Whitesburg KY

Chicken sandwich gets picnic-worthy makeover

Created by Elizabeth Karmel as a public homage to the Chick-fil-A sandwiches she grew up eating, Karmel’s “chickwich,” is dipped three times before cooking, for an extra crispy crust. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Created by Elizabeth Karmel as a public homage to the Chick-fil-A sandwiches she grew up eating, Karmel’s “chickwich,” is dipped three times before cooking, for an extra crispy crust. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A famously claims that they didn’t invent the chicken, just the fried chicken sandwich. There is no denying that the fried chicken sandwich is a classic and crave-able combination. Before I started making my own version of the sandwich it was always the first thing I would eat when I visited my hometown.

Six years ago, I created my version for one of my restaurants and called it the “chickwich.” It was my public homage to the sandwiches that I knew and loved from growing up eating Chick-fil-A. For my version, I use aromatic buttermilk brine for the boneless skinless chicken breasts to keep them juicy and then dip them three times: First in seasoned flour, then an egg wash and finally crushed saltines to make the crust extra crispy.

If you have a large sauté pan or a griddle, a buttered and griddled bun is nice, but the bun is just fine without any prep. The sliced pickles — the only condiment in this sandwich — are key, and if you are like me and want them in every bite, make sure to layer the entire top bun with pickles. I like tangy and sour dill pickle slices but if you prefer bread-and-butter or sweet pickles, they’ll work equally well.

The sandwich can be served hot or cold. If you are packing this for an al fresco dining experience, bring the three components in separate containers and assemble the sandwiches just before eating. Otherwise, you run the risk of a soggy sandwich.

Elizabeth’s Chickwich
Start to finish: One hour and 20 minutes
Servings: 4
4 small boneless, skinless chicken

breasts, brined and patted
dry (see recipe below)
2 large eggs + 2 Tablespoons milk, whisked
2 cups self-rising flour
Seasoned Flour
1 sleeve of saltines,
pounded fine by hand to
make uneven crumbs
Peanut or cottonseed oil,
for frying

Buttermilk Brine:
3 cups hot water
1 cup kosher salt
1 cup packed dark brown
2 generous sprigs of fresh
rosemary or 2 tablespoons
dried rosemary, leaves
1 teaspoon whole black
4 cups cold buttermilk
1 teaspoon hot sauce or
cayenne pepper

Chicken Rub:
2-1/2 teaspoons granulated garlic
2 teaspoons onion powder 2 teaspoons smoked
Spanish paprika
1 Tablespoon kosher salt

1/2 to 1 cup pickles
4 buns

In a large saucepan over
high heat, bring the water,
salt, sugar, rosemary, and
peppercorns to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar
and salt. Stir and let cool to
warm/room temperature.
Add 4 cups of ice cubes,
the buttermilk, and hot
sauce or cayenne. Whisk
well. When the brine is cool
to the touch, submerge the
food in the brine. Refrigerate covered for 15-20 minutes. Brine chicken breasts for
15-20 minutes. Remove and
pat dry. Discard brine.
Add chicken rub to 2
cups of self-rising flour and
mix well.
When ready to fry, remove tender from the back
of the chicken breast, if it
is still intact. Coat breasts
lightly and evenly with seasoned flour. One at a time,
dip into egg mixture and
immediately into cracker
crumbs. Pat cracker crumbs
into all sides.
Let sit for 5 minutes to
make sure crust is solid
before frying.
Heat a cast-iron skillet
with at least 1/2 inch of peanut or cottonseed oil.
When the oil reaches 325

F, place chicken in the skillet
and cook for 3-4 minutes
with the lid on. Remove the
lid and turn chicken over.
Cook with the lid off for
another 4 minutes or until
desired color of brownness.
To keep chicken warm
and crispy before assembling sandwich, place fried
chicken on a rack set in a
sheet pan and place in a
300 F oven
To assemble sandwich;
open potato bun and layer
one side with sliced pickles,
place chicken on the other
side and close bun. Enjoy
To up the ante, you can
butter and grill the inside of
the bun before making the
(Nutrition information
per serving: 650 calories; 148
calories from fat; 17 g fat (4 g
saturated; 0 g trans fats); 160
mg cholesterol; 2186 mg sodium; 89 g carbohydrate; 4 g
fiber; 6 g sugar; 35 g protein.)
Elizabeth Karmel is a
barbecue and Southern
foods expert. She is the chef
and pitmaster at online
retailer CarolinaCueToGo.
com and author of three
books, including “Taming
the Flame.”

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