Mustard-marinated Chicken Sandwiches
If you're a regular follower of this blog you may have noticed that about 90% of the recipes I share out are cooked within five to six Meatwaves throughout the year. I do this purposefully for a couple reasons: I find it easier to cook in large portions and it also gives me an audience for feedback on each dish, allowing me to know what's working and what's not, which leads to the best final recipes for sharing. In recent years, grilling for just me and wife has become more sporadic, but the last month and half of a stay-at-home order has changed that dramatically. I'm now grilling way more often, focusing on recipes that can be made for two with little food waste, but can also be easily scalable up for the usual recipe portions. These mustard-marinated chicken sandwiches fall into this category since they gave me the opportunity to use up some ingredients I already had on hand and were a perfect thing to make to serve a couple.
The marinade was partially devised based on what I had on hand in the fridge. I thought of what things would taste really good together on chicken and landed on a Dijon heavy sauce whose pungency was contrasted by dark brown sugar, given acidity from lemon juice, a sharp bite from garlic, and thyme for a background herbal component.
The chicken breasts I had in the freezer were on the larger size, so I opted to use only one for two sandwiches, but split the breast in half horizontally first. This had the benefit of creating a chicken breast piece that was also a fairly even thickness, which is a big help in cooking it evenly and avoiding drying it out.
This somewhat thin chicken breasts didn't need all that much time to marinate—I figured a couple hours would be more than enough. The sauce wasn't so heavily acidic though that an overnight stint wouldn't work, so if you're all about prepping ahead of time, you could go ahead and get this step of the recipe done the day before.
I had made a batch of caramelized onions for mushroom Swiss burgers the week before and only used half of them in that application. So I was thinking of a way to use up those deeply browned onions and on these sandwiches they seemed like they would add a nice touch of sweetness to counteract the sharpness of the mustard.
Using the sugary onions made me feel confident that another hit of mustard would be the right call for the sauce. I went in double with the Dijon here, using both the whole grain and smooth varieties, which I mixed with some mayo, lemon juice, and Worcestershire, which gave the sauce a nice savoriness too.
Also on the list of things I needed to use up was bacon—I had bought a mega pack and figured I'd find many things to use bacon in over a couple weeks period. If you haven't tried grilling bacon yet, it may end up being a life changing revelation. It's so easy to cook a large quantity and you don't have to deal with the mess or smell that can be negatives of stovetop cooking. On the grill, you just need to cook it over indirect heat, covered, and with a hot fire it'll be well browned and extra crisp within ten minutes or so.
After I finished the bacon and had it draining on a paper towel-lined plate, I placed the marinated chicken breasts over the hot side of the two-zone fire I had going. I'm not a big fan of chicken breasts on the grill because they can overcook so quickly, so I kept a very watchful eye on these, flipping them occasionally, and moving them to the cool side of the grill when then were about ten degrees shy of my desired final internal temperature of around 155°F.
Once over indirect heat, I topped the breasts with Swiss cheese—also leftover from those mushroom Swiss burgers—and caramelized onions and then covered. I let the chicken continue to cook until the cheese was completely melted, and during that time, the meat also reached its intended final temperature.
Then, just before serving, I quickly toasted the buns, which I had chosen a pretzel variety to pair with all the mustardy flavors going on. Once they were warmed, I assembled the sandwiches with the topped chicken, bacon slices, and some lettuce, which I had leftover from making nam khao (Laotian crispy rice salad) lettuce wraps the night before.
These sandwiches really left me thinking that maybe I need to readjust my cooking habits a bit. I'm usually an advance planner and have a very clear idea for everything I'm going to cook, but I really cobbled these together due to current needs of making small meals that use up ingredients I have on hand, but the sandwiches tasted as fully realized as anything else I make. The mustard marinade did the chicken a lot of justice, giving it a sharp and lightly sweet flavor that worked well with the natural flavor of the meat. Swiss was the right mellow paring for the chicken, bacon brought that irresistible salty crunch, and the caramelized onion the hit of sweetness to make it really feel complete. Under normal circumstances, these sandwiches may have never come to my mind, so I do think a return to more routine, everyday grilling is called for in my future to see what other delicious things my brain can come up with.
Mustard-marinated Chicken Sandwiches
- Yield 4 servings
- Prep 1 Hour
- Inactive 2 Hours
- Cook 20 Minutes
- Total 3 Hours 20 Minutes
- For the Chicken
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons finely minced fresh garlic (about 2 medium cloves)
- 1 teaspoon finely minced fresh thyme
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 large chicken breasts, split in half horizontally
- For the Onions
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
- For the Sauce
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon whole grain Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 8 strips bacon
- 4 slices Swiss cheese
- 4 pretzel sub rolls, split in half lengthwise
- Green leaf lettuce, washed and dried
- To make the chicken: In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, mustard, lemon juice, brown sugar, garlic, and thyme. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Place chicken breasts in a large resealable bag and pour in marinade. Seal bag, removing as much air as possible, and place in refrigerator for at least two hours to overnight.
- To make the onions: Melt butter in a large heavy-bottomed stainless steel or enameled cast iron dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and bottom of saucepan is coated in a pale brown fond, about 15 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons water and deglaze pan by scraping with a wood spoon. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until another layer of fond has built up again, 3-5 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons water and deglaze. Repeat process until onions are completely softened and a deep, dark brown, about 15 minutes morel. Season onions to taste with salt. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
- To make the sauce: In a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, whole grain Dijon mustard, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and lemon juice. Set aside.
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on either side of the charcoal grate. Place a foil pan between the two piles of coals. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill, and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean grilling grate. Lay bacon slices on grilling grate above foil pan. Cover grill and cook until bacon begins to shrink in size and develop pools of fat, about 5 minutes. Flip bacon slices over, cover, and continue to cook until bacon is deeply browned and crisp, 5-8 minutes more. Transfer bacon to a paper towel lined plate.
- Place chicken breasts directly over the coals and cook, flipping occasionally, until center of meat registers between 145-150°F on an instant read thermometer. Move breasts to cool area of grill, top with cheese slices and caramelized onions, cover, and continue to cook until cheese is melted and chicken registers between 155-160°F on an instant read thermometer. Transfer chicken to a plate
- Place rolls, cut side down, directly over the coals until toasted, about 1 minute. Transfer buns to a serving platter, spread each cut side with sauce, and top each with a chicken breast, bacon slices, and lettuce. Serve immediately.
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Erik I begrudgingly tell people about your site, another amazing recipe. Home run recipe, imo.
Ashley what's the potato salad pictured with these sandwiches? it looks awesome!
Josh @Ashley It's this Grilled Potato Salad with Whole Grain Mustard Dressing.
Ashley Thanks, Josh! We made these sandwiches last night and they were awesome - even better than the sweet and spicy chicken sandwiches. Another home run!