I’m still not 100% sure if putting an entire sandwich through the tempura process was a stroke of genius or madness. See I have a very strong passion for hot ham and cheese sandwiches. I touched on it years ago with my croque madame recipe, but I needed more.
Part of the inspiration for this dish comes from the famous Disney parks monte cristo with blackberry preserves. The other half of the inspo comes from my love of Japanese techniques and flavors I tend to use more when I cook for myself vs. for the blog.
As soon as I took my first bite I was taken on a journey. This sandwich has crunchy, salty, sweet, fruity, spicy, and gooey all in one. It’s one of those things that’s perfect, but also its mere existence is terrifying at the same time.
Every so often I write a recipe that completely changes the game for me. A recipe that makes me proclaim to the void and all the gods, old and new that this will be my legacy. And let me tell you, managing to make crispy but oh so tender brussels sprouts that taste like the classic ground beef tacos you had as a kid is that moment.
And the process is simple: just drop the bad boys in the fryer for a few minutes and absolutely coat them with a super easy and basic homemade taco seasoning blend and that’s that on the sprouts. Then to top it all off I find the lemon-lime dip so fun. When you hear lemon-lime it takes you back to thinking about Gatorade, candy, fruit snacks, etc. But in all actuality it packs plenty of zing and coolness from the yogurt to cut through the spicy and semi-charred flavor of the sprouts. Every time I make this I’ll take a sample sprout to see how I did, and then I just keep going and going.
Picture it: Belton 2001. One day when the Marshall Primary School menu for the next week was released everyone’s attention was immediately captured by something we never heard of, bird dogs. None of the other kids knew what it was, and to add insult to injury none of the adults did either. Not even the lunch ladies!
What we got was a total game changer. Bird dogs consist of chicken fingers, bacon, honey mustard, and cheddar tucked into a hot dog bun. When I explain it to people who never lived in Anderson county, South Carolina they never seemed to get it, but honestly it’s so perfect. Somehow the hotdog bun proportions are so much more satisfying than the normal chicken sandwich and I will die on that hill.
Clearly I’m not the only one to think so because these little buns of glory became a cultural icon in my hometown. They worked their way into mom and pop restaurants, sleepovers, and I even went to a banquet where they were served!
If you ever wanted a super obscure southern dish that you can’t even find on Google that doubles as stoner food then look no further! I mean come on, look at that!
I am about to share something very sacred with all of you. Do you recall your first food memory? Maybe something a parent, guardian, day care professional, or nanny made for you? That one special food that always just makes you feel warm, tingly, and loved? This is my version of that. Ever since I was three or four years old I remember my mom making her famous chicken parmesan.
I think the best place to start talking about this dish is to describe the glory that is chicken cordon bleu. Imagine a hot ham and cheese sandwich. Got that image in your head? Good, now take away the bread and replace it with chicken. So this dish is already sounding insanely decadent and delicious.
Everyone who cooks for long enough, whether they are a home cook or a professional chef, has developed a signature dish. For my mother that dish is the most divine chicken parmesan, and for the elite chefs of Le Cirque in Manhattan it is potato wrapped sea bass. The signature dish is a universal truth of the culinary world. And now the time has come for me to share my signature dish with you.