Crispy chicken sandwich

My husband has a thing about picnics.

He’s not one to pick up fast food fried chicken or settle for hastily made sandwiches. Picnics are something to look forward to, not an excuse to throw leftovers into a basket and call it a meal. I let him know that as long as he’s willing to fix something special—and clean up the mess—I’m more than happy to eat what he creates.

Shrimp po’ boy sandwiches, Rueben sandwich egg rolls, and a list of other eclectic, tasty picnic meals have followed. But my favorite is the crispy chicken sandwich that he spikes with flavored mayos.

Making these sandwiches takes some effort. The chicken is coated in breadcrumbs and then fried. We use panko crumbs, it’s a Japanese variety that fries well and keeps its crispness better than a regular brand (you can find it in the Asian cooking section at the grocery store). And instead of picking out store-bought rolls, I make sandwich buns at home—of course, you can always buy some to cut down the time it takes to make the meal, but the rolls are easy to make. And the sandwiches make for a tasty, memorable picnic meal.

Recipe for Crispy Chicken Breasts
Prep time: 40 minutes chicken, 3 hours, buns (largely unattended)
Servings: 6

3 large, skinless, boneless chicken breasts
2 eggs
About 1 cup flour
About 2 cups panko crumbs
Salt, pepper
Garlic powder, onion powder
Oil for frying

Halve the chicken breasts lengthwise (I choose to halve the chicken breasts instead of pounding them out to make them thinner). The chicken breasts will be easier to cut if they’re slightly frozen.

Sprinkle the chicken breasts with a little salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. Prepare three shallow dishes: In the first place the flour. In the second whisk the eggs and pour them in; you can also add either a little soy sauce, Tabasco, or Worchestershire sauce into the eggs for an extra hint of flavor (about a ½ teaspoon). In the third bowl, place the panko (or bread) crumbs.

Dip the chicken breasts into the flour, then eggs, then panko crumbs, pressing the crumbs onto the chicken to ensure a thorough coating. Place the coated chicken breasts on a wire drying rack while you finish the other chicken breasts. You may need to add more of the dipping ingredients.

Place about ½ inch oil in heavy, skillet with high sides. Heat the oil to medium high (we use a tapletop, electric skillet for frying). Add the chicken breasts two a time and fry until the crumbs take on a golden color. Check the chicken with an instant read thermometer after frying—the temperature should read 165 degrees.

Allow the chicken breasts to cool on a wire rack.

Homemade Sandwich Buns
This recipe is a variation of the homemade bread recipe. Here are the tweaks to create buns from this bread recipe:

  • Use 1 cup milk to replace some of the water—so you’ll be adding 1 ½ cups water and 1 cup milk. The milk will make the buns softer.
  • Add 1 more tablespoon sugar, so a total of 3 Tablespoons sugar.
  • After the dough has risen, form the dough into 8 rolls (or 10 if you prefer smaller sandwiches). To form the dough balls, separate the dough in two, and then separate each half into 4 equal parts. Knead each part for a few minutes and then press down the sides to form a ball (instead of rolling the dough into a ball). Place the dough balls onto a lightly greased baking pan. Make sure the dough balls are far enough apart so that when they double in size they won’t touch.
  • Optional: Before cooking, brush the buns with an egg white wash and add sesame seeds or poppy seeds.
  • Allow the buns to cool for at least 30 minutes or an hour before slicing.

Spiked Mayo
¾ cup mayo (I prefer lime mayo found in Mexican grocers)

Making flavored mayo is easy—there are endless possibilities for creating a unique addition to your sandwich.

  • Spicy mayo—add 2 teaspoons chili powder, ¼ teaspoon cumin and 5 to 10 drops of Tabasco sauce to the mayo. Stir, adjust seasonings and add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Herbed mayo—add 2 teaspoons dried or 1 tablespoon fresh basil, ¼ teaspoon oregano, ¼ teaspoon garlic powder, and ½ teaspoon red wine vinegar to the mayo. Stir, adjust seasonings and add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Honey-mustard mayo—add 2 teaspoons regular, Dijon or a mix of the two types of mustard to the mayo. Whisk in ½ Tablespoon honey. Stir, adjust seasonings and add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Come up with your own combs using herbs, spices and more!

Assembling the sandwich

  1. Cut the bun in half lengthwise.
  2. Add a generous slathering of spiked mayo to the top half of the bun. Place shredded lettuce, then tomato on this half. (Thin slices of red onion are also good!)
  3. On the bottom half add a thin coating of spiked mayo, then the chicken breast.
  4. Put the two halves together. Enjoy!
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