The Best Sandwich I’ve Ever Made
A BBQ Chicken Sandwich Recipe
In our house, I am the master of grilled cheese. My kids don’t even bother asking my wife to make one. It’s dad or nothing. As it should be. I’ve been perfecting the art of frying bread in butter for at least 25 years. Back in the day I used to use “squeeze butter” (which was actually margarine, since everyone at the time thought real butter was bad for you), but now I use ghee because it’s real butter except more spreadable. Regardless, if you want perfect golden, buttery, crispy quesadillas, pancakes, paninis, or anything else, I’m your guy.
While I personally love a simple grilled cheese, and so does my daughter, it’s not exactly a great family meal, even with tomato soup. It’s more a “What’s for dinner? I don’t know” kind of option, or maybe a Saturday lunch. It’s not very filling, doesn’t have much protein, and can’t be made in bulk. Did I mention my wife is dairy-free?
So I’ve always wanted to create a grilled sandwich that’s a full meal for the whole family and doesn’t make me feel guilty for eating it. When I came across a YouTube video about a street food vendor who made fancy grilled cheese sandwiches, I was inspired. It had bacon, avocado, and cilantro with fontinella cheese, and it looked delicious. No, I didn’t steal his recipe. I would love to, but it doesn’t quite fit all my criteria. I did steal his special sauce, though, and a few of his techniques, to create what is, in the words of my wife, “the best sandwich I’ve ever made.” I’ll let you steal it, too.
The first thing I wanted to add was some real meat. Bacon is tasty, but not an ideal source of protein, and I knew I wanted to keep the avocado and cilantro sauce, so what would be a good a balance to those creamy, earthy flavors? Sweet and smoky BBQ chicken. Fortunately, I had an old family recipe for slow-roasted chicken thighs with homemade BBQ sauce. When cooked for 1.5 hours, shredded off the bone, and soaked in the BBQ sauce, the chicken is tender and delicious, a perfect filling for a hearty sandwich. If you don’t have that kind of time, grilling or pan-frying a regular chicken breast works, too.
While the chicken was cooking, I made the cilantro sauce. It basically involves shoving as much fresh cilantro as possible into a food processor along with some chives, jalapeños, avocado, oil, honey, and salt, blending it up, then mixing in some mayo. Check out the recipe here if you want to try it yourself, but beware that this recipe was made for a food truck, so unless you are cooking for your entire block, a third of the amount is more than you will need.
Regardless of what kind of grilled sandwich you are making, the bread is important. Please don’t use regular white sandwich bread. You’re not 5 years old, okay, you’re a grownup now. I don’t care if it’s whole grain or fully seeded or whatever, either, save that for your breakfast toast or a quick sandwich at lunch. For a dinner grilled cheese, get yourself a good sourdough or Italian bread. Trust me, it will make all the difference.
Now that I had everything prepared, it was time to cook the sandwich. One of the tips I learned from Food Truck YouTube Guy was to sear the bread a little before adding the butter. Another was to use mayo instead of butter to get the crispy crust, which was perfect for my dairy-free wife, though I still used my ghee. Finally, once the bread is done, you can keep flipping the sandwich to prevent it from burning until the cheese is melted. Here’s how to do it:
Preheat the pan, preferably a cast iron skillet, over a medium heat. When it’s nice and hot, put a piece of bread down and begin assembling the sandwich. First, put a slice of cheese. Cheddar works great, but use whatever you prefer. Then pile on the chicken. If you want to add bacon, now would be the time. Next, add a few then slices of avocado and slather on the cilantro sauce. Top it off with another slice of cheese and seal it will another piece of bread. Now, very carefully, flip it over. You’ll probably lose some toppings. Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us.
The first side of the bread should be a little crisp. While it’s still in the pan, apply a thin layer of butter or mayo to the bread, then flip it over to cook and do the same to the other side. Continue to cook until the bread is a golden brown on both sides and the cheese is melted. Put it on a plate, cut it in half, and serve. Then make keep making more until everyone is happy. Warning: it could take a while. The first time I made it, my wife ate two before I could get one. I can’t complain, though. I had to make myself another, too.
P.S. If you’re cooking for the kids, just do everything exactly the same but take off everything except the cheese. Perfect!
Apple Cider Vinegar: ½ cup
Water: 1 cup
Brown Sugar: 4 Tbls.
Salt: 1 tsp.
Red Pepper Flakes: 1 tsp.
Ketchup: 1 cup
Lemon: 1 wedge
Worcestershire Sauce: 2 Tbls.
Chicken Thighs: 6-8 pieces
Preheat oven to 325.
Put the chicken thighs skin-side-up in a greased oven-safe dish. Melt a little butter and brush it onto the chicken and sprinkle with a dusting of paprika.
Cook the chicken uncovered for 1 hours. While chicken is cooking, make the sauce.
In a medium pot, mix all ingredients except ketchup and Worcestershire sauce (and chicken, obviously). Simmer for 20 minutes.
Remove lemon wedge and add ketchup and Worcestershire sauce. Mix until smooth.
Drain the grease from the chicken pan. Pour most of sauce over chicken, reserving some for dipping or shredding.
Bake for another 30 minutes.
If making a sandwich or salad, remove skin, pull meat off the bone, and shred chicken in a large bowl using 2 forks. Mix in remaining sauce.
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