A Sandwich without the Bread…

With the weather—hopefully—turning warmer, many of us are looking for simpler dinner ideas that don’t require the oven to run for over an hour, and are quick to prepare. Sandwiches are the perfect dinner food to fill this niche. Most of us keep nearly every ingredient on hand to build a sandwich at a moment’s notice. From the simple but satisfying PB&J to the triple decker club sandwiches of yesteryear, those handheld meals can’t help but bring a smile to our crumb-laden lips. With high hopes, we throw wide the doors of the fridge in search of a quick meal. Leftover roast chicken, cheese, cold cuts, fresh produce… everything you had on your sandwich yesterday. The sandwich possibilities must surely be endless, but many of us only have a few sandwich recipes in our cooking repertoire from which to choose. Let’s change that.

First off, let’s ditch the bread. Not completely. But let’s look for an alternative means of encapsulating the delectable sandwich insides. Puff pastry is more than just a foundation for sliced fruit and whipped cream. The crisp, flaky layers are perfect for prizing apart and filling with savory ingredients. In this case, we’ll be filling our “puffs” with sliced rotisserie or other cooked and sliced chicken, a generous helping of caponata and topping the whole shebang with a handful of grated mild cheese such as mozzarella, swiss or fontina, or a combination of cheeses.

“What on earth is caponata?” you ask. Caponata is an Italian relish composed of roasted eggplant, tomatoes, olives and capers that can be eaten by itself, but also adds the perfect amount of acidity and saltiness to a sandwich. It’s usually found in the same aisle as the olives and pesto. Because the puff pastry is baked before assembling these sandwiches, the caponata doesn’t cause the pastry to become soggy even though it’s the first component down.

Rotisserie chicken is a favorite for these sandwiches because of its flavor and relative acquisitional ease. Every grocery store has a hot bar with several chickens waiting for a forever home, or dinner plate. Sams Club usually has dozens of these flavorful birds ready and waiting as early as 7:30am, and continues to stock freshly rotisseried birds all day long—perfect for grabbing on the way home. Puff pastry is found in the frozen section, and the sheets need to be thawed before using. Toss the box in the fridge in the morning, and it’ll be ready for use at dinner.

Ready to try these minute meals? Here’s what you’re going to need.

Chicken and Caponata Puffs

  • 1 package frozen puff pastry, such as Pepperidge Farms, thawed
  • 8 ounces caponata, jarred or homemade, at room temperature
  • breast meat from a rotisserie chicken
  • 16 ounces grated mild cheese

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Unfold the sheets of puff pastry using a rolling pin to lightly smooth out the seams and place them on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Cut the sheets into fours using a wheel cutter. Bake each sheet separately for 15 minutes. Remove the puffs from the oven and leave it on. They should be puffy and golden brown. Carefully pry the hot puffs apart using a fork, being careful not to tear them. Usually one edge will remain sealed.

Build each sandwich with a tablespoon of caponata, two or three slices of chicken, and 2 ounces of grated cheese. Fold the tops back over, and bake for an additional 5 minutes until the cheese has melted and the pastry has browned. Serve immediately with a spring green mix salad or a side of potato chips. Makes 8 sandwiches.