KFC does it, McDonald’s does it, Wendy’s, Popeye’s, Chick-fil-A and even Taco Bell do it. Corporate food chains have capitalized on what Americans have craved for time immemorial: the crispy chicken sandwich. Well done for them, I guess.
However, if you’ve had enough of substandard ingredients, plentiful fat, and crushed buns or hard tortillas – really, Taco Bell? – take a pen and a shopping list because we’re about to shame the big cats.
To begin with, the chicken should be cut in the shape of a butterfly, as one would with chicken piccata. Keep in mind that preparing the chicken involves double flour, not breading. Frying this chicken will make a soggy breaded coating by the time the sandwich construction begins.
We also prepare a basic honey mustard sauce, the most suitable condiment to decorate the crispy chicken. Don’t take my word for it, try out other sauces yourself. I think you will agree that honey mustard is the way to go. This should be mixed first so that it has time in the refrigerator to thicken for propagation.
If you’re interested in more heat than this recipe provides, add chili garlic sauce to the egg mixture, use a spicier mustard in the honey mustard sauce, or increase the chili flakes. red, paprika and black pepper in your flour mixture.
Preparation time: 5 minutes for the honey mustard, 20 minutes for the chicken
Cooking time: 8-10 minutes, plus 3 minutes for the melted cheese
Rest time: 5 minutes minimum
Total duration: 38 minutes
Servings: 3 (see note)
Large mixing bowl
Measuring cup and spoons
Bowls for mixing eggs and flour
Paper towel or grid to drain the oil
1/3 cup Dijon mustard (see note)
¼ cup of honey
¼ cup of mayonnaise
1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (see note)
teaspoon of paprika
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 butterfly chicken breasts (see note)
1 cup of flour
2 tbsp onion powder
2 tablespoons of garlic powder
1 tablespoon of black pepper
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of paprika
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon of red pepper flakes
Peanut oil for frying (see note)
Soft cheese (see note)
Grilled hamburger buns
Other toppings, depending on your sandwich preferences (tomato, red onion rings, etc.)
Add all the honey mustard ingredients to a large mixing bowl, mix well and refrigerate.
In a bowl, combine the flour, onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper, salt, paprika, cumin and red pepper flakes.
In a separate bowl, whisk two eggs and a teaspoon of water.
Dip the chicken pieces in the flour, then the egg, then flour again. Set aside (see note, important!).
On a stovetop, heat the oil over medium-high heat.
Once hot, gently place the chicken in the oil, cook for about eight minutes, and flip halfway through. Chicken should be cooked to at least 165 F as per the FDA recommendation.
Drain off excess oil and set aside on a wire rack or paper towel-lined plate.
Grill the hamburger buns.
Place cheese on chicken pieces to melt, either in an oven or toaster set at 300 F for about 3-4 minutes, or until cheese is melted.
Assemble your sandwich and enjoy. Don’t forget the pickles.
Roast Chicken: Since the chicken cooks more evenly when in a butterfly (please see the Piccata fo yo mama chicken notes section for the technique), we will end up with two large breast halves (the undersides) and two smaller halves (the tops we cut off). Some people prefer the chicken to overlap the buns, but I think a stacked sandwich allows for more cheese in a bite. Therefore, the bottoms will be cut in half while the tops will be stacked on top of each other.
M. Mustard, with the sandwich, in the kitchen: Dijon suits me better in a honey mustard sauce. It’s spicy, like our floured chicken, and adds spice to the overall flavor. That’s not to say other mustards won’t work – it’s really up to you.
Apple Cider is Thinner: The abundance of alkaline ingredients in the sauce means it needs an acid to balance. In reality, any vinegar will suffice other than balsamic vinegar. I think the slight apple note adds to the honey, but the white, red, or rice work great.
A cut poultry on top: The boneless thighs and boneless breasts are your choice, but for the purposes of this recipe, I went with breasts. The thighs are dark meat, which means they are juicier and fatter, but the breasts can add balance to the gravy of the entire sandwich. Again, this is your preference.
Fry the oil, not the oil “try”: the chicken should be placed in an oil that is resistant to high heat. For some reason, probably science, peanut oil adapts to this while injecting incredible flavor. Vegetable oil and flaxseed oil will suffice, but it is best to stay away from olive oil as it tends to burn. Check the smoke point of your oil if in doubt.
Cheese has to appease: I don’t think provolone can be beaten, but any melted cheese adorns this sandwich nicely. Obviously, no parmesan or arugula, but swiss, muenster – or even cheddar if you’re weird – adds to the overall texture.
The old dip (important!): First coat all the chicken pieces in the flour and set aside. Add about a tablespoon of beaten egg to the rest of the flour and mash with a fork to create lumps. Soak the floured chicken in the remaining egg, then return it to the crumbly flour. This both creates more surface to fry while providing the thick top layer that we all love in a crispy chicken sandwich.
Ian Hilton can be contacted at [email protected]