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Crispy Chicken Sandwiches with Fennel Arugula Salad and Chili Mayo

Classic and classy.

Crispy chicken sandwich topped with fennel and arugula on a ciabatta bun.

Fried chicken sandwiches might be a fast food staple, but you can make one at home that’s even better. Crispy chicken cutlets are tucked between fresh arugula fennel salad and a smooth and chili mayo inside ciabatta buns for a simple but classy take on the familiar grab-and-go sandwich.


Crispy chicken cutlets on a wire rack with a fish spatula.

It’s not tricky to make a crispy chicken cutlet, but it does take a little effort. You’ll start by butterflying the chicken: slicing into the side of each breast with your knife positioned parallel to the cutting board. Once you’ve sliced about halfway into the breast, you can open up the breast almost like a book to finish dividing it. You should be left with two cutlets the same size as the original chicken breast, but much thinner.

 

The next step is pounding out the cutlets: sandwiching them side-by-side between two sheets of plastic wrap and bashing them with the blunt (non-ridged side) of a meat mallet until they are an even ¼” thickness. This might seem like an optional step, but PLEASE do not skip it: the pounding tenderizes the meat and ensures that the cutlet will be a uniform thickness so it cooks evenly. If you don’t have a meat mallet, you can use the side of a rolling pin or the bottom of a wine bottle—whatever you happen to have.

 

The three-step dredge is the most classic way to bread a cutlet. Some recipes will mix salt into the flour or the panko, but I like to season the chicken directly before beginning the dredging process; this ensures that the chicken is evenly and well seasoned, and that all the salt doesn’t end up in the bottom of the dredging bowls. I throw a pinch of salt into the beaten eggs, but this is not for seasoning purposes; the salt actually helps break down the egg so the yolk and white incorporate better and coat the chicken more smoothly.

 


Open-faced crispy chicken cutlet sandwich with chili mayo and arugula and fennel salad.

Although these cutlets are shallow-fried in only ½” oil, I still highly recommend regularly checking the oil temperature with an instant probe thermometer. It should stay as close to 350 degrees as possible. If the temperature climbs higher, the cutlets may burn before they’re cooked in the center. If it drops too low, the cutlets could dry out in the center before they achieve that golden-brown color—and you risk the breadcrumbs becoming saturated in the too-cold oil. No one wants oily-sogged chicken.

 

You can pair a chicken cutlet with almost any crunchy salad and smooth rich dressing you like. Here I’ve gone for a fresh fennel and arugula salad and a lightly spiced mayo, but if neither of these are your thing, feel free to experiment with other salad and sauce combinations. It’s your sandwich.


Enjoy!

 

Crispy Chicken Sandwiches

with Fennel Arugula Salad and Chili Mayo

(Serves 4)


Crispy chicken sandwich topped with fennel and arugula on a ciabatta bun.

For the chicken:


2 chicken breasts, butterflied and pounded to ¼” thickness (about 1 ½ lbs.)

½ cup all-purpose flour

1 ½ tsp. kosher salt

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

2 eggs, beaten

1 ½ cup plain panko breadcrumbs

1-2 cups vegetable oil, as needed for frying

 

For the sandwich:


¾ c. mayo

½ tsp. cayenne pepper

¼ red onion, thinly sliced

1 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. lemon juice

¾ tsp. kosher salt, divided

½ fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced

2 c. arugula

4 ciabatta rolls, halved and toasted

 

Method


For the chicken:


Add flour to a large shallow dish. In a second large shallow dish, whisk eggs with a pinch of salt. Add panko breadcrumbs to a third dish. Line a baking sheet with a wire rack and set aside.


Season chicken cutlets on both sides with 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt and sprinkle lightly with cayenne. Dredge lightly in flour to coat and dunk into the beaten egg. Shake off excess egg and dredge in breadcrumbs. Place on prepared baking rack.


Breaded chicken cutlets frying in a pan.

Pour oil into a large heavy pan to the depth of ½”. Heat over medium-high until oil reaches 350 degrees (a breadcrumb should sizzle when dropped in.) Line a plate with paper towels.


Carefully add two breaded chicken cutlets to the pan in a single layer. Cook until golden brown on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Using tongs or a fish spatula, flip chicken and cook on the other side until golden brown, 2 minutes more. (Chicken should be cooked through.)



Remove crispy cutlets from pan to paper towel-lined plate; sprinkle lightly with salt. Repeat with the remaining 2 cutlets, adjusting heat as necessary to maintain a consistent temperature in the pan.

 

Open-faced crispy chicken cutlet sandwich with chili mayo and arugula and fennel salad.

For the sandwich:


In a small bowl, combine mayo, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and ½ teaspoon kosher salt. Set aside.


In large bowl, toss together red onion, remaining 1 tbsp. lemon juice, and ¼ tsp. salt. Let sit 5 minutes, then add arugula and fennel and toss again.


To assemble sandwiches, spread 2 tbsp. chili mayo on each bottom bun and top with a crispy chicken cutlet and a handful of fennel arugula salad. Close with top bun.


Crispy chicken cutlets on a wire rack with a fish spatula.

Originally posted April 28, 2024.

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