Why It Works
- With alternating layers of mayonnaise, crushed potato chips, a flavorful jalapeño-avocado sauce, lettuce, and tomato, this sandwich delivers a range of textures, from crisp and crunchy to soft, tender, and juicy.
- By pounding and quick-brining the chicken breasts, we can cook the meat evenly and allow it to stay moist on the grill.
- Grilling bacon on the edge of the hot zone crisps it perfectly while reducing flare-ups.
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 brines them 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.
Crushed ruffled potato chips add lots of salty crunch.
Shredded iceberg lettuce is cool and fresh.
The grilled chicken breast, glistening with the green sauce, is next.
Bacon is bacon, 'nuff said.
Tomato adds another fresh flavor and lots of its own juice; another spoonful of spicy green sauce amps up the drip factor and adds even more bold flavor.
The top bun gets even more mayo. Slather it on!
One more sprinkling of potato chips and you can close the sandwich.
Just try not to make a mess...
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, tender removed, 6 to 8 ounces each
2 quarts cold water
Kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
1/4 cup (55g) sugar (if making a wet brine)
1/4 small avocado, diced (about 1/3 cup)
1/2 large jalapeño, roughly chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems (from about 6 sprigs)
5 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, from 1 lime
Freshly ground black pepper
6 slices thick cut bacon, halved
4 soft white sesame burger buns, split
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 cup crushed ruffled potato chips
1 cup shredded iceberg lettuce
Four (1/4-inch-thick) slices tomato
Place 1 chicken breast in a resealable plastic bag or between 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Using a meat pounder, rolling pin, or small skillet, pound chicken breast into an even thickness about 3/4-inches in height. Repeat with remaining 3 breasts.
If making a wet brine, dissolve 1/3 cup (80g) kosher salt and the 1/4 cup (55g) sugar in a medium bowl in 2 quarts (1.9L) water. Place chicken breasts in brine and refrigerate for 30 minutes. If making a dry brine, set a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet and arrange chicken breasts on it. Sprinkle generously all over with salt on both sides, then refrigerate, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine avocado, jalapeño, cilantro, 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil, water, and lime juice in blender and purée until a smooth, creamy sauce forms. Season green sauce with salt.
Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Alternatively, set all the burners of a gas grill to high heat. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Remove chicken breasts from brine, pat dry with paper towels, season to taste with salt and pepper, and brush lightly with remaining 2 tablespoons oil.
Place bacon in between hot and cool sides of grill and cook, turning occasionally, until surface of bacon is bubbling but not yet crisp and browned, about 15 minutes total.
While bacon cooks, place chicken over hot side of grill and cook until well browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Flip and, using a pastry brush or spoon, brush a coating of green sauce all over top side of chicken. Continue to cook until second side is browned. Flip chicken and cook until green sauce is just cooked, about 1 minute. Brush more green sauce on second side of chicken, flip once more, and cook until chicken registers 150°F (66°C) (or 160°F (71°C) if you really want to stick to FDA guidelines) on an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of breast. If chicken browns too much before it registers 150°F, move to cool side of grill, cover, and let cook until chicken reaches temperature. Remove chicken from grill, let rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
Place bun halves on hot side of grill, cut-sides down, and cook until lightly toasted.
Spread 1 1/2 tablespoons of mayonnaise on cut side of each bun half. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of crushed potato chips on the mayonnaise. On each bottom bun, add 1/4 cup lettuce, followed by 1 chicken breast, 3 bacon pieces, 1 tomato slice, and 1 tablespoon green sauce. Close sandwiches and serve right away.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 70g||89%|
|Saturated Fat 11g||57%|
|Total Carbohydrate 44g||16%|
|Dietary Fiber 5g||16%|
|Total Sugars 8g|
|Vitamin C 28mg||140%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|