minutes of stirring and it was perfect to drizzle in the sandwiches.
I layered provolone cheese on the slices of bread, on both sides, because we wanted lots of cheesy goodness melting and oozing out of the sandwiches. The provolone was cut thinly so we felt justified. On top of the cheese I divided out the onions into luscious piles of browned deliciousness.
Next I placed the slices of pork over the onions. As a final step I drizzled the reduced dressing over the pork and put the top slices of bread over the sandwiches.
I grilled two sandwiches at a time in my panini press on the flat iron setting. I wanted them very crispy, using the flat sides of the griddles does that best. They cooked quickly and I set the first two on plates while the second sandwiches grilled. We were thinking we were very hungry and the small sandwiches wouldn’t satisfy us. I was wrong, one was plenty for me. My P.S. ate both of his and was happy.
The sandwiches were SO good! The sweetness of the onion along with the somewhat spicy pork (the dressing had chipotle in it) was a great balance. The creamy cheese was just.. creamy! I served the sandwiches with large cups of the carrot soup and we were totally happy.
Caramelized onions are just amazing. I wish I had the time and patience to make them more often. A good idea would probably be to make a big skillet full and freeze them to have them ready to use in random dishes. After succeeding in my quest for the caramelized onions, I saw a tip on The Chew. Carla said to put a large pinch of baking soda over the onions to change the ph in them so they cook faster. I might have to try that next time!
Italian Pork Panini with Caramlized Onions
2 pork loin chops; trimmed and sliced thinly (still slightly frozen works best)
1 cup Robusto Italian Salad Dressing (I used Wish-Bone)
2 large onions; sliced ¼” thick
¼ cup canola oil
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
10-12 slices provolone
Italian bread; sliced thick
Olive oil to spread on outsides of sandwich for grilling (I used a Tuscan flavored oil; plain olive oil would be fine)
Early in the day trim and slice the pork and marinate it in a zippered plastic bag filled with the cup of Italian dressing. I used a spicy dressing, you could suit your own taste in dressing. Marinate in fridge for several hours. I place the bag in a container just in case it leaks.
In a large skillet, heat the ¼ cup canola oil and add the sliced onions. Sprinkle the sugar and salt over the slices and toss well to coat onions with seasonings and oil. Over medium low heat saute the onions, stirring every 5-10 minutes until the are evenly browned and softened. This takes about an hour. Remove to a container and set aside.
Turn the heat up to medium high and heat the skillet again with a drizzle of oil. Add the contents of the bag of pork and stir fry quickly. The pork will be done in 2-3 minutes, don’t over cook. Remove from skillet and turn the heat a little higher to reduce down the remaining Italian dressing and pork juices. When it is thickened remove the skillet from the heat.
Brush the outsides of the slices of bread with your olive oil of choice. Layer the insides of each slice with provolone torn into pieces to cover the slices completely.
Divide the onions between four slices of the bread, then cover with the sliced pork. Drizzle the sauce over the pork and cover with the remaining slices of bread and cheese.
Preheat the Panini press and place two sandwiches at a time onto the heated griddle. Close the press and grill the sandwiches until the tops are browned, about 3-4 minutes. Remove to plates and grill the remaining sandwiches until browned.