West Loop restaurant creates twist on chicken sandwich

CHICAGO (WLS) -- There are dozens of chicken sandwiches in Chicago, some fast food, others more elaborate.

There's a truly unique and delicious one, in West Fulton Market where classically-trained chefs have taken a completely new approach to this southern staple.

The team behind such 4-star jewels as Alinea and Next had a unique task before them. Their new restaurant, Roister, was going to start lunch service, and they needed a sandwich.

But like all things this group does, they do it to the highest level, using the best products possible, and making no compromises. Their chicken sandwich is the most popular item on their lunch menu, because it happens to be outstanding.

When they first opened, the thought of a sandwich at Roister was ridiculous. This was from the same team behind Alinea and Next, after all.

"There was that kind of, do we do sandwiches, do we not do sandwiches, and at the end of the day we were like, you know what, let's be a lunch spot for lunch and let's do a sandwich," Chef Andrew Brochu said.

And it's the chicken sandwich that's become a star in its own right. Like any great sandwich, it's the sum of its components, beginning with soft, brioche buns, set over wood charcoals.

"Just get a nice toast, nice char on that bun, add a little flavor and then soften it up," he said.

On top of that griddled bun, a mayo that's been infused with salt, sugar, vinegar powder and ground-up chamomile tea.

"And then we've got mayonnaise that tastes like sweet tea," said Brochu.

Then a mound of thinly-sliced iceberg lettuce.

"Paper-thin slices, really really soaks everything up and keeps it intact on the bun," he said.

You can't forget pickles, of course, and Brochu's are made in-house.

"The best way to keep them crisp, is to put them in a cold saltwater brine for three to five days. That salt keeps that texture and really, really brines it and pulls the moisture out, adds the salt to it, and then we let it sit, again cold, in the vinegar blend," he said.

Where they sit for almost a month before getting sliced and layered on the sandwich. Finally, the chicken. To ensure crispness, they transfer thighs from flour, to buttermilk and then finally to their dredge, before dropping in canola oil for exactly three minutes.

"Really, really paying attention to having every piece as crispy and flaky and delicate as possible but not having that crust kind of fall off when you touch it," he said.

The final touch: a white hot sauce, made from sunchokes that have been steeped with habanero chiles.

"You get the same, pungent flavors that you get from a red or a green or a yellow hot sauce, but it's white. So you're looking at it and you go it can't be that flavorful, it's just this white sauce, and you eat it and you're really taken back by the flavor," Brochu said.

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