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Elevating a fried chicken sandwich from fast food to haute cuisine is not only possible, but much easier than you think...
In 1946, Atlanta restaurant owner, S. Truett Cathy, created an alternative to the hamburger when he placed a piece of boneless grilled chicken inside a bun and dubbed it the "Chick-fil-A." And thus, a culinary staple – and burgeoning fast-food empire - was born. These days, Chik-fil-A is known for their breaded and deep fried sandwiches, which are admittedly rather beautiful in their simplicity: a buttered (no mayo) white- bread bun, crispy, breast meat chicken, and aside from a random dill pickle slice or two no other vegetables getting in the way unless you opt for “deluxe.” Look, I get it - if you’re on the road and you see a Chik-fil-A, by all means, bee line it and go get medieval on a few unsuspecting sandwiches.
But it can get better - infinitely better. Thankfully, that’s what happens when skilled chefs pick up the baton and uniquely transform a dish that up until that point had been an afterthought. Chez Panisse alum, Alison Barakat, deserves as much credit as anyone for reviving this overlooked American classic with her amped up, Buttermilk Fried Chicken Sandwich. She and her husband sling over 600 of them a day at their lunch-only shop, Bakesale Betty, near the UC Berkeley campus. And there are good reasons why.
Rather than achieve a price point by using lesser (and less) ingredients, Barakat honed in on a combination of flavors and textures that make her sandwich taste uniquely awesome. Three critical elements work in unison, none of which get short-changed. The crunchy on the outside, soft in the middle, white torpedo roll holds the sandwich together and absorbs the coleslaw dressing. The chicken gets a double buttermilk-flour dip so the breading to chicken ratio is just right - and as crispy as possible. And the vinegar-based, jalapeno coleslaw offers yet another textural component, but also brings sour and spice that together cut the richness of the whole shebang. It’s a genius creation, top to bottom.
LA-based chefs and Food Network dudes, Jon Shook and Vinnie Dotolo became instant converts and now serve their own Fried Chicken Sandwich, at their LA digs, Son of A Gun, upping the ante with a spicy aioli and house-made bread-and-butter pickles to go with their own ratcheted up, jalapeno slaw. The culinary world took notice – their fried chicken masterpiece graced last month’s cover of Bon Appetite magazine. If that picture doesn’t get your heart pumping, nothing will.
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