I can’t believe I am about to admit this, especially here on From Away, but here goes. I have never been much of a sandwich person. I know! Before everyone gathers with torches and pitch forks, let me explain. I have never been a huge fan of eating sandwiches because I am a huge sandwich snob. So many things need to come together in order for me to truly enjoy eating a sandwich.
The bread is extremely important. It has to be substantial. It doesn’t necessarily need to be “hearty,” however. Honestly, a good Portuguese bread turns me on just as much as a crusty, thick-cut sourdough. Wonder Bread isn’t going to cut it. In fact, I want everything about the sandwich to be substantial. Thick cut meat and veggies. I want a sandwich to be stacked high, filled with fresh, mouth-watering, preferably cheese-covered ingredients. If I don’t have to unhinge my jaw to eat a sandwich, it isn’t worth my time.
Panini are, of course, an exception to this rule. They are in a class all their own. Then comes the piece de resistance, the sauce or condiment that ties it all together. It needs to be spot-on. It is the glue that holds any good sandwich together. I want it to lend just the right amount of flavor and moisture to the sandwich without drowning out the flavors of the other ingredients.
I don’t think these are ridiculously high standards. In fact, I bet most of you have these same sandwich standards.
I wasn’t always a sandwich snob. My poor mother had to cater to a mini-me that would only eat ham and mustard sandwiches with a slice of cheese and a single pickle on the side. I would then construct the sandwich in my mouth. I was that kid, but at some point something in me snapped, and I was no longer satisfied by simple sandwiches. In the past 5 years, I can count on one hand the number of sandwiches that have made me drool. The most notable being a “grilled cheese” created off the menu for me by a bartender in a little sports bar in a small town outside of Stowe Vermont. It had three different varieties of cheddar, thick cut bacon, piles of fresh tomatoes, and a mustard that puts Grey Poupon to shame.
Of course, I know that my sandwich woes are due in part to the fact that I am hesitant to try new sandwich places out of fear of having to experience the dreaded “bad sandwich.” My new year’s resolution is going to be to put on my big girl panties, face my fears, and get out there to eat some quality sandwiches. In the meantime, I am going to keep coming up with my own creations.
- 2 chicken breasts
- Juice from 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ½ cup chopped honey roasted pecans
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 cup diced red grapes
- ½ cup feta
- 1 medium red onion
- 1 loaf hearty Italian bread
- Place chicken breasts in small bowl with lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper. Set aside.
- In a food processor or blender, pulse pecans until you have a fine pecan powder. In another small bowl, mix together pecan powder, mayonnaise and cinnamon. Set aside.
- Thinly slice onions. Cover the bottom of a thick-bottomed skillet with olive oil and heat over low heat. Add onions and cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until onions caramelize and become sweet, about 20 minutes.
- Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat and cook chicken breasts. Cook time will vary according to the thickness of the breasts.
- In a final small bowl combine diced red grapes, crumbled feta and caramelized onions.
- Slice bread to the size of your chicken breasts. Cover the top piece of the bread with half of the mayo mixture. Feel free to double the mayo recipe if you’re a mayo fan! Layer the chicken with ½ grape mixture to finish the sandwich.
(Photos: Kasey Ahlquist)