Crispy Chicken Club Sandwich

First up, I should admit that this really isn’t very healthy at all, so I recommend that you make your sandwich an open one (that is, with just one slice of bread, on the bottom) and serve it with a hefty pile of salad. It is delicious though – the chicken’s crispy on the outside and juicy in the middle, with zingy pesto mayonnaise, a thick slice of ciabatta toasted in the frying pan, peppery rocket and plump, buttery gnocchi. The idea of frying gnocchi to make a sort of miniature roast potato comes from Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen (which is a great book - click here for more information), and it gives such brilliant results you’ll wonder why people don’t do it more often. The gnocchi end up crunchy on the outside and fluffy in the middle – exactly as a roast potato should be, but so often isn’t.

Two chicken breasts
Four or five slices of bread (for breadcrumbs)
A small loaf of ciabatta (for the sandwich)
Olive oil
Salt and black pepper
One egg
A couple of tablespoons of flour
A clove of garlic
Half a 150g packet of gnocchi

Serves two.

First of all, you need to make your breadcrumbs. For this I use my little Cuisinart blender, which is an absolute gem – see the Kitchen Bits and Bobs page for more details – but you could easily make your breadcrumbs in a normal blender, or I’ve even used my hand-blender in the past, although you need to stop every now and then to stir up the breadcrumbs again or they just get compacted into one lump. If you don’t have a blender though, don’t be put off – just let your slices of bread get stale (by leaving them out on the kitchen counter for the afternoon), then crumble them with your hands. The bits will be a bit bigger than you’d get with a blender, but they’ll still serve the purpose. Once the breadcrumbs are quite fine, mix in a slug of olive oil, salt and black pepper, and half a clove of garlic (crushed). Save the other half of the garlic clove to use in a moment.

Next, prepare your chicken. Lay the pieces out on a chopping board and cover them with a wide piece of clingfilm. Then use a heavy-bottomed pan to bash them flat (this will help them to cook faster). Break the egg into a medium-sized bowl and beat it with a fork. Get yourself ready to coat the chicken by spreading out the breadcrumbs on one plate, and the flour on another, and then dip your chicken pieces first in the flour (shaking off any excess), then in the egg, and then in the breadcrumbs, making sure they’re well-coated all over.

It’s a good idea to make sure your chicken pieces and your gnocchi start cooking at the same time, because then they should be ready at the same time too. You could cook them in the same pan if it’s big enough but I tend to use two (a frying pan for the gnocchi and a griddle pan for the chicken). Drizzle some olive oil into each pan and then pop the chicken pieces in one and the gnocchi into the other. Add a little dab of butter to the gnocchi pan, sprinkle them with a little salt and toss to coat them. While they’re sizzling (keep an eye on the chicken so the breadcrumbs don’t burn), prepare your mayonnaise. Put a couple of big spoonfuls of mayonnaise into a small bowl, and mix in the rest of the garlic (crushed) and a teaspoon of pesto, then adjust to taste. Simple!

Once the chicken pieces are toasted and golden-brown on both sides, push them to the edges of the pan, so they mostly stop cooking but stay warm. Slice your ciabatta loaf through the middle and place the two halves, cut side down, in the pan, to toast in the oil for a minute or two (if you’re thinking this bit is unnecessarily unhealthy, you’re right. Feel free to leave it out. But it does taste fantastic.)

To serve, spread each toasty piece of bread with pesto mayonnaise, pop the chicken on top, and garnish with rocket and crispy golden gnocchi. Eat with your fingers and a cold beer – perfect.