Buttermilk Fried Chicken Sandwich

(Feb. 19, 2021) The transitory of time is an incredible experience if one has the courage to stay in the moment.

The mingling of the past and thoughts of the future flavor our readiness to engage in the present.

This train of thought might seem insignificant, but in actuality has a profound effect on the path of progression.

Years ago, I had the pleasure of working in one of the top restaurants in the country. The lessons ascertained in such an establishment go far beyond one’s imagination.

I remember walking in the gardens with the chef and owner of this amazing inn.

I asked him what is the most important characteristic that distinguishes a restaurant from being rated number one, as opposed to number two, etc.

His answer flabbergasted my realm of anticipation. I was expecting the food, service, or the ambiance to be the source for perfection.

He simply replied, “It is the details that differentiates one restaurant from another. And the smaller the detail, the more important it is.”

I have never forgotten these words of wisdom and I try to infuse this philosophy with my cooking, entertaining and children’s cooking classes.

That being said, there is nothing new about a fried chicken sandwich topped with a mound of coleslaw. And if you approach this dish with that expectancy, that is exactly what you will get.

But if one deconstructs the sandwich and understands the intricacies of the individual components, chances are you will craft a mouth-watering dish that is truly trendy.

The type of meat is the first consideration. I enjoy both white and dark meat, but in this case, I feel white meat is the better choice. Brine the breasts in buttermilk for at least four hours.

One might ask why use buttermilk instead of a salt solution? Buttermilk’s sweet, salty and acidic complexity is much more conducive for the bland taste of poultry.

In addition, the enzymes present in buttermilk helps break down the protein in the chicken resulting in a tender, juicy sandwich.

The types of batter for frying are an endless topic, but the basic rule of thumb for frying chicken is to add baking powder which gives the batter volume, and baking soda which will highlight the crispiness.

In addition, dip the chicken in flour before you dip it in the batter. The flour will act as a glue.

After the chicken breasts are done, place on a cooling rack to cool. Do not place on a plate lined with paper towels. Soggy paper towels will ruin the coveted, crispy crust.

There is nothing worse than a side of coleslaw that is mushy and has no character. The secret to crispy coleslaw is to soak the cabbage in salt and allow it to sit for two to four hours.

During this time, the cabbage may appear to getting soggy and wilted. But in actuality, the moisture is being extracted by way of the salt. The end result is crisp cabbage that adds texture to the sandwich.

Vinegar or a cream-base slaw is your next decision.

A spicy, vinegary slaw that incorporates slivers of bright, gorgeous peppers, sweet red onions, crunchy cabbage, mustard seeds, crushed red pepper flakes, black sesame seeds and vibrant parsley adds beautification and still allows the fried buttermilk chicken to be the star.

A vinaigrette made out of white balsamic vinegar is light and will not “dye” the colors of the slaw. This product can be found in the salad dressing section at your neighborhood supermarket.

A sandwich is not a sandwich without the bread. Do not take this step lightly, for it is the vessel that encompasses the ingredients that you have so diligently put together.

Ciabatta or a baguette are great foundations that will not only support the ingredients but add to the overall experience.

A sandwich is much more than two pieces of bread that unite proteins and condiments. If you are in the mood to try something tasty, give a buttermilk fried chicken sandwich with spicy slaw a try. Enjoy!

Spicy Slaw

2 cups shredded cabbage

1 teaspoon kosher salt (for cabbage)

½ cup thinly sliced red onions

1 ½ cups thinly sliced red, yellow and orange peppers

½ cup thinly sliced poblano peppers

¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons honey

zest of ½ lemon

½ teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh parsley

mustard seeds to taste

crushed red pepper to taste

a sprinkle of black sesame seeds

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Place shredded cabbage in a mesh strainer over a bowl. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of salt over cabbage. Toss to evenly distribute salt throughout the cabbage. Allow cabbage to sit for 2 hours. Rinse with cold water, dry thoroughly with paper towels.

2. Using a mandoline, slice the vegetables paper thin. If you do not have a mandoline, julienne the vegetables with a very sharp knife.

3. Whisk olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, honey, lemon zest, Dijon mustard, parsley, mustard seeds, crushed red peppers, black sesame seeds, salt and pepper in a small bowl.

4. Toss vegetables in dressing when ready to assemble the sandwiches.

Buttermilk Marinade

2 cups buttermilk

4 small boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1. In a large Ziploc bag, combine 2 cups buttermilk and chicken. Place Ziploc bag in another Ziploc bag to ensure there is no leakage. Refrigerate overnight.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken Sandwich

3 ½ cups all-purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

3 teaspoons garlic powder

3 teaspoons onion powder

2 teaspoons black pepper

1 teaspoon paprika

2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt

canola oil for frying

ciabatta roll

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, paprika and salt.

2. Pour enough oil in an iron skillet so the oil covers at least one-half of the chicken breasts. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until it reaches a temperature of 350 degrees.

3. Using a set of tongues, remove chicken breast from marinade and dip into the flour mixture. Dip the breast back into the marinade and once again into the flour mixture. Make sure the entire surface of the meat is covered.

4. Carefully lower chicken and fry until bottom sides are golden brown, approximately 5 minutes. Carefully turn chicken over, this side should cook faster.

6. Place cooked breasts on cooling rack and add a dusting of kosher salt.

Makes 4 sandwiches

Secret Ingredient – Details. “The smaller the detail, the greater the value.”

– Doug Johnson

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