Fried Chicken Sandwich in a Polynesian-Style Beer Marinade

Cooking with Beer by | Jul 2016 | Issue #114
photo by Sean Z. Paxton

This month I set out to make a delicious version of a fried chicken sandwich that uses the bright flavors from some of the newer hop varieties. With all of the tropical flavors that Galaxy, Citra, Mosaic, Amarillo, and Nelson Sauvin hops contribute to today’s beers, I wanted to bring a touch of the islands to the table and make a Cuisine à la Bière sandwich that will wow your diners.

Polynesian-Style Beer Marinade
This marinade will act much like a beer brine would, seasoning your protein of choice while tenderizing the meat and adding an extra layer of moisture to prevent it from drying out.

Makes: 14 ounces

12 oz Sierra Nevada Tropical IPA
1/4 cup orange juice, navel, blood orange or tangerine (zest saved)
2 tbsp dark brown sugar
1 tbsp kosher salt
2 tbsp soy sauce, tamari or liquid aminos
1 tbsp white miso (optional)
1 tsp ginger, fresh, peeled and finely grated
1 tsp garlic, peeled, finely grated
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp honey, orange blossom or another local variety

In the pitcher of a blender, add the Tropical IPA (or another IPA with citrus, mango or pineapple flavors), orange juice (zesting first and saving for the Buttermilk Beer Marinade, see below), soy sauce, brown sugar, miso, salt, ginger, garlic and sesame oil. Cover the pitcher and blend the ingredients on a low speed. Open the top and drizzle the honey down the center of the still spinning blades. Blend for another 30 seconds and turn off the blender. Transfer the finished marinade to a 1-gallon sealable container or zip-style bag.

Protein Choices
6 chicken breasts, boneless, skin on (about 3 3/4 lb) | 6 pork loins, boneless (about 6 oz each) | 24 oz tofu, extra firm, sliced into 4 oz portions

Marinade Directions
Chicken or Pork: Place a chicken breast or a pork loin into a sealable bag and lightly pound the protein with a mallet or rolling pin, hitting firmly, moving outward from the center. Spin the bag and repeat until the meat is an even thickness of 3/4 inch. The process is much like making schnitzel, the German cutlets. Repeat this step with each piece of meat and place them into the marinade, refrigerating for at least 4 hours and preferably 24 hours.

Tofu: To improve the tofu’s texture, take the portioned slices and pat dry with paper towels, place into a sealable plastic bag and freeze for 12 hours, without the marinade. This will make the tofu spongier and chewier. Then transfer the tofu to the marinade and let it infuse in the refrigerator for 4 hours, thawing out and soaking up the flavor.

For optimum flavor, shake, mix and re-distribute the marinade every 4­­–8 hours to make sure the protein is fully infused.

Buttermilk Beer Marinade
This recipe is a key second step in creating an amazingly moist and tender chicken sandwich. After 4–12 hours in the Polynesian-Style Beer Marinade the alcohol has helped de-nature the proteins. A low pH in this Buttermilk Beer Marinade breaks down the meat fibers further, tenderizing them and adding an extra layer of goodness that will combine with the Flour Dredge Mix to form a crunchy coating.

Makes: 3 1/2 cups

3 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup Polynesian-Style Beer Marinade recipe
1 orange, blood orange or tangerine, zest and remaining juice
1–2 tbsp Sriracha hot sauce
1 tbsp kosher salt

In a bowl, add the buttermilk, the reserved Polynesian-Style Beer Marinade, citrus zest and any remaining juice, Sriracha (more or less depending on the desired level of heat) and salt. Whisk together. This recipe can be made after the Polynesian-Style Beer Marinade, transferred into a quart-sized jar, and refrigerated until ready to use.

To Use
After the chicken, pork or tofu has been in the Polynesian-Style Beer Marinade for 4–24 hours, drain it, pour this Buttermilk Beer Marinade over it, mix well and marinade in the refrigerator for another 12–24 hours.

Flour Dredge Mix
This is the final step in creating a beautiful crust, which becomes crispy and crunchy when fried.

Makes: 2 1/2 cups

2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup corn starch
1 tsp ginger, ground
1 tsp white peppercorns, ground fine

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, corn starch, ground ginger, and white pepper.

