This is a simple sandwich to share with a crowd.
One of the keys that makes it so tasty is taking the time to trim and marinate the chicken before grilling. As you probably have found, boneless, skinless chicken breasts can be boring, and worse, dry. On the grill, they can get tough as a deck of cards and cook unevenly.
Since I’m determined to try to get more chicken into our dinner rotation, I’ve been reading tutorials on how to get chicken breast right. (Yes, chicken tutorials. This is life-long learning at its pinnacle.)
The gauntlet thrown, it was time to tackle the chicken breast and find a way to keep it juicy and flavorful without drowning it in sauce.
What I learned:
1. It’s important to trim the breasts. Cut off the tenderloins and save for another use. These are the filet mignon of the chicken breast (if you will allow me that analogy) and really should be used in a stir fry or sauté where you can showcase their tenderness. Sure you can just open the package and toss the uber-plump breasts on the grill, slather with some sauce and they will be edible (maybe), but you want something good, right?
Your goal here is to get a piece of breast that has a consistent thickness. Since most commercially farmed breasts are so big, I often cut them in half after trimming. That gives me smaller pieces to deal with and I can better monitor how they are cooking. You are going to slice the breasts thinly for the sandwich so you don’t need to worry about serving a 1/2 portion of breast.
2. Pound the heck out them. I sandwich the breasts between two sheets of plastic wrap and use my trusty mallet.
You could use your rolling pin or the flat bottom of a heavy pan. Really whack those babies to get them an even thickness, ideally 1/2 inch thick. Kids love this task by the way, so go ahead and delegate it. Have them pound both sides.
3. Marinate the breasts for at least an hour (or longer.) You want to use a combination of oil and acid (vinegar or citrus juice) along with salt, pepper, herbs, spices or other aromatics. I find that fresh herbs in a marinade tend to char on the grill so I’ve used dry in this recipe. (Plus you will get fresh herby goodness in the cream cheese spread.)
Really Good Marinade
- 1/4 C. extra virgin olive oil
- 3 T. red wine vinegar
- 1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes (more if you like spicy)
- 1/4 tsp. dried oregano or thyme
- 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. fennel powder (optional, I had ground fennel seeds for another recipe)
- Whisk all together and taste. Correct the seasoning if you’d like more vinegar or less; more spice or less.
- Pour over chicken breasts and marinate, covered, for one hour or more in the refrigerator.
5. Slice thinly against the grain.
For the sandwich
- 1 good baguette (good toothsome bread is essential: it makes all the difference in a sandwich)
- 3 radishes, sliced thinly
- 2 shallots, sliced thinly (TIP: I sprinkled a little red vinegar over the shallots to slightly pickle them while I assembled the sandwich, this takes away some of that raw onion harshness)
- 8 grape tomatoes, sliced in half
- Herbed cream cheese spread (I made my own with 3 T. cream cheese, 1 T. of mayonnaise, 1 T. chopped fresh parsley, 1 T. chopped fresh basil, pinch of salt and pepper)
Assemble the sandwich:
- Slice the baguette in half lengthwise and spread some of the cream cheese mixture on both halves.
- Place the sliced chicken in a single layer on one half, topped with a single layer of pickled shallots.
- On the other half of the baguette, assemble a layer of the radishes, topped by the grape tomatoes.
- Sprinkle a little salt and fresh ground pepper over the chicken and shallot side (not too much)
- Put both sides together and press down to adhere.
When ready to serve, cut your picnic sandwich into serving slices and hold them together with a short bamboo skewer.