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RBR Tailgating: The Chick-faux-a Sandwich

Boldly not inventing the chicken or the chicken sandwich but standing on the whatever chickens have in place of shoulders and doing things one better.

I’ve written about this before, in a tailgate article about chicken Parmesan but that was five years ago and the sandwich option was basically a postscript with a suggestion for what to do with leftovers. Now that Popeye’s has muscled its way into a contest that I thought was an exclusive struggle for chicken sandwich supremacy between me and America’s fifth ranked fast food concern I feel the need to reassert my efforts. Apparently it’s a %&^*ing free for all now.

Admittedly, Chick-fil-a is able to muster resources that I don’t have access to, but I always made up for my material disadvantage to the chain with my willingness to work on Sundays. The problem is that Popeye’s is owned by heathens that force their workforce to violate the prescribed day of rest on which physical labor is proscribed. The one-seventh leg up I hold over Chic-fil-a disappears entirely now that the Cajuns have tossed their hat in.

At tailgates, the chicken sandwich is secondary to the omnipresent nugget tray with little polyethylene containers of honey mustard for communal dipping. I’m betting that communal dipping has taken a PR hit lately for reasons we’re all aware of. The times are ripe for a game time food spread poultry coup.

Try these at your next football related gathering. Get praised for serving a meal rather than setting out food intended for absent minded grazing. Finally use that bamboo steamer you got as a wedding present. Don’t get cooties from shared honey mustard. It’s all upside from where I’m sitting.

A quick aside about this particular week’s football watching in light of this report from the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

Since he’s just going to be sitting around doing nothing but watching has anybody bothered to invite him over? It’d probably mean ceding the favorite chair, but it would be the nice thing to do. I doubt he’s been to too many Saturday gatherings in the last few decades so no worries about how yours is going to compare. It’s unlikely that in this capacity there are any Saban befriended Joneses to keep up with. As a bonus I suspect that if our Nicktator showed up your one friend who keeps changing the channel to check scores between plays rather than waiting for a commercial like God intended will emerge from the experience chastened - possibly thumbless, but chastened.

So give this a try. I like it a little bit better than an actual Chic-fil-a sandwich and I suspect I like it more than the Popeye’s version that I didn’t have the patience to wait in line for.

In the end, remember: whereas both of the above national chains fry theirs, my chicken is lightly sautéed. I think that’s a healthy point to me.

Chick-faux-a Sandwiches

- boneless, skinless chicken thighs

- potato buns

- all-purpose flour

- eggs

- bread crumbs

- salt

- ground cayenne pepper

- vegetable oil

- unsalted butter

- dill pickle chips

As you can see I didn’t put any quantities or measurements in the ingredients list. This all pretty intuitive and easy to judge for yourself how much is needed of each depending on how many sandwiches you’re making.

Some may also notice that I once again defied the tyranny of white meat. For the life of me I can’t figure people’s preference for it over the richer and more flavorful dark variety. If you must, use breasts in place of thighs, but know that I’m looking at you with the side eye of disapproval.

Start by pounding the thighs (or breasts) to roughly an inch thick. Covering the meat with a piece of cling wrap will work but I once broke through the wrap with my hammer and there were bits of raw chicken everywhere. I use a zip lock bag now. It’s thicker and two ply and I hate cleaning up raw meat.

Cut the flattened thighs into bun fitting shapes reserving the odd fitting pieces to mix and match in sandwiches of their own.

Once the meat is ready, put together your assembly line with a plate or cutting board of uncooked chicken, a plate of flour mixed with ground cayenne (to taste or not at all,) a bowl with beaten eggs, and a plate of bread crumbs.

Add a few glugs of oil to a skillet heated to medium or medium high.

Salt the chicken liberally but not all at once. Instead season both sides of each piece before cooking. Coat with flour, then egg, and finally bread crumbs before sautéing in the pan. You aren’t trying to cook the chicken through at this point. 30 seconds to a minute per side, just enough to get a nice golden brown, is all you need. Pull the meat from the skillet and place on a baking pan. Repeat until you get to where you want to be.

Put the laden baking pan in an oven preheated to 400˚ for 12 - 15 minutes until cooked through. If in doubt, cut into one that’s a bit on the thicker side in relation to the others. If it needs more time toss it back into the oven.

In the meantime, brush the buns with melted butter and lightly sear in a clean skillet over medium to medium high heat.

I’m assuming you have put together a sandwich before, so do that with a bun, some chicken, and some dill pickle chips. There’s no right or wrong way to do this step so feel free to make it your own. Wow us.

At this point it’s ready to serve, but to get that fast food feel there is one last step.

Take a saucepan with a few inches of water in it and bring to a boil. Put a bamboo steamer on top and steam each sandwich for no more than a minute or two to give the bun a slight gooeyness on top and bottom without making the buttery seared inside mushy.

Now you have a chicken sandwich that didn’t require someone to be more polite to you than any other fast food chain seems to get their employees to be.

On the off chance that Saban does attend one of your game parties, let the rest of us know how it went in the comments. I’m particularly interested in what kind of thank you note you receive from him. Most probably assume that he sloughs off such duties to an office assistant who sends something formulaic on university stationary with a Signascript Atlantic Series Autopen printed copy of his John Hancock but I think not. I’m betting on something more personal, possibly embossed. Can’t wait to find out.

Enjoy, no injuries, and Roll Tide.