Building Dinner Sandwiches

Before opt for take out or tossing together cold cuts on sliced bread, I try to take a stab at dinner sandwiches that stand up to a bit more scrutiny. I mean, I do develop recipes, photograph, and write about them for a living. Beyond that, my family stays a lot less grumpy when I make sure they have a hearty dinner before we're off adventuring in the autumn wonderland that is the Madison area. So it's good for me and good for my family to look into how I can build a better dinner sandwich.

I do make a distinction between a lunch and dinner sandwich. While I am not above fussing with a lunch sandwich, weekday lunches tend to be about getting food in me or my people fairly quickly and then getting on with our days. I'll admit that my lunch break also sometimes blends into that developing recipes and photographing bit, but I mostly keep it simple. However, dinner is the only meal of the day in which I'm reliably partaking with my family and that slice of time is precious to me. So yeah, I go out of my way to make it special — even if we're just having sandwiches.

So items like chewy pretzel buns, flakey croissants, and tender biscuits might make an appearance. Instead of cold cuts, I'm more likely to pan-fry some crunchy chicken, thinly slice some roast beef from Sunday's pot roast, or layer a bit of thick-cut bacon into the mix. And veggies are definitely a step above iceberg lettuce. Everything from fresh-sliced cucumber to fun relishes and coleslaw make these dinner sandwiches the kind of thing meant to be shared with loved ones. Enjoy!

Chicken Crunch Sandwich

  • 3 large or 4 small chicken breasts, sliced into long, thick strips
  • ½ c. mayonnaise, divided
  • 3/4 c. panko bread crumbs
  • 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp. garlic salt
  • ½ tsp. celery salt
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • Oil, for frying
  • 2 c. sliced cabbage
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and grated
  • 1 T. Dijon mustard
  • 1 T. honey
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 4 pretzel buns, toasted

Preheat the oven to 300° F.

Combine the chicken pieces with 1/4 cup of the mayonnaise in a large bowl, making sure they are well-coated. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Mix together the next ten ingredients (panko through crushed red pepper flakes) in a shallow bowl. Take the chicken out of the fridge. Dredge the chicken in the crispy coating mixture – ensuring it’s fully covered. Place on a tray and repeat until all of the chicken is coated.

Heat a large pan of vegetable oil until hot (you can test by dropping a small cube of bread in there, if it rises immediately to the top and starts to bubble rapidly, it’s hot enough). Once the oil is hot enough, add in 5 or 6 of the chicken tenders. You can add more or less depending on the size of your pan, just be sure not to overcrowd the chicken. Cook for 3-5 minutes until golden brown.

Place on a tray in the oven to keep warm while you cook the rest of the chicken.

Make the coleslaw by placing the cabbage and carrot in a bowl with the remaining 1/4 cup of mayonnaise, mustard, honey, lemon juice, and black pepper.

To assemble, place 3-4 chicken strips on the bottom half of each of the pretzel buns. Spoon the coleslaw generously onto the chicken and top with the top half of each pretzel bun. Serve immediately.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 40 minutes