One senses intuitively that all food items can be improved by being hermetically sealed between two slices of good bread, but final proof has awaited the development by top scientists of the Krups FDE3-12 Universal Grill and Panini Maker. Any food. All food. Cheese, obviously. Eggs. Steak. Marmalade. Hot dogs. Noodles. All the contents of one’s fridge, it turns out, should be subjected, under strict German conditions, to the searing and sealing heat of the Krups FDE3-12 Universal Grill and Panini Maker. Hitherto uninteresting, even inedible substances, once stamped into a sheath of golden-crusted, white-fleshed Italian loaf, are instantly transformed into delicacies. A jar of ancient cornichon? Slice thin, cover with mustard, and gently press down on the Insulated Cool-touch Handle.
A word about that handle. It is very cool. Cold, even, especially when compared to the metal top of the Krups FDE3-12 Universal Grill and Panini Maker. I know this, unfortunately, because I casually leaned my elbow on the metal lid, momentarily forgetting the remarkable conductive properties of stainless steel. The burn was bright red, but did not blister, most likely because I immediately ran it under cold water—this being, incidentally, the only way to deal with a kitchen burn. Ice is less than useful, and butter is an old wives’ tale of a remedy that is more harmful than helpful.
To work the Krups FDE3-12 Universal Grill and Panini Maker, one places the items on the gridded Non-Stick Grill Plates, grasps the cool handle in one’s two hands, and closes the lid, pressing down with a firmness dictated by one’s preference. Does one like one’s panini thin, the bread nearly unrecognizable as such, or does one prefer a thicker, more sandwich-like panino?
Either way, there is a rare delicacy to bread that has undergone transformation in this magic chamber. It acquires a luster that has nothing to do with the melted butter that an experienced paninista learns to apply with a generous hand. I know this because I made a series of no-butter panini, and the bread was just as shiny and crisp. It must be an inherent action of the process of heat-sealing that lends that alabaster sheen. When one’s teeth crack through the polished surface of the bread and sink into the tart, salty pool of gorgonzola, the scraps of lemon frittata, the black olive pesto, one experiences a moment of gastronomic transcendence worth a considerable amount of scrubbing and scraping.
Except that its brilliant design absolves one from any such labor. A single swipe with a paper towel over the stealth-bomber–gray Non-Stick Grill Plates, and the machine is clean and ready to reconfigure the atoms of the next humble pile of cold cuts and vegetables.
I had planned, for the purposes of this piece, to heat-seal non-food items in the Krups FDE3-12 Universal Grill and Panini Maker. I considered placing small figurines of Disney characters in a Ziploc bag between the Non-stick Grill Plates to see if a vacuum seal would result. I imagined the potential ironing possibilities, and the sophistication of a pair of linen pants imprinted with a Panini grid. I could not, however, bring myself to sully its perfection. It is far too precious, and came to me via a generous friend who took pity on my children—forced, when their father is on the road, to eat a steady diet of take-out food and breakfast cereal for dinner. Now, when my eldest son wails, in a tone of five-year-old despair, “Can’t we just eat something American for once?!,” I can pull out the Krups FDE3-12 Universal Grill and Panini Maker and whip up a Croque Monsieur or a Pizza Romana. It’s all grilled cheese to him.
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