As if the famous fried chicken sandwich chain – I think you know which one I mean – didn’t pose enough of a problem to my lifestyle (being, obviously, not veg*n, with a history of sketchy chicken sourcing), they’ve made headlines recently after the COO openly discussed the company’s collective views on traditional marriage. While I can’t fault the guy for being honest (CFA never made any secret of its Christian roots), I have a huge problem with denying basic rights to American citizens. This is not a political blog, after all, so I’m not going to launch into an impassioned tirade, but suffice it to say that I am a chick for gays!
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but W (my fiancé) worked for CFA for about 2 years. It was his first job after graduating college, and he quickly worked his way up through the ranks. At one point in time, I will confess, he even believed he had grandiose ambitions of one day operating his own store. However, the company’s views just did not gel with us in the long run, being a couple of fairly liberal kids from NJ. I always kind of hated that he worked for them, but we needed to pay da bills. I don’t mean this to say I am against anyone of any particular creed (I, myself, am irreligious), but I think it has to be possible to A) Be a Christian without being an authority in the lives of strangers and B) to sell fried chicken without asserting your views on anything except, maybe, fried chicken.
Anyway, I have a sneaking suspicion that now vegetarians and vegans will not be the only clientele shunning the restaurant. In all honesty, I never ate their famous Original Chicken Sandwich even once in my life. I had given up meat long before W started working there, and even when I did eat there years ago, I always bought their nuggets. But I think this is a relatively fair substitute for the real thing. Before anyone asks, I don’t have any insider secrets about the trademark recipe. The coating mixture is all pre-made when it comes to the store, so none of the employees really know what’s in it. I can tell you, though, that using peanut oil is a pretty important part of replicating the flavor (W always came home stinking of it), but any other frying oil will work in a pinch. The other two ingredients, in my opinion, are the confectioner's/powdered sugar and barley malt syrup (which mimics dry malted milk powder perfectly), both of which lend a signature sweetness to the coating.
I based this version of the sandwich on a Food Network recipe that was part in a series of copycat recipes for famous restaurant favorites. The sauce recipe I came up with on my own to recreate their Honey Roasted BBQ sauce, which is not vegan at all and, I admit, I did sample from time to time when W worked there, as he often brought home pocketfuls of the stuff. As you might be able to tell from the crappy photo below, I didn't have any hamburger buns on hand (I don't usually keeps lots of bread in the house), and this was kind of a spur of the moment concoction. So I just used some whole grain sandwich bread instead, which I toasted on both sides in a skillet. Also, I didn't deep fry the cutlet, which is inauthentic. For the "chicken", I used a defrosted Quorn naked cutlet (which is vegetarian but not vegan) because I think it’s the best damn ersatz poultry I’ve ever tried, but I’m sure a Gardein brand cutlet (which is vegan) would work as well. I, personally, find that their products have a weird taste. And, of course, if you’ve stumbled upon this recipe but are not a veg*n, you could use regular chicken, but don’t ask me how to make sure it’s cooked through when frying it, since I’ve honestly forgotten how to cook raw meat! :X
(Veggie Friendly Mock Chick-fil-A
1 Quorn cutlet, thawed,
or other vegetarian chicken cutlet substitute
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
1 hamburger bun or 2 slices sandwich bread
1 slice sweet pickle
Peanut or canola oil, for frying
2 T. plain, unsweetened non-dairy milk (I used almond milk)
1½ tsp. barley malt syrup
1½ tsp. cornstarch
½ tsp. distilled white vinegar
⅛ tsp. prepared yellow mustard
¼ c. whole wheat pastry or unbleached all-purpose flour
1½ tsp. organic confectioner’s sugar
¼ tsp. sweet paprika
¼ tsp. kosher salt
⅛ tsp. black pepper
1 small pinch baking soda
For the sauce:
1 tsp. yellow mustard
1 tsp. vegan mayo (I like Follow Your Heart's Vegenaise)
½ tsp. agave nectar
½ tsp. barbecue sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray’s Original)
Season the cutlet on both sides with salt and pepper, to taste. Whisk together all the wet ingredients in a shallow bowl and all the dry ingredients in a separate dish. Heat about ¼-inch of oil in a shallow pan over medium heat. Dip the cutlet in the wet mixture first, allowing any excess to drip off, then dredge in the dry ingredients, patting it on to coat all over. Repeat this step, if desired, for an even crispier coating.
When the oil is hot (I test it with the end of a wooden spoon; if tiny bubbles form, you’re good to go), fry the cutlet until the coating is golden brown and crispy, then remove to a paper towel-lined plate to remove excess oil. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, and spread margarine on both sides of the burger bun. Toast the bun in the skillet, buttered side down, until golden brown.
Meanwhile, whisk together all the ingredients for the sauce, and spoon some on one half of the bun (you may have some leftover, but is that a problem?). Place the fried cutlet on the bottom the bun half, top with the pickle slice, and close up the sandwich. Enjoy with some overly-sweet lemonade while writing to one of your state representatives in support of marriage equality (be sure not to get any grease on the letter!).
Yields one delicious sandwich.