In verdant fields, ripe with pickled carrots and green-onion stalks, rainbow-feathered chickens gallivant about until they rest their little chicken heads on pillowy loaves of French bread bathed in sweet-salty soy and lime sauce. This wild, fresh, and crunchy dream came to life in my kitchen just last night, and a picture of the sandwich that resulted, is my only proof, but trust me, the entire experience was amazeballs. This hearty, stick-to-the-ribs sandwich is banh mi-inspired, and oh-so versatile. It’ll have you and your loved ones celebrating March, April, and May in the most traditional way possible: by whacking each other over the head with loaves of French bread and singing, “Spring is Coming! Watch out!” to the tune of “I Like to Move It Move It.”
The recipe follows below. You can also plan a family “spring-break bucket list” to enjoy with your sandwich. Ours includes riding a mechanical bull. (I have not cleared this with Nate yet. Alex would be cool with it.)
½ cup of carrots cut into thin strips
½ of a cucumber sliced thin (I like to scrape the seeds out.)
¼ cup of vinegar (I used apple cider, but you can also use rice or white vinegar)
1 tablespoon of maple syrup (I’ve used honey or sugar before—either one is fine)
5-6 tenderloins of chicken (boneless, skinless)
2 tablespoons of soy sauce
3 tablespoons of lime juice
1 teaspoon of minced, fresh ginger
1 teaspoon of minced jalapeño (optional—if you want spicier, use a full tablespoon of sriracha sauce instead)
1 clove of garlic minced
1 tablespoon of maple syrup (or honey or sugar)
½ cup of green or red cabbage chopped
2-3 stalks of green onion, cut into long strips
¼ cup of cilantro roughly chopped
1 teaspoon of chopped fresh mint
2-3 large basil leaves cut into long strips
1 loaf of French bread
Prepare the carrot and cucumber marinade:
–Mix the carrots and cucumber into a bowl with the vinegar and one tablespoon of maple syrup. This mixture does not have to marinate overnight—it’s fine as is, but for deeper flavors, you can let it sit longer.
–Whisk the soy sauce, lime juice, ginger, jalapeño or sriracha sauce (if using), garlic, and tablespoon of maple syrup in a separate bowl. Remove about 3 tablespoons to another small bowl. Distribute that separate portion of three tablespoons onto the chicken—pour the sauce directly on, but evenly. (You might even choose to put the chicken strips into a plastic bag and pour the three tablespoons of the sauce into the bag and mix everything together that way.)
With the remaining, larger soy sauce portion left in the bowl, you can place the minced cabbage to marinate.
–Heat the oven to 425 and bake the French bread for about 6-8 minutes (if it’s a take and bake loaf. If it is completely baked, you probably only need about 3-5 minutes to warm it up). Then, wrap the bread in foil to keep it warm.
–Heat the oven to 450 and heat the chicken tenderloins for about 10 minutes—or until the inside is cooked through and the juices run clear. Cut into one-inch slices on a diagonal.
–Then, assemble the sandwiches: Slice the French bread on the diagonal into 3-4 pieces and slice down the middle, but not all the way through. Put the cabbage mixture down first. Then, add the chicken pieces. You can add the pickled carrots/cucumbers next and then top with the green onions, mint, basil, and cilantro. You can also top the entire thing with chopped peanuts.
Results: This. Is. The. Best. Sandwich. Ever. The experience was surreal. At one point, I think the cat hopped onto the dining room chair next to Alex and sniffed the sandwich with that look of creepy ecstasy that only cats can manage, and then the cat just stared at me. There was no way I was giving him any bite—not with his history of vomiting fresh flowers all over the house. But if a sandwich has that kind of an emotional pull on the family cat, I know it’s a recipe I can keep forever. I know we can charge full steam ahead into spring with a French bread loaf in one hand and a mechanical bull somewhere in sight, where pickled carrots and chickens run free.
Your Turn: What is your favorite sandwich?