To Use
Remove a single piece of protein from the Buttermilk Beer Marinade, making sure it’s fully coated in the mixture and place it into the Flour Dredge Mix. Press each side in the dredge several times to fully coat the protein. Transfer it to a sheet tray fitted with a cooling rack. Let it sit for 30 minutes, allowing the buttermilk mixture to soak up the Flour Dredge Mix and warm slightly, making for a more even fry later. Repeat with the remaining pieces.

To Fry
Heat 3–4 cups of good fry oil (ideally peanut or rice bran) in a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven to 350°F. Once the oil is hot, carefully add the coated protein and fry until the coating is a golden brown on both sides and the internal temperature is 165°F, about 8–10 minutes for the chicken or pork, or 6 minutes for the tofu. Transfer the cooked protein to a clean cooling rack layered with folded paper towels to catch any oil, and lightly season each piece with a sprinkle of salt.


Special Hawaiian Sauce
I love the fruit flavors that the Hawaiian Islands have to offer. This sauce could be made with mango, pineapple, papaya or guava, yet I chose guava for its tropical fruit flavor without acidity. When combined with the other flavors in this sauce, ginger and guava make a beautiful spread that pairs perfectly with the Roasted Pineapple Relish.

Makes: 12 ounces

11 1/2 oz guava nectar or juice
1 extra large egg
1 egg yolk, extra large
2 tbsp malt vinegar
2 tbsp Thai sweet chili sauce
1 tbsp white miso
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp tomato paste
1 tsp Sriracha hot sauce
1/2 tsp ginger, dried
1 cup vegetable oil

In a small sauce pan over medium-low heat, add the guava nectar or juice. Slowly reduce the juice until it measures 3 ounces. This is a slow process. If it’s done too fast, the sugar will over-caramelize and burn. For the first 20 minutes, the pot just needs to be checked, the last 5–10 minutes, checked and stirred with a spatula, scraping the bottom clean. Once fully reduced, pour into a measuring cup and cool to room temperature.

In a food processor, add the whole egg and yolk, followed by the malt vinegar, Thai sweet chili sauce, white miso, salt, tomato paste, Sriracha, ginger and the guava reduction. Pulse several times until the mixture is smooth and well blended. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the oil, very gradually at first, before increasing the volume of the stream. The sauce will be thick and mayonnaise-like. Add a tablespoon or two of oil if the sauce is still thin.

Transfer the sauce to a pint-sized mason jar. Seal with its lid to store for up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator.

Roasted Pineapple Relish
This relish provides the sandwich with a tart, acidic punch, along with a touch of hoppy bitterness to help cut the rich fried protein.

Makes: 1 pint

1/2 pineapple, fresh, skin and core removed, sliced
1 red bell pepper, seeded
1 red onion, peeled and sliced
1 orange, blood, navel or Valencia, zested and sliced in half
2 tsp olive oil

1 green onion, sliced thin
3 tbsp India Red Ale, such as Ninkasi Brewing Co. Dawn of the Red

Preheat the oven to 400°F. On a sheet tray, add the sliced pineapple, bell pepper, red onion and citrus. Coat with olive oil and lightly season with salt. Roast in the oven for 20–25 minutes, or until the pineapple is golden brown. Let the ingredients cool slightly, then chop up into a consistent size. For the citrus, scoop out of the skin and chop the flesh. Place into a bowl and add the green onion, Dawn of the Red or another India Red Ale and reserved citrus zest, tossing to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Polynesian-Style Fried Sandwich
To bring this sandwich together, add toasted buns and fresh greens.

Serves: 6 guests

1 cup baby spinach, washed and dried
1 cup wild or baby arugula, washed and dried
1 cup basil, leaves only
1 cup pea shoots

6 brioche rolls or hamburger buns

In a bowl, mix the spinach, arugula, basil and pea shoots together and lightly season with salt.

Cut all six buns in half and toast them to prevent them from getting soggy. Smear each side with the Special Hawaiian Sauce, then add a small handful of greens to the bottom half of the bun. Place a fried piece of protein on the greens, top with the Roasted Pineapple Relish and place the second half of the bun on top. Serve immediately.