I don't always crave Chick-Fil-A, but when I do, it's Sunday.
I know there's plenty of you out there who feel me on that one. Anyway, even though there's a Chick-Fil-A all of 5 minutes from our house, we never seem to go there. But that's not to say we don't all love a good fried chicken sandwich. I printed out this recipe for a Copycat Chick-Fil-A Sandwich ages ago, but for some reason I hadn't gotten around to actually making it.
Disclaimer for any current or former CFA employees: yes, this recipe contains pickle juice and yes, I'm fully aware that there's no pickle juice in an authentic CFA sandwich. Don't worry, my friend Chelsea (a former manager at CFA) gave me the run-down:
"Here's how we made the sandwiches: filet the raw chicken breasts, making sure they're a uniform thickness. Submerge completely in a milk wash (buttermilk/egg/water) and then coat thoroughly in seasoned flour, shaking off the excess. The flour mix comes in prepackaged bags and has paprika, onion powder, salt, pepper (I don't know exact quantities). I assume there was MSG or other ingredients as well, and most likely sugar. Deep fry in peanut oil in a pressure cooker for a couple minutes until golden brown. Place on a bun that's run through a toaster with "butter oil" on it, add two dill pickle chips, and serve."
Chelsea's theory for why these at-home recipes include pickle juice is due to the pickles sitting on the bread and the bread and chicken absorbing the flavor. I'm not sure two pickle chips is going to impart that much flavor, so my theory is that pickle juice adds that awesome tang but it also keeps the chicken moist, almost like brining. I don't know about most home cooks, but I'm not deep-frying in a pressure cooker. I shallow-fried the chicken for these sandwiches in less than an inch of oil. Frying in a pressure cooker is going to help the chicken retain moisture. The pickle juice helps replicate that for the home cook.
After doing some research online, it looks like the folks over at Serious Eats have come the closest to the real recipe. Hats off to them! As for me, I absolutely love marinating chicken in pickle juice. It's the secret to my homemade chicken nuggets and I highly recommend it, even if it isn't truly authentic.
Speaking of pickle juice, for years I threw all that delicious brine away once we'd eaten the pickles. Not anymore! At any given moment you'll find at least two jars of pickle juice in my fridge. I use it for nuggets, and now I'll use it for these sandwiches. I also put it in my potato salad in the summer.
One last thing - while the restaurant only serves two pickle slices with their sandwich, since you're making it at home you can do whatever you want. We all love pickles so I put at least 6 or 8 on our sandwiches. Rebel!
Restaurant Knockoff: Chick-Fil-A Sandwich
Slightly adapted from Hilah Cooking
4 small boneless chicken breasts*
1 cup pickle juice
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cups flour
3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried basil
vegetable, canola or peanut oil for frying
4 hamburger buns, buttered and toasted
Pickle slices, for serving
Place the chicken breasts, one at a time, in a plastic food storage bag. Pound to an even 1/2 inch thickness. Place all the chicken in a plastic food storage bag and marinate in the pickle juice for 4 hours.
Beat the egg and milk together in a bowl. Combine the flour, sugar and spices in a plastic food storage bag. Remove the chicken from the pickle juice and place in the bag with the flour. Seal the bag and toss to coat the chicken. Dip each piece of chicken in the egg mixture to coat on both sides, then put it back in the bag with the flour. Once all the chicken went through the egg wash, seal the flour bag again and toss to coat.
Heat about 1/2 an inch of oil in a deep skillet until smoking. Add the chicken and cook for 5-6 minutes per side, or until golden brown and cooked through. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Serve on the toasted buns mayo and pickle slices.
*If your chicken breasts are huge (like so many seem to be these days) only use two large breasts instead of four. Cut them in half width-wise and then pound them thin.