I am exceptionally grateful this week because I had a few days off from work. Plus, the Midwest decided to bless us with a sunny day, which meant I was in the kitchen whipping something up. That something was “The Santa Fe Chicken Sandwich”. I first discovered this sandwich masterpiece after going on a lunchtime outing at Farren’s Pub and Eatery with Momma Crawford and my cousin a few months back. Farren’s is famous for having the absolute killer, award-winning hamburgers in the area. My dad is an avid burger coinsurer himself, and he adores this little hole-in-the-wall of a pub. If you’re not looking carefully, you’ll walk right past it. The building hides behind two other, very large buildings. Just look for the crème-lime colored building and you’re there.
Back to the sandwich. This chicken sandwich was incredible. At Farren’s, the “Santa Fe Sandwich” is made with grilled chicken breast, fresh cilantro feta pesto, and melted pepper jack cheese. It is then all sandwiched between a pair of warm, beautifully toasted French baguette bread. The cilantro feta pesto was fresh, vibrant, and delicious. My family devoured it in seconds. Side note: It may be a sin to get a chicken sandwich at a burger joint. Though if you know me, you know I have to be in a “burger eating” mood to truly enjoy one to its fullest potential. Jon and I much rather order a chicken sandwich before a triple decker cheeseburger any day.
For my recipe, I modified the ingredients to a minor extent. Here in old Illinois, it’s not grilling season quite yet, so pan-searing was my next option (which still turned out great). Momma Crawford decided to buy an enormous quantity of Monterrey cheese, so I substituted that instead. I added soften butter to the cilantro feta pesto. As the warm baguette melted the butter, it began to seep into the bread and beautifully melt into the rest of the sandwich. My family seriously loved the cilantro fest pesto butter. They obsessed about it and so did I. It just had this earthy, fresh, warming taste that complimented all of the other taste and textures quite well. This recipe adaptation is the perfect weeknight dinner or weekend cookout favorite.
The Santa Fe Chicken Sandwich with Cilantro Feta Pesto Butter
3 ½ lbs. Chicken filets
For the Cilantro Feta Pesto Butter (1 cup pesto + 8 tablespoons soften butter)
1 cups packed fresh cilantro
Two cloves garlic, sliced
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup freshly grated Feta
One tablespoon Olive oil
Pre-step: I’m getting pretty Feta-up of your shenanigans.
Step One: For the Chicken. Heat olive oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Season one side of the chicken breast with onion salt, garlic powder, and pepper. Sear the seasoned side first until golden brown, about 5-7 minutes. Flip it over and properly season the other side while the first side is cooking. Cover the pan and cook over medium-low heat until internal temperature reads above 165°F. Take off the heat and let drain on a plate covered with a paper towel.
Step Two: For the Cilantro Feta Pesto Butter. In a food processor, add the roughly chopped cilantro, sliced garlic, and pine nuts. Pulse for 15-30 seconds or until it resembles wet sand. Slowly add the olive oil in little increments at a time until all the oil is combined. Add the feta cheese and pulse for 15-30 more seconds or until well combined. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper for taste. Add the 1 cup of pesto to medium size bowl with eight tablespoons of soften butter in it. Stir to combine. Store in the refrigerator or until ready to use.
Step Three: Assembly: Toast the baguette bread to the packages instructions. Layer the sandwich with one chicken filet, shredded lettuce, sliced red onions, tomatoes, and a layer of cilantro feta pesto butter. Serve immediately.