The Italians know how to do fast food. If ever you find yourself cruising down an Italian autostrada or stuck in an airport, rather than settling for a sub-par hamburger, chances are you can find a deli-style counter where you can order a panini-style grilled sandwich filled with superb cured meats and melted cheese, which sit between two crisp sheets of hearth-baked bread. With this memory in mind, I set out to follow Nancy Silverton's instructions in her aptly titled book Nancy Silverton's Sandwich Book.
Making a sandwich like the autostrada State-side is not quite so easy—especially when you only want one or two of them. It took a fair bit of haggling to convince the gentlemen at the Whole Foods counter to slice me one-eighth-pound portions of one-sixteenth-inch-thin mortadella, coppa, soppressata, and prosciutto; I had to cross the store to get the fancy-cheese counter people talking to the deli guys to order sliced aged provolone. But the result, cooked on a grill pan pressed down with a heavy cast-iron skillet, took me back to Italy;
- 8 slices crusty sourdough bread
- 4 ounces imported aged provolone in 1/16-inch thin slices
- 4 ounces mortadella in 1/16-inch thin slices, or substitute high-quality bologna
- 4 ounces coppa in in 1/16-inch thin slices
- 4 ounces dry salami, such as soppressata, in 1/16-inch thin slices
- 2 ounces prosciutto in 1/16-inch thin slices
- 4 jarred marinated cherry peppers, or pepperoncini, finely chopped
Butter half the bread slices on one side, and lay them buttered side down on a cutting board. Lay half the cheese on the slices, then scatter the peppers over the cheese. Layer the meats over the cheese: mortadella, then coppa, then salami, then prosciutto. Layer the remaining cheese, then top with the rest of the bread, buttering the outside.
Heat a panini press or ridged grill pan and lay the sandwiches (cooking in batches if necessary) inside or on top. If using a grill pan, weigh the sandwich down with a heavy skillet, such as cast iron. Cook over medium-low heat until the bread is golden and crisp, then flip to cook the other side.
Cut the sandwiches on a diagonal and serve with a small salad, if desired.