Grilled Chicken Bánh Mì Sandwiches

chicken bánh mì sandwiches

In my household, summer means sandwiches. They are tasty, portable pockets of goodness, and this bánh mì layered with savory pâté, crispy pickled vegetables, and fresh herbs is no exception.

Ingredients

For the Sandwiches

  • Crispy baguettes or lightly toasted sub rolls
  • Boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • Home-made or store-bought marinade of choice
  • Chicken Liver pâté or mayonnaise
  • Pickled vegetables
  • 1-2 large jalapeños, thinly sliced (optional)
  • Cilantro

For the Pickled Vegetables

  • 2 carrots, julienned
  • 1/2 large cucumber, julienned
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

For the Pâté 

  • 10 tablespoons of softened butter, divided
  • 1/2-lb chicken livers
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • Additional softened butter for coating (see below)

Directions

Day One: Prepping the Pâté 

If you are using the pâté, then I would advise making it two days ahead of time so all of the flavors have time to come together. On the first day, wash the livers and remove any excess bits of membrane. Place the livers in a small bowl and sprinkle with roughly 1/2 teaspoon salt, mixing them carefully. Pour enough of the milk over the livers to fully cover them; let soak overnight.

Day Two: Preparing the Pâté, Pickling the Veggies, and Marinating the Meat

On the second day, rinse the livers and chop into smaller pieces. Set aside. Sauté onion and garlic. Once the onions turn translucent, add the livers and white wine. Simmer until the liver is cooked through and the wine reduces, which will be roughly 5 minutes or so. Add fish sauce, Chinese five-spice powder, and salt and pepper to taste.

Let the mixture cool slightly. Then, puree the liver mixture in a food processor or blender along with 8 tablespoons of the softened butter. Lightly coat a small serving dish (or individual ramekins) with butter. Pour the pâté into the container(s) and seal the top with 2 tablespoons of melted butter that has been gently heated and cooled. Refrigerate immediately! Properly stored pâté should last up to five days.

Note: it is really important to keep the pâté sealed/refrigerated as much as possible, only taking it out to assemble your sandwiches just before eating them. If you would like to use the pâté as a dip or spread for bread/crackers, then slice a little bit off and put it on a serving plate so the remainder of it can remain refrigerated. Essentially pâté is one of those foods that, for safety reasons, shouldn’t be at room temperature for an extended period of time once it has been refrigerated. Otherwise, you may get ill.

Once you’ve prepared the pâté, it’s time to pickle the vegetables. Combine the hot water and sugar in a medium container with a lid; mix until the sugar dissolves. Add the vinegar, salt, crushed red pepper flakes, carrots and cucumber. Cover and refrigerate.

Finally, it is time to prep and cook the chicken thighs. I suggest using whatever Asian marinade looks/tastes the best to you and leaving the chicken to marinade overnight. I’ve seen a number of other recipes use a marinade consisting of fish sauce, lime juice, and sugar (in a 2:2:1 ratio); but I’ve tried this combination and am not a fan.

One reason why I’m not a fan of this marinade is because fish sauce is a potent and somewhat expensive condiment, which is why it is an optional addition to the pâté above. If you grill the chicken outside, then it might be okay since the combination itself is actually quite tasty.

However, if you use an indoor grill or broiler, the smell of fish sauce cooking can be overpowering to say the least. My spouse describes it as “fish mixed with feet,” which might not be the best thing to cook indoors for you or your neighbors – especially if you live in an apartment building where smells easily travel from one unit to the next!

Day Three: Grilling, and Assembling

Grill, broil, or sauté the chicken until done; or when the thickest piece registers a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees on a meat thermometer. Remove the chicken from the heat, cover it with foil, and let it rest for 5 minutes. Once the chicken has rested, slice it thinly and start assembling the sandwiches.

To assemble: split each baguette or toasted sub roll. Spread a generous helping of pâté (or mayonnaise) on the bottom bun. Then layer with sliced chicken, pickled vegetables, cilantro leaves, and jalapeño slices.

Note: you could theoretically swap out the chicken for tofu and the pâté for a vegan mayonnaise, but I haven’t gotten around to trying this combination yet….

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