Whenever I ask my kids what they want for dinner, the knee-jerk response is always: “ultimatesummersandwich” as if it were just one word. It doesn’t even matter what season it is. For me too, in the summer at least, it’s the obvious choice. On a hot day sitting outside in the cool under the grape vines and eating this sandwich with a tall cold beer – that’s a perfect summer moment. On one of the many rainy evenings, I think, well, just because it’s wet doesn’t mean we have to eat stew or something – we’ll have the Ultimate Summer Sandwich! Even though we’re eating indoors, this sandwich is so delightful it makes dinner feel like the best kind of special occasion. (For me “special occasion” means something superdelicious – not necessarily fancy. This sandwich isn’t fancy.)
Here’s what I like about it: the warm spicy-sweet rubbed chicken, the cool creamy tang of goat cheese, the bitter curls of arugula, the richly floral tomato and basil pesto, the edgy bite of the red onion, the chewy baguette. All those contrasts and the whole thing hits just the right note! The sum is far greater than the parts.
If I made one Ultimate Sandwich an entire baguette long I think I could probably eat the whole thing. It’s that good.
The Ultimate Sandwich
The recipe is from one of my very favorite cookbooks, which I may have mentioned before: Weber’s Big Book of Grilling. I can’t imagine cooking in the summertime without it.
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/8 tsp cayenne
- 3 handfuls arugula
- 4 ounces mild soft goat cheese
- 1/2 a small red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 long French baguette – not too chewy, not sour (I use La Brea)
- 1 small garlic clove
- 1 cup of fresh basil leaves
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 3 tbsp sundried tomatoes packed in olive oil
- 2 tbsp pine nuts
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan
- freshly ground black pepper
- Begin by mixing the brown sugar, salt and cayenne in a small bowl. Remove the tenders from the back of the chicken breasts. Lightly pound the thicker ends. Rub the brown sugar mixture all over the chicken, place in a dish and cover. If you are not going to continue with the rest of the recipe, refrigerate until it is time to grill.
- Remove the goat cheese from the refrigerator, unwrap and leave on the counter to soften.
- Wash and dry the arugula.
- Fill a small bowl with cold water and leave the red onion to soak – this will take away the lingering bite.
- Slice baguette into 4 equal pieces and cut almost all the way through lengthwise.
- To make the pesto, crush the garlic and place in the food processor with the basil, olive oil, sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts and black pepper. Whirl until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl and fold in the parmesan.
- Heat the grill medium hot. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Grill for 8-10 minutes turning half way through. Remove from grill and slice on the diagonal into 1/2″ thick slices.
- Spread baguette with goat cheese on one side and pesto on the other. Layer chicken, arugula and red onion inside. Serve at once.