There's a little joint in the sunny OC city of Irvine a little ways from John Wayne Airport that's kind of dear to my heart. Of course, I join legions of fans in this respect. People love Harry's Deli, and people love Harry. Harry loves us all back--we know this because that's his secret ingredient.
Harry's Deli is home to the Chicken Di Giorgio, a chicken sandwich with the greatest flavor profile known to existence, probably. Behind every great sandwich is a great story-Harry named this sandwich after a former coworker he had a crush on. I imagine Ms. Di Giorgio to be a lovely Italian woman comparable to Sophia Loren, but apparently she is nearly impossible to track down (even with the advent of Facebook. Seriously now.) But perhaps that's just as well, she remains the stuff of legend as the Chicken Di is the stuff of legend. And besides, Harry is happily married to the sweetest woman ever: Mercy. But Chicken Mercy just doesn't have the same ring to it.
As life would have it, I no longer live in close vicinity. Harry's doesn't yet do overnight express nor do I have the disposable income to travel the 400 miles whenever I wish in order to get my fix, so here it is:
Chicken Di Giorgio, modified. Disclaimer: Not the same. Not nearly the same. This is like a teaser trailer, while Harry's is the full-blown IMAX experience. Biggest difference: Harry breads his chicken in panko crumbs, I do not.
Ingredients (for one serving):
- Roma tomato - 1
- Basil (roughly 5 large leaves)
- Mozzarella - the good kind that comes in a ball, if possible--if not, big deli slices. 1 or 2 slices of mozzarella.
- Shallot-half, or the rough equivalent of red onion
- Chicken breast
- Olive Oil
- Balsamic Vinegar
- Salt and pepper
- Bread of choice, 2 slices. Harry's uses ciabatta bun, I used sourdough.
- Mayo. I got mine from the store. Harry hand whips his.
- Rough dice the tomato, you want somewhat large chunks. Set aside
- Stack basil leaves, roll it up into a tight lengthwise cigar, and slice across (chiffonade). Set aside.
- Finely dice the shallot or red onion. Set aside.
- Clean your cutting board or get a new one-it's time to get nasty with the chicken breast. Butterfly the breast (you might have to YouTube this portion), or at least slice off a filet of the breast so that it's got a large surface area of somewhat even thickness. Pound it thin with the back of the knife, meat mallet, or other heavy blunt object. Maybe clean fists.
- Season each side of the breast with salt and pepper. Dust it in flour, shaking off the excess. Set aside.
- In a non-stick skillet or cast iron (yay!), drizzle some olive oil into the pan over medium heat. And since I like to live dangerously and Paula Deen speaks truth, throw in bit of butter in there too. This serves the dual purpose of browning the meat and raising the smoking point of the olive oil, keeping the cooking fats from scorching. You definitely want the pan to be hot hot hot for this next part...
- Lay down the law. I mean, the meat. Should sizzle the moment it hits the pan. Leave it alone.
- This is the right time to get that bread toasted. Give it a light toast, just enough to give it holding power--it has to go back into the oven later on...
- Cook the other side of the chicken. The flour coating and the olive oil+butter should keep the breast nice and moist.
- Once the chicken is just cooked through, set it aside under foil to keep warm and let it rest.
- Wipe off that pan, add a drizzle of olive oil.
- Add shallots and basil only. Let it sweat a bit, until shallots are almost translucent.
- Once translucent, turn up the heat, and throw in the tomatoes. Saute quickly over the high heat. Season with a little salt and pepper, and a dash of balsamic vinegar. Turn off the heat when tomatoes begin to soften, but have not lost their shape.
- Don't forget about your toast.
- Bottom toast, spread with mayo.
- Chicken next.
- Top with the tomato-shallot-basil mixture.
- Lay some slices of mozzarella on top of that, and broil until cheese has melted and is bubbly.
- Top with the other toast, also spread with mayo.
- Cut diagonally.
Festively Italian, classic Caprese components and flavors. Probably not all that convenient to make just one, but this is a sandwich that can be scaled for more people. But as Harry's will attest, good food just can't be mass produced...
Double disclaimer: My sincerest thanks to the Deli for being so good to me during my college years! I had a lot of fun working there.