As a poor graduate student, I don’t get eat out much, so one of the traditions my mom and I have is that once a week we go out to eat. One of our favorite restaurants is actually Panera. The first time I ever went to Panera, it was still the St Louis Bread Company, and my mom and I had made a trip to St Louis to see the Nutcracker. No judging, I was young.
It was one of our favorite places to eat every time we went to St Louis for years, usually for breakfast, and I was thrilled when a Panera opened in our city. We went there once a week for breakfast for several weeks before I got tired of it. It was quite a while before we went to Panera for anything other than breakfast, but eventually, we did try some of their entrees. My favorite, hands down, is the Cuban Sandwich.
I could almost have an affair with this sandwich, if one could have an affair with food. While I know it’s no gourmet food, and I’m probably getting snickers from the audience in larger cities, I really do love this sandwich. It’s one of the few things I can honestly say I could eat for more than three days in a row. And believe me, that’s saying quite a bit.
Today the Wickles steal the show from the Cuban though. This sandwich is all about the Wickles. I’m not one to preferentially use one brand over another, but I have not as of yet found another brand of pickles that can quite replicate these for flavor. They are like the Girl Scout cookies of pickles, one of a kind, but thankfully available all year round. Substitute the Wickless at your own risk.
2 chicken breasts
8 ham slices
8 slices Swiss cheese
½ cup Sun dried tomatoes
½ cup Southwest Spicy Mustard
¼ cup miracle whip
¼ cup sour cream
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon ground chipotle
Oil for frying
(You can substitute Red Chili Powder if you don’t have ground chipotle but you will sacrifice flavor for heat. You can also grind your own chipotle chilies, but be careful since the smoke can make your throat and eyes sting.)
As you can see from the picture, I didn’t use focaccia bread. Really you can use any crusty bread for this dish, but it will change the taste of the final sandwich, and try not to use anything that is too puffy.
Trim off any fat that is on the chicken breast, and then cut it open, so it’s half as thick which will make it cook faster. Lightly salt and pepper each side of the 4 pieces of chicken.
Heat enough oil in a medium sized skillet to just cover the bottom of the pan over medium heat. Place the chicken breast pieces in the skillet so that they don’t touch. Cook, turning occasionally, until both sides are golden brown and can be easily pierced with a fork at its thickest part. This should take about 15 to 20 minutes.
While the chicken is cooking, drain the sun dried tomatoes and combine with the mustard s in a blender and puree. You can substitute other mustards for the southwest, but you’ll probably need to add more mustard than tomatoes in order to balance the flavor.
In a bowl mix together the miracle whip, sour cream, oregano, and chipotle in a bowl. If you don’t have powdered chipotle, you can substitute red pepper, but it will have a hotter taste without being as flavorful.
After the chicken is done, turn off the skillet and reserve the chicken to a plate and let it cool slightly.
To build the sandwich, cut your bread in half. On one half spread liberally with the miracle whip mixture, and on the other half spread lightly with the mustard mixture. Be carefully, the mustard mixture will pack a punch.
Pick one half of the bread, and build on that one, don’t try to build on both. Stack: Chicken (cutting to fit the bread), two slices of ham, Wickless to cover, and two slices of Swiss cheese, cover with other half of bread.
Heat a sandwich press and press the stacked sandwich between the two plates until the cheese melts.
If you do not have a sandwich press, you can improvise by re heating the skillet you cooked the chicken in and placing the stacked sandwich in the medium of the skillet with a weight on it, such as a bacon press or another skillet, to hold it down. When you notice the cheese starting to melt, remove the weight, flip the sandwich, and replace the press. Cook for an additional minute or two to brown both sides of bread and you’re done.
Recipe makes 4 sandwiches, though you’ll probably have a little of both the miracle whip and mustard mixture left over, and takes about 45 minutes to an hour.