There is a very cliched saying about how you can’t go home again (Well, ok, that actually is the saying, isn’t it?). I think it’s usually in reference to how things are always changing and evolving. We can’t expect relationships and moments in time to stay the same forever, and the changes are always most noticeable after some time and distance away.
But sometimes, it just means you can’t buy your favorite sandwich anymore.
Deep stuff, I know.
My previous job was located in a different neighborhood in San Francisco from where I work now, in a quiet, mostly residential corner of the city downhill from North Beach, where quick, convenient lunch options came to a grand total of three, or two, if you cared about things like quality and price. That’s why, whenever I chose to buy lunch, I would usually find myself at this little window cafe in an alley near the office, waiting in line for a pressed panini of filo-breaded fried chicken breast, roasted red pepper, avocado, and manchego. The sandwich was named after Williams-Sonoma founder Chuck Williams, and though he passed away last year, while he lived I hope he was proud to have such a wondrous sandwich named in his honor. And it was popular. There was nothing less torturous then standing there, starving, and hearing “Mr. Williams!” called out again and again while the line inched slowly closer to the counter.
Tragically, after a year-long office relocation while our building was seismically retrofitted, we returned to our sleepy neighborhood to find that little window cafe had closed. Sure, there were other food options in the neighborhood now and yeah, we all were no longer in danger of certain death by earthquake, but sometimes I felt like the tradeoff there was too much to ask. We came back “home”, but one of the few things that made that job bearable for me was gone. I’m not saying I quit that job a few months later over a sandwich, but it was one less reason to stay.
But, make some lemonade, right? Or in this case, make a sandwich! My version is a bit simplified for the home cook, but just as tasty as I remember. Chicken breast gets coated in bread crumbs and quickly pan fried to golden perfection, the piled on some good bread with roasted red pepper, manchego cheese, and a generous amount of avocado. The whole pile then gets pressed into crusty, melty goodness and then devoured. It’s good enough to erase the sting of loss, and easy enough to repeat as often as necessary. Because I’m all for reminiscing and reflecting on how we change and grow, but also, I just want my damn sandwich already.
"Mr. Williams" Sandwich
Inspired by the now-defunct Pip To Go window
- 1 chicken breast
- bread crumbs
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 egg
- olive oil
- 1/2 avocado, thinly sliced
- 1 roasted red pepper
- a few slices manchego cheese
- brioche bun or crusty roll
- bit of mayo
- bit of dijon mustard
- Bread and fry the chicken. In a bowl, stir together a spoonful or so of flour with salt and pepper, about a pinch of each. Cut the chicken breast in half through the middle to create two thinner cutlets. Place chicken pieces in the bowl and coat with the flour.
- In a second bowl, beat the egg, and pour some breadcrumbs onto a plate. Dip the dredged chicken pieces in the egg and then roll around in the breadcrumbs, pressing into the crumbs to evenly coat.
- In a skillet over medium heat, put about 1/4 cup olive oil and heat until it shimmers. Add the chicken pieces to the pan and fry until golden on each side and cooked through.
- Build the sandwich: split the roll in half and swipe a bit of mustard and mayo on each half. Lay the chicken pieces on the bottom half and top with the pepper, cheese, and avocado.
- Grill on a panini press or in a heavy skillet, topped with another skillet weighted down with something heavy. Serve hot.
I know there is avocado on here but the truth is I made this sandwich months ago, and avocados were in season then. Now, I’d substitute with something else, because what about the butterflies?