A sandwich must surely be one of the most infinitely variable food concepts known to mankind. The number of fillings, types of bread and even the seasonings, pickles or other chosen accompaniments which can be incorporated means that sandwich combinations need never become stale or repetitive, even when catering for all but the most restricted of food tastes.
A further way to vary the sandwich concept is to consider the shape of the sandwich and the way it is subsequently eaten. This idea sees the sandwich ultimately served in wedges to a number of people - perhaps more like a cake - but without losing any of the appeal normally associated with one of the world's favorite snacks or light meals.
Although the chicken in this recipe is purpose cooked, a sandwich such as this one is also a great way of using up leftover chicken, whether that be breast steaks from the outdoor grill, or a combination of leg, thigh and breast meat from an oven roasted bird prepared for a family dinner. When assembled on the night of the original meal, this type of sandwich would provide the perfect leftovers based lunch for the following day.
Ingredients (Serves 4 to 6)
- 3 medium to large chicken thighs
- 1 large celery stick
- 1 large green chili
- ½ small white onion
- 2 bay leaves
- ½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 12 ounce tray assorted Mediterranean roasting vegetables*
- 1 medium red chili
- 1 large garlic clove
- Generous pinch dried basil
- Generous pinch dried oregano
- Black pepper
- Generous drizzle extra virgin olive oil
- 8 to 10 inch diameter round loaf
*The supermarket bought tray of ready prepared vegetables used in this recipe consisted of whole cherry tomatoes, red and yellow bell pepper slices, zucchini (courgette) slices and small leaves of red onion. It represented not only excellent value for money but a significant reduction in hands on preparation time. Any similar vegetables of choice could of course be bought individually and sliced/chopped as desired where such a tray is not available.
Put the chicken thighs in to the base of a large pot. Wash and trim the celery stick, wash and top the chili and roughly chop both. Add to the pot along with the bay leaves, the peeled and chopped onion half, the black peppercorns and some salt. Pour in enough cold water to ensure everything is comfortably covered and put on to a high heat until the water starts to simmer. Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer for ten minutes.
Put your oven on to preheat to 450F/220C/Gas Mark 8 while you chop and slice (where applicable) the vegetables for roasting.
When the chicken thighs have been simmering for ten minutes, turn off the heat, cover the pot and leave to partly cool for thirty minutes. During this time, the thighs will gently complete cooking in the residual heat only, ensuring they come out of the pot beautifully tender and moist.
Peel and finely dice the garlic clove. Top, seed and finely dice the red chili.
Add the garlic and chili to the tray of vegetables, along with the dried basil and oregano, some salt and black pepper and a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Stir around with a wooden spoon to mix, careful not to spill any of the vegetable pieces from the tray. Place the tray on to a larger baking or roasting tray to contain any spillage during cooking and roast in the oven for thirty minutes. Take from the oven half way through cooking and stir well for a second time.
A large slotted spoon should be used to lift the chicken thighs to a deep plate. Cover and leave for about an hour or so to cool completely.
Take the roasted vegetables from the oven and tip them in to a large glass or stone bowl, juices, oil and all. Cover and leave to cool completely.
The type of loaf you use will depend not only upon your individual tastes but also upon what is available to you in your locality. This wheat, spelt and rye loaf makes an excellent choice, being both ultra tasty and nutritious. One thing you should ensure, whichever type of loaf you choose to use, is that the bread is as fresh as is at all possible.
A serrated bread knife should be used to slice the top off the loaf. Don't cut too thick a slice - you want to cut off just enough to reveal the full diameter of the loaf.
Use your fingers to pull the majority of the bread out of the shell of the loaf in small clumps. Take your time doing this to ensure you don't get too close to the crust. You want to leave what is essentially a shell at least half an inch to three-quarters of an inch thick on the base and all the way around. The scooped out bread can be dried in a low oven and used to make breadcrumbs or for any alternative purpose you wish.
Peel the skin from the chicken thighs and discard. Pick the flesh off in small bite sized pieces and add to the bowl with the vegetables. The bones can either be discarded or used for stock.
Mix the chicken and vegetables together. Spoon in to the hollowed out loaf, pressing down moderately firmly to compact but not too hard. When the loaf is filled, sit the top back in place.
Lift the filled loaf in to a large bowl which is just wide enough to accommodate it and no more.
Lay a suitably sized plate upside down on top of the loaf and weight it with such as an unopened pack of rice or a couple of cans of tomatoes. You don't want anything too heavy, just something which will slowly compact the loaf and filling over a period of time. Refrigerate overnight.
Take the sandwich from your fridge half an hour before service. Slice in to wedges and serve.