I had promised to make onion rings for dinner over the weekend, and what better to have with onion rings than a burger or sandwhich? I chose the sandwhich option; this gave me the opportunity to use up some fresh spinach and one of the 3 apples that had lost their crunch!
The apples were turned into a sweet, smoky and slightly spicy relish with the addition of red onion and peppered bacon. I used chicken tenders instead of chicken breast, and added smoked white cheddar to finish it off.
Start the relish by dicing:
1/2 red onion
1 apple, peeled and cored
4 strips peppered bacon
In a saucepan, over a low heat, cook the bacon until the fat starts to render.
Turn the heat up to medium and cook until it starts to crisp.
At this point you can add the red onion and apple to the pot. Cook until the apple and onion start to soften, stirring often to avoid sticking.
1/2 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
pinch chili flakes
Turn the heat to low, and add:
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup apple juice
Continue to cook over a low heat, stirring often and adding apple juice as needed during cooking.
I used about 1/2 cup apple juice in total.
When the apples and onions are soft, and the juice has all cooked away, continue to cook until the onions and apple have caramelized, and you have a dark, golden, sticky compote.
Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.
8 chicken tenders with salt and pepper.
Cook with a bit of olive oil, until they are just cooked through. The chicken will be cooked again when the sandwhich is baked, so be careful not to overcook it.
Remove the chicken from the heat, and allow it to cool before dicing it.
Now it's time to assemble the sandwhiches. Start by turning the oven to 350F and having a baking sheet ready.
Lightly butter 4 ciabatta buns.
Spread some mayonnaise on one side.
Spread a quarter of the relish onto the other side.
Divide the diced cooked chicken between the sandwhiches, and place on top of the relish.
Add some grated smoked white cheddar to the other side of the buns.
Place the sandwhiches into the oven and bake until everything is heated through, and the cheese is melted and bubbling.
Remove from the oven.
Finish the warm sandwhich off by adding fresh spinach.
The crispy bread and crunchy spinach, the warm chicken and gooey cheese, the sweet and smoky relish all combine to make a delicious sandwhich.
- This recipe made 4 sandwhiches. I used ciabatta buns, which have a crunchy crust and a dense, tender crumb inside. Of course,you can use any bread or buns you want, just try and stay away from bread that is too soft to handle the filling, or breads that have too many flavours added to the dough...these will compete with the compote. Good breads include sourdough and baguette.
- The compote can be multiplied easily, and will keep for a few days in a sealed container in the fridge. It can also be frozen.
- Thinly sliced fennel can be added to the compote. If you add fennel, omit the fennel seeds.
- Pear can be used instead of apples if you like.
- The bacon can also be omitted if you want a vegetarian compote. Increase the amount of apple and onion, and as the saltiness of the bacon won't be there, make sure that you season the compote well.
- The bacon I used was applewood smoked bacon, and the outside of the slices were coated in crushed black pepper. Any bacon can be used, as can pancetta. Maple smoked bacon will add a lovely sweetness to the compote.
- I crushed the fennel seeds with my knife. You can use a mortar and pestle, or place them in a spice grinder. Another spice option with a similar licorice flavour is aniseed.
- The smoked cheddar added to the smokiness of the bacon in the compote. You don't have to use a smoked cheese...other cheeses that will compliment the compote are goat cheese, blue cheese, brie, white cheddar.
- My original idea was to use 2 chicken breasts and slice them in half to make 4 thinner pieces which would be grilled. The chicken could then be topped with sliced cheese before placing it all onto warm, grilled buns. I had to use chicken tenders as I had no chicken breasts.
- The compote can be used as an accompaniment to any grilled or roasted meat, such as pork, chicken or duck; added to sandwhiches; served with baked ham; served with grilled fish such as seabass or halibut; used to finish off a cheese platter.
- Thinly sliced roast or grilled pork can be used instead of chicken for the sandwhich. Turkey can also be used...perfect for those Thanksgiving or Christmas leftovers.