I know what you’re thinking.
Anything “grilled” is out of the question right now. It’s far too cold for that nonsense. And I totally get it. I am a seasonal wimp when it comes to using the outside grill for cooking. It only happens once the temperatures go above 5oish degrees and are guaranteed to stay that way for some time to come. I am, however, going to make a case for you cranking up your grill to make this incredible sandwich. It is so, so, so worth it! Hey, at the very least, you can warm yours hands over the grates. Right? Right? Anyone there?
(Full disclaimer: I made this a few weeks ago when the weather was mild and still pleasant enough [read: freakish in December] to allow for grilling outside. I’m confident, however, that the chicken will be just as delicious if pan grilled or seared inside. I plan on making it this way myself later this week.)
Sandwiches like this one happen with some frequency in our house. They’re one of our comfort food staples. Sandwiches are great because they’re generally quick and easy to throw together, they’re customizable, and they’re completely satisfying. Especially when bacon and cheese are involved. Which they totally are in this rendition. We are lucky enough (my pants beg to differ) to live around the corner from a well-known local Italian bakery/fine foods store. Along with incredible (authentic!) bread, pastries, and pasta, they also make the BEST hoagie I’ve ever had.
Side bar: do you know what a “hoagie” is? I know locals will. It’s the same thing as a sub sandwich. Yeah, we’re weird in Philly. We know.
It has become a weekend tradition to order a turkey hoagie loaded to the brim with sharp cheese, paper-thin red onions, lettuce, tomatoes, copious amounts of pickles, and a light schmear of mayo. The hoagies are HUGE, so my husband and I split half of one (which is still about a foot long). After consuming the behemoth of deliciousness, we don’t need to eat again for another two days. Hah. Or in my husband’s case, another two hours?
So, yeah, we know a good sandwich when it lands in our lap. Or in our mouths. Let’s ignore the awkwardness of that last sentence and just go with this: we’re sandwich experts.
So, when I tell you that THIS sandwich is worth the effort of grilling in arctic temperatures, you just have to trust me. The chicken marinates for a few hours in a super flavorful and tenderizing marinade that you can probably make with pantry stables. I always have the ingredients on hand. I like to use thin-cut chicken breasts for this type of sandwich because it makes the eating (and assembling) a lot easier. The chicken comes out packed with flavor and melt-in-your-mouth tender (I’m also thinking of a word that rhymes with “schloist”….ya know, the word that 98% of the population can’t stand to hear. Yeah, it’s that too).
The crusty bread is schmeared with one of my most favorite condiments of all time: lemon aioli. Lemon is one of my top five favorite flavors and I love a good homemade aioli. It gives the sandwich a touch of creaminess and a lot of bright tang. It’s fantastic with some of the “heavier” ingredients.
Which brings me to the bacon. Peppered bacon, to be exact. I love a good, spicy pepper-crusted bacon. It adds something special to whatever you use it in. Can’t find a good peppered bacon? Make your own! Simply douse the uncooked bacon strips in a hefty amount of freshly cracked black pepper, press to adhere, and crisp as usual! Easy peasy.
The combination of the bread, light lemon brightness from the aioli, spice from the bacon, and flavor of the chicken….along with some peppery greens and creamy fresh mozzarella cheese…well, you may now be seeing why I claim that this sandwich is worth the outside grilling. It’s freaking good, man. Soooo good.
Just before serving, I like to drizzle a little sticky-sweet balsamic glaze over my sandwich. Just because. It’s totally optional but completely addictive. I have to strongly suggest that you try it. It’s all that AND a bag of chips (speaking of, you should probably definitely serve this sandwich with a hefty handful of potato chips. Match made in heaven).
Mmm. Total comfort food. Which IS justified when it’s freezing out. I know we can at least agree on that.
For the Chicken:
- (I prepared it exactly the same way I did for this salad)
- 1 lb thin-sliced chicken breasts
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- ¼ cup olive oil
- Salt and pepper
For the Aioli:
- 2 egg yolks, at room temperature
- 1 garlic clove, grated or pressed
- 1 cup canola oil
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Zest of 2 lemons
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Sandwich rolls, split
- The chicken
- The aioli
- 8 strips peppered bacon, cooked
- 6 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
- 2 cups baby arugula
- Balsamic glaze
For the Chicken:
- See this recipe. Exact same recipe/steps!
For the Aioli:
- Place the egg yolks and grated garlic into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine.
- With the machine running, VERY SLOWLY stream in the oil. Run the machine the entire time, pausing with the oil every few seconds to allow each addition to incorporate. Once the oil is all added, continue running the machine until the mixture is thick, emulsified, and pale yellow. It should look like mayonnaise.
- Squeeze in the lemon juice. Season with a little salt and pepper and then run the machine to incorporate everything. Finally, add the lemon zest and pulse (or stir in by hand) to combine. Check the seasoning one last time and adjust as necessary.
- Transfer the aioli to an airtight container and keep in the fridge until you are ready to use. It will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.
- Preheat the oven to 300°F and line a large baking sheet with tin foil. Line up the bottom halves of the sandwich rolls on the baking sheet.
- Slather the aioli on the rolls and then top with the arugula. Then top with the chicken, peppered bacon, and fresh mozzarella cheese slices. Drizzle everything with the balsamic glaze and place the top roll half on each assembled sandwich.
- Bake for 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and gooey. Slice and serve immediately.