Nowadays, it seems there's a new and improved kitchen gadget for just about every step of the cooking process, from electric salt and pepper mills down to hand-held egg cracker thingamajigs that separate the egg white and yolk from an eggshell.
I'm sure I speak for a number of readers when I say us home cooks already have the tools we need, or can at least improvise, without being duped into buying those "As seen on TV" contraptions that are more of a pain to wash in the long run.
Take, for example, the sandwich press. Comparable to a George Foreman, but easier to clean than a waffle iron, the two-sided grilling machine is a versatile countertop appliance that can transform an ordinary ham and Swiss into gourmet perfection in the blink of an eye, or so I'm told.
While my arsenal of cookware doesn't include this souped-up sammy smasher, I went ahead and attempted to make my very first panini during my recent days off (note: A panini is a fancy name for a kind of grilled sandwich, typically made using a sandwich press).
Like many culinary heavy hitters on Food Network have assured, a cast-iron skillet and spatula will suffice.
With that in mind, I took my recipe one notch further and fired up the outdoor Weber grill.
I recalled an episode of 30-Minute Meals where Rachael Ray was grilling chicken under tinfoil-wrapped bricks. It was a clever technique which ultimately resulted in a crispier skin and shorter cooking time.
Of course not all of us have bricks lying around.
As an alternative, she suggested using a cast-iron skillet. I figured the same concept would apply for my backyard panini barbecue.
In that case, I made sure to pick up a heartier loaf of bread - something that would stand up to a set of hot grill grates. Fresh from the bakery I snagged a bag of sourdough.
As for the filling, I went with green bell pepper and red onion (sliced into long, thin strips), horseradish mustard, Muenster cheese and deli roast beef.
Because the grill simply melts the cheese and toasts the bread to give the panini its traditional grill markings, I gave the veggies a head start in a saut pan.
Once they were softened, not mushy, the sandwich building began and followed with a thin coating of butter on the outside of the sourdough before hitting the grill.
Placing the skillet carefully on top, I hovered nearby as my bread sizzled to a golden brown and the cheese began to ooze from the edges of the crust. With one final flip, it was go time and I sank my teeth in.
Texturally, it reminded me of a campfire pudgy pie - crunchy on the outside and gooey on the inside. Flavor wise, I knocked it out of the park.
Without a doubt, I've found another foolproof recipe and technique that allows me to use whatever ingredients I choose for a fast hunger fix.
My only suggestion, if you're going to take the cast-iron skillet and gas grill route like me, is to keep an oven mitt close by. Like my bread, the handle on the pan got a little toasty.
Kelly Fosness can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.