The beauty of a pressed sandwich isn't just that it can be done ahead of time. But that it actually should be done ahead of time. Because this is one of those rare sandwiches that improves with time. And as an added bonus, it also happens to be an excellent way to feed a crowd at a picnic.
Here's how it works: Start by slicing a full loaf of bread in half horizontally. A bit of the insides of each half is removed, then the cut side of each half of the bread is liberally coated with an oil- or other fat-based condiment. This step is key because that fat creates a barrier that helps prevent moist sandwich fillings from making your bread soggy.
After that, just pile on the fillings and assemble the sandwich.
For our recipe, we used a loaf of oblong Italian bread, but pretty much any shape and variety will work so long as the bread isn't crumbly. And while we used pesto as our moisture barrier, mayonnaise or a cheese spread would work fine too. And obviously the chicken and salami we call for could be left out or replaced with cheeses or vegetables for a vegetarian version.
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The only caution is to pat dry any ingredients that were packed in water, such as roasted red peppers, sliced jalapeñsos or even fresh mozzarella.
Overnight Pressed Picnic Sandwich
Start to finish: 20 minutes active (plus overnight pressing). Servings: 6.
1 loaf Italian bread, such as ciabatta
3/4 cup purchased pesto
2 cups coarsely shredded meat from a rotisserie chicken
3/4 cup jarred sweet-hot peppers, sliced
4 ounces sliced provolone cheese
4 ounces sliced salami
1 small yellow or orange bell pepper, cored, thinly sliced
1 small green bell pepper, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 cup sliced Kalamata olives
Slice the loaf of bread in half horizontally. Use your fingers to carefully pull or scrape out the inside of each half of the loaf, leaving about 1/2 inch of bread. Spread half of the pesto over the cut side of each half.
Top the bottom half of the loaf of bread with the chicken, peppers, provolone and the salami, in that order. Top that with the bell peppers, then the olives.
Top with the upper half of the loaf. Wrap the loaf tightly first in plastic wrap, then in foil. Place the wrapped loaf on a baking sheet, then top with a second baking sheet. Place the whole arrangement in the refrigerator, then top with something heavy, such as several bricks, a few large cans of tomatoes or a cast iron skillet.
Let sit in the refrigerator overnight. When ready to serve, unwrap and slice.