Meat and vegetables aren’t the only things that brown—bread turns toasty and delicious through the Maillard reaction, too (especially with the help of a little mayo!).
Place bread slices on cutting board. Use butter knife to spread mayonnaise evenly over 1 side of each slice.
Flip 1 slice over (mayonnaise side down) and place in 10-inch nonstick skillet. Sprinkle evenly with half of cheese. Place ham and pickle chips (if using) on top of cheese. Sprinkle evenly with remaining cheese. Place second slice of bread on top (mayonnaise on the outside).
Use spatula to flip sandwich over (see photo, below). Place saucepan lid on sandwich and press down firmly, then leave lid in place (ask an adult for help, skillet will be hot).
Lots of us put mayonnaise on the inside of our sandwiches . . . but not on the outside! Bread has both sugars and proteins and undergoes the Maillard reaction when heated (think, toast!). But you can help make it SUPER Maillard-y with the addition of mayonnaise. Mayonnaise is made from oil (a form of fat), egg yolks, acid (such as lemon juice or vinegar), a little bit of sugar, and sometimes a little bit of mustard. The proteins from the egg yolks plus sugar help spur along the Maillard reaction’s browning and flavor building. So, the next time you want extra browning, reach for the mayo jar!
You can make this panini with lots of different cheeses, meats, or toppings! Try shredded Monterey Jack cheese, shredded mozzarella cheese, or two slices of provolone or Swiss cheese instead of the cheddar, or sliced deli salami, turkey, or roast beef instead of the ham. For additions, try slices of apple or tomato, crumbled cooked bacon, or caramelized onions instead of the pickles. Use your imagination to make a panini creation of your own!