Friday, July 16, 2010


Baguette toasted with olive oil and melted Mozzarella topped with thinly sliced Roma tomato, shredded chicken, grilled onions, reduction syrup, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, cilantro. 

For several weeks now I have been craving these  sandwiches but since I don't have a grill - and I lack the necessary experience to feel comfortable with my meat cooking skills - I didn't want to attempt to fake my way through the grilling by baking chicken in an oven. Baked chicken breasts? Iew. Dry! Or so I thought....

Last week I went over to my friend Ben's (B-B-B-Bennie and the JETS!) house to watch movies (we ended up playing Chuzzle for an hour, then spent the next 5 beating Peggle) and while I was there he made some chicken, in keeping with his Atkins diet. Side note - Ben has one of the nicest bodies of any man I've ever met. He's tall, well-proportioned, extremely muscular but still pulls off skinny jeans (adorably). Quite frankly, he's the most grown-up-looking manly man I know....and he wanted to make himself look like Christian Bale from The Machinist (i.e. he wanted his ribcage showing). Being the genius 21-year old college boy that he is, Bennie thought that the Atkins diet was the way to go. The problem with the Atkins diet is that, because he is an active young person and was consuming huge amounts of protein, he was putting on muscle weight. But I digress.... The point is, while I was with Ben he baked chicken breasts, seasoning them only with some garlic powder and thyme, and they were utterly delicious. I've never had such deliciously well-cooked, moist chicken in my life. Not even rotisserie chicken is as perfectly cooked as was the breast I had at Ben's.

Soooooo...... I decided I wanted to attempt to make this grilled chicken sandwich using baked chicken. SUCCESS!

For the chicken:

Place frozen chicken breasts (as many as will get eaten, plus one or two for leftovers) in a ziplock bag and douse in Italian salad dressing, a generous squeeze of lime juice, and some fresh crushed garlic. If your breasts aren't frozen, you can save a ziplock and place all ingredients directly into a glass casserole dish. Be sure the chicken is well-coated (you can bast it a few times during the cooking process). Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes/until cooked. Or you can grill them. YUM!

--My breasts were slightly dry, but not as dry as I'd have expected them to be. I hadn't thawed them completely, and only baked three small breasts in a massive casserole dish. If you want perfectly baked chicken, make sure the breasts are thoroughly thawed out and that the dish is proportional to the amount of chicken - you want them to be touching, that way they stay juicy and yummy.

For the reduction syrup:
******DO NOT INHALE*****
********set up a fan to ventilate kitchen********
Place 1/2 a cup of balsamic vinegar in a sauce pan, heat on high and bring to a boil, whisking regularly. If you are using cheap balsamic vinegar, add a teaspoon or two of brown sugar. Once sugar has dissolved, reduce heat to medium and continue whisking. This process can take 10 minutes or so, depending on how thick you want your reduction. I wanted it thick, so I made sure that it LOOKED thick before I even took it off the heat. Keep in mind that due to the sugar content, it will thicken as it cools. Feel free to add a little olive oil or butter/margarine if you would like it slightly less sticky/sweet.
-- I have fairly-expensive super-sweet balsamic vinegar, so I should have skipped the brown sugar. I added a tablespoon of sweet cream salted butter, but after testing it I was afraid that I wouldn't like it, as I ultimately ended up with a tangy grape jelly syrup. My fears were put to rest as soon as I took the first bite...the flavor was so perfect I almost cried with delight.

Baguette toasted with olive oil and melted Mozzarella topped with thinly sliced Roma tomato, shredded chicken, grilled onions, reduction syrup, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, cilantro. 

To assemble:
Since they are open-faced sandwiches, I assembled my sandwiches to make them structurally sound. I can't stand biting into an open-faced food product and having everything topple off. I also like my food to be visually pleasing, so I went ahead and made it look fancy.

Slice your bread* and brush/drizzle it lightly with olive oil. Toast it on 400 degrees for 3-4 minutes, then pull it out, sprinkle Mozzarella on it, then place back in the oven for about 1 minute (just enough to melt the cheese).
Top with the tomato slices, shredded chicken, and grilled onions. Once you've managed to spread the latter two evenly enough that they are relatively flat, drizzle the reduction syrup over the top. Grate a little (or a lot) of fresh Parmesan over the top (it will stay in place because it will stick to the syrup) and then add some cilantro. Although there is more than enough flavor (what with vinegar syrup, Italian dressing, and cilantro), feel free to use any seasonings you like. I went with freshly-ground sea salt.

** I normally eat this meal on Ciabatta, but couldn't find any so I went with the French bread. I think that toasted Ciabatta is much easier to eat, as each bite comes off without any sort of wiggly struggle or mouth-slicing hardness. However, any kind of bread (or even pastry) will work fine for this sandwich.

P.S. - The original recipe calls for pesto, and the other times I have made this sandwich I ate it with pesto as well. I am not a massive fan of pesto, and consequently forgot to buy some last night. This sandwich is better with pesto, though, so I highly recommend buying or making some pesto to go with it!