Caramelized onion & goat cheese panini with balsamic drizzle

This post is for all you onion enthusiasts out there. Not for the ones who like their onions raw and crunchy and full of bite. But for those who like their onions caramelized and meltingly soft, sweeter than you could ever imagine an onion could be.

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My friend Tessa and I have started a nerds’ cooking club … a club for total food nerds. Members: 2. Every few weeks she and I brainstorm an impossibly delicious recipe and gather ingredients. She comes over and we whip something up in my tiny apartment kitchen, then sit down and eat it, v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y, usually while planning what we want to make next time. This week, we were thinking about doing french onion soup but decided against it when I dreamed up this idea for a french-onion-soup-inspired panini. As it turned out, the panini didn’t end up tasting anything at all like french onion soup, but it just might be 1,000 times better.

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The reasons why this panini is so delicious are many. One of the most significant reasons definitely has to be the goat cheese. Because one of the deep truths that governs our universe is that nothing made with goat cheese could ever be bad. The goat cheese redeems anything. But in this case, the sandwich is already good, and the goat cheese just takes it to a whole new level of awesome. Another great thing about this is the onions (of course!). Using a combination of sweet yellow and tangy red onions makes it much more interesting … plus red onions are insanely delicious caramelized.

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Besides that, this panini has a lot of great contrasts. Crunchy bread and soft filling. Sweet onions and tangy cheese. And a drizzle of balsamic syrup that blends in just enough and stands out just enough. Also, it’s a really easy panini to make since it only has a few ingredients. Bread. Onions. Goat cheese. Balsamic vinegar. That’s about it.

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Caramelized Onion & Goat Cheese Panini with Balsamic Drizzle (this will make about 4 sandwiches, but it depends on how much onion you put on each!)

Good sliced bread (We used French and foccaccia; use whatever you like)
A little butter
1 red onion
1 yellow onion
Olive oil, salt, & pepper
Balsamic vinegar (about 1/3 cup should be enough)
Plain goat cheese (chevre)

1. Thinly slice the onions and put them in a pan with olive oil, salt, & pepper. Cook over low to medium heat, turning/stirring from time to time, letting the onions slowly cook. Watch them so they don’t burn — but they should turn a beautiful golden-brown and soften while still holding their shape. The best way to know if they are done to perfection is to taste them! Just don’t eat the whole pan before you can get them onto a slice of bread. Be patient … it will be worth it. :)

2. Meanwhile, butter the outsides of the slices of bread. Preheat your panini press.

3. Also meanwhile, heat the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over medium heat with the lid off. All you are doing is getting it to simmer and evaporate so it will thicken. Once it’s reduced to about half, take it off the heat. Don’t let it get to the point of getting syrupy, because it thickens a lot once it cools. It may seem to runny when you take it off the heat, but once it cools it will be perfectly drizzle-able.

4. Spread a thick layer of goat cheese on one side of a slice of bread (the other side should be buttered). Top with a generous pile of caramelized onions and drizzle with balsamic syrup. Top with another slice of bread, buttered side out. Repeat to make 4 or so paninis. Cook on the panini press until browned and crisp. Enjoy!

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