First it was the unveiling of David Chang's Fuku and Fuku+ spicy fried boneless thigh chicken sandwich, treated like the second coming by some of our media brethren. Then feathers ruffled further in our chix-obsessed world when news broke in January that Shake Shack would serve its herb buttermilk dressing-slathered Chick'n Shack™ nationwide.
The fried chicken sandwich fad doesn't stop there, though, with even more casual joints dedicated to the dish in the works around the country. Clearly, we've got birds on the brain—or have we all just gone clucking crazy?
We're going to go with no—because, hey, fried chicken is delicious. Crisp on the outside, juicy on the inside, and you can eat it with your hands—it's pretty sublime. Marry that with our general fascination with bread, and it's easy to see why the fried chicken sando has taken flight of late (although Chick-fil-A claims to have invented it way back in 1967).
Mark Rosati, culinary director of Shake Shack, certainly understands its appeal: "Fried chicken sandwiches are pure comfort all the way. A juicy and crunchy fried chicken sandwich can tickle our pleasure senses, much like a freshly cooked, hot and juicy cheeseburger. Add a pickle or two, and it's game over."
Given all of the hype, we decided it was time to make an Official Tasting Table Fried Chicken Sandwich (see the recipe) to rule the roost. Here's how ours stacks up.
The chicken: A six-ounce chicken breast is marinated in buttermilk before being dredged twice in a spiced flour mixture and shallow-fried. This creates a super-crispy crust surrounding a thick, and extremely juicy, piece of chicken.
The bread: We're purists when it comes to buns and, here, nothing beats an untoasted potato roll. The soft and sweet bread contrasts with the salty, crispy chicken to add another layer of texture. Toasting it would be plain ludicrous.
The pickles: Simple dill pickle chips add a vinegary crunch that helps cut through the richness of the sandwich. However, you do you. If you feel particularly passionate about half-sours, go for it.
The toppings: Here comes the fun part. Rosati explains that fried bird is a blank canvas that calls to him to pile on flavor through sauces and toppings, adding depth and texture. We took his advice and decided to make a pickled coleslaw to bring brightness and crunch. A colorful mixture of cabbage, chile, carrot and red onion is pickled with coriander seeds before being tossed with honey and mayo.
The secret sauce: We simply couldn't not have a secret sauce to slather onto those potato rolls. Ours is a mixture of our favorite condiments (mayo, ketchup and Dijon) spiked with gochujang for a little kick and depth of flavor.
One final note: You're going to need both hands and your full attention to eat our colorful creation. But get in there—no need to be a chicken.
Please check your inbox to verify your email address.