Get the Recipe
There are a lot of things I could tell you about a trip I took to Colombia several years ago. I could tell you about the shootout that erupted on the street in Cali just seconds after I had stepped inside my flat. I could tell you about the bonfire-roasted wild rat I ate one night on a remote Pacific beach. I could tell you about kicking back shots of aguardiente in sweaty salsa clubs until dawn, or about the drug trafficker I got stuck drinking with one night, a guy who casually threatened to kill a cigarette vendor when she didn't have the brand he wanted (I can't tell you how relieved I was to survive that episode). But instead I'm going to tell you about a chicken sandwich.
Chicken sandwiches, generally speaking, don't exist to excite. They're trustworthy and filling and totally vanilla, the sensible footwear of sandwiches. So you can imagine my disappointment when, after my friends from Cali suggested burgers for dinner, we arrived at a place where the only meat on the grill was chicken breast.
"So, you call these burgers even when it's chicken?" I asked, still hopeful I'd somehow overlooked the beef.
And thus I learned that in Colombia, if it's served hamburger-style on a hamburger bun, it's a hamburger. Resigned, I ordered one.
Hamburger lovers of the world, I ask you, what would it take for a chicken "burger" to pleasantly surprise you after you had your hopes set on a beef burger? What would it take to truly impress you? What would it take to blow your mind so completely that you no longer care one bit about "real" burgers? I'd like to introduce you to that sandwich, or at least, to my version of it. Call it what you want—a burger, a sandwich—it doesn't really matter. What matters is that this is arguably the best chicken sandwich in the world.
Lemme walk you through it.
The Building Blocks
For such an amazing sandwich, you'd think there'd be a lot of work involved. Not this time!
This sandwich, for all its power and glory, is very, very simple, and very easy to make. The building blocks include chicken, bacon, iceberg lettuce, crushed ruffled potato chips, mayo, tomato, a green sauce, and a bun.
Step 1: Grill the Bacon and Chicken
First, yes, there is bacon in this thing, and yes, that is partly why it's so good. It'd still be good even without the bacon, but let's be real, chicken is chicken and bacon is bacon and that's all there is to it.
To grill the chicken, I used Josh Bousel's rock-solid method. First, he quickly pounds the breasts to flatten them, which guarantees that they cook evenly. Then he drops them in a very simple sugar-and-salt brine for 30 minutes, which helps keep them juicy despite the dry heat of the grill. You can use those 30 minutes to get other things ready, like making the green sauce and preheating your grill.
To grill the bacon, I borrowed Kenji's clever method, which involves flipping the thick-cut rashers right on the edge of a two-zone fire. That way, they're exposed to just enough heat to get crisp, but not so much that they blacken from flare-ups caused by excessive dripping grease.
I added one step when grilling the chicken, brushing them with an avocado-jalapeño-cilantro green sauce just a minute or two before they come off the grill. If there are any readers out there who know more about Colombian burgers than I do, I can't claim this sauce is authentic or correct. I can claim that it's really tasty. The last-minute brushing quickly cooks the sauce onto the breasts without burning it, but don't worry, we'll add some more fresh sauce later.
Step 2: Assembly
Once the chicken and bacon are cooked, all that's left is to toast the buns and assemble the sandwiches.
How you assemble this sandwich is critical because you want to make sure it's saucy and juicy enough. A good beef burger, in my book, has to have enough fat flowing from the patty that it runs down my hands, over my wrists, and at least attempts a journey along my forearms. I expect no less with this sandwich. But chicken breast, even when perfectly cooked, isn't the kind of meat that's prone to dripping juices, so it needs some help from lots and lots of mayo and sauce. To achieve that, I added the mayo in two layers, one on the top bun and one on the bottom, plus an extra dose of the green sauce. That's going to give us plenty of delicious, messy drips.
The other critical component is the crumbled potato chips. I went with ruffled because they're thicker and sturdier than regular chips, so they'd offer lots of crunch even when broken into small pieces and coated in sauce. And it's the crunch that we want—it's all about adding texture to an otherwise very soft, wet sandwich.