Perfect roast chicken for the perfect chicken sandwich

Large shreds of moist, nicely seasoned white and dark meat add texture, richness and protein.
Roast chicken and bacon on multigrain bread with a sun-dried tomato pesto and chopped arugula mayo.
Roast chicken and bacon on multigrain bread with a sun-dried tomato pesto and chopped arugula mayo.

Chicken factors into most lunches in our family. Chicken salad, cold fried chicken, chicken soup and leftover barbecued or grilled chicken. Chicken sandwiches of all manner.

No wonder that I select the chicken sandwich at a recent lunch at Daily Provisions in New York. Their rotisserie chicken sandwich with bacon, avocado and green tomato wows. Thick slices of warm multigrain bread held the goodness together.

No doubt, perfectly roast chicken makes any sandwich stellar. Large shreds of moist, nicely seasoned white and dark meat add texture, richness and protein to the sandwich. When the chicken and bread are both warm, the stars align.

At home, I prefer to roast my own chicken rather than rely on supermarket rotisserie chicken (which can be dry). I time myself — from seasoning the chicken to serving, I need a little more than 1 1/4 hours. I like to roast two small chickens so there’s plenty for weekday rice bowls or speedy tacos.

I find bread to be the biggest challenge to a good grown-up homemade sandwich. Yes, presliced, supermarket bread allowed us to make hundreds of sandwiches destined for school lunches. I eat bread less frequently now, so I want the good stuff. I look for whole grain, artisan breads sold unsliced for freshness. That also allows me to warm the bread without fear of drying and to slice it as thick as I wish.

Always on the hunt for a great bakery, I stock up on bread when I find one. At Tartine in San Francisco, Hewn Bakery in Evanston, Zak the Baker in Miami, Amy’s Bread in New York City, I buy the heartiest whole grain bread they make, then wrap it well to freeze. Thawed at room temperature (still wrapped), then crisped in a hot oven or sliced and toasted on the grill, good bread motivates me to build a better sandwich.

Another way to upgrade my sandwich is to think about the bread spread. It’s easy to doctor up bottled mayonnaise with deep rich flavor by stirring in olive tapenade, curry paste or sun-dried tomato pesto. Adding something fresh, such as arugula or chopped herbs, distributes their flavor throughout each bite.

Potato chips factor into nearly every Saturday lunch for as long as I can remember. The salty, crunchy treat completes the meal. Recently, I’ve taken to putting them into my cookies — an idea from a favorite aunt. She crushed just the right amount of chips into a buttery dough.

For my Saturday cookies, I’m also adding crushed sourdough pretzels, chopped nuts and a bit of shredded coconut. Thinking of the chocolate-covered potato chips we like, I add bits of dark chocolate to the cookies as well. Using a bit of almond flour in place of some of the all-purpose flour and powdered sugar in place of granulated, gives the cookies a very fragile, short texture. Because they are so fragile, let the cookies cool most of the way on the baking sheet before transferring to the rack to completely cool. I pack them into a tin with wax paper between the layers to protect them.

Serve the sandwiches accompanied by a green salad. In this case, an updated, speedy version of broccoli salad using bottle dressing and a crunchy cap of fried onions.

Heat oven to 375 degrees on convection or 400 on conventional. Rinse and pat dry 2 small (3 to 3 1/2 pounds each) whole chickens. Place chickens in a large roasting pan. Sprinkle generously all over with Everything Bagel Seasoning (from Trader Joe’s or on the internet). Position chickens breast side up. Drizzle each chicken with 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil. Roast until golden brown and thigh juices run clear, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Rest 10 minutes before serving. Or, cool and refrigerate covered up to several days.

Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Makes: 4 sandwiches

Add thin slices of tomato when it’s in season.
1/3 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons sun-dried tomato pesto
1 cup baby arugula, finely chopped
8 thick slices (12 ounces) hickory smoked bacon
1 whole loaf (12 to 16 ounces) multigrain bread
2 to 3 cups large slices or shreds cooked chicken breast and thigh meat (boneless, skinless)
8 small romaine lettuce leaves
Pickled okra or dill pickles

1. Mix mayonnaise, pesto and arugula in a small bowl. (Refrigerate covered up to 2 days.) Use at room temperature.

2. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cook the bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Turn the slices occasionally, until cooked crisp and golden, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain on paper toweling. Keep warm.

3. Meanwhile, pop the bread into the oven to warm it briefly and crisp the crust, 5 to 10 minutes. Cool a few minutes, then cut eight 1/2-inch-thick slices. Meanwhile, put the chicken on a plate, cover with wax paper and microwave on high (100 percent) until warmed, about 1 minute.

4. To assemble the sandwiches, spread one side of all the bread slices with the mayonnaise. On 4 of the slices, layer the chicken, bacon and lettuce; top with a second bread piece. Serve right away with pickles.

Nutrition information per serving: 664 calories, 38 g fat, 9 g saturated fat, 87 mg cholesterol, 43 g carbohydrates, 7 g sugar, 38 g protein, 1,421 mg sodium, 8 g fiber

Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 5 minutes
Makes: 4 to 6 servings

For the blue cheese dressing, use your favorite store brand or homemade version.

1 pound broccoli
1/2 cup light blue cheese salad dressing
1 cup (4 ounces) dried cranberries
1 tablespoon lemon oil or olive oil
Pinch each of salt, freshly ground black pepper
1/2 to 3/4 cup crispy fried onions (from a can)

1. Cut the florets from the stems of the broccoli. Cut the florets into bite-size pieces and place in a large microwave-safe bowl. Peel the broccoli stems, then slice 1/4-inch-thick and add to the bowl. Add 1/4 cup water and cover the bowl with a lid or microwave-safe plastic wrap. Microwave on high (100 percent power), stirring once, until broccoli has lost a bit of its crunch, about 3 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water to cool. Drain well and return to the bowl.

2. Stir in the salad dressing, cranberries, oil, salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature topped with the fried onions. (The salad, without the onions, can be refrigerated up to 2 days.)

Nutrition information per serving: 222 calories, 15 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 6 mg cholesterol, 20 g carbohydrates, 15 g sugar, 2 g protein, 202 mg sodium, 2 g fiber

Prep: 25 minutes
Bake: 14 minutes
Makes about 3 dozen 2 1/2-inch diameter cookies

Be sure to use unsalted butter when adding salted chips and pretzels in the dough. Peanuts or walnuts are good in place of the pecans. I like unsweetened coconut shreds here so the cookies do not get too sweet. You can add raisins or dried cranberries, too.

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup almond flour (or another 1/2 cup all-purpose flour)
1 generous cup roughly crushed kettle-style potato chips
1/2 cup each: roughly crushed sourdough pretzels, chopped pecans
1/2 cup dark or semisweet chocolate cut into small chunks
1/4 cup shredded coconut, optional

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Have 2 or 3 large baking sheets lined with parchment paper ready.

2. Beat the butter in a large bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in sugar until light. Beat in egg yolk and vanilla. Scrape down the bowl and beat again. With the mixer on low, beat in the flour and almond flour.

3. Use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to stir in the potato chips, pretzels, pecans, chocolate and coconut until evenly distributed throughout the dough.

4. Use a large spoon to shape 1 inch round mounds of dough. Place 12 on each prepared baking sheet, separating the dough by about 2 inches. Bake, rotating sheets once for even browning, until cookies are golden, 12 to 14 minutes. Cool on the baking sheets about 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. Use care as the cookies are fragile when warm. Repeat to bake all cookies.

5. Store in a cookie tin for several days.
Nutrition information per cookie: 109 calories, 8 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 19 mg cholesterol, 9 g carbohydrates, 4 g sugar, 1 g protein, 32 mg sodium, 1 g fiber

Categories: Food, Life and Arts

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