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Potato Chip-Encrusted Baked “Chicken” Salad Sandwiches

Crack open a southern community cookbook--especially one from a small church--and you will likely find the non-vegan version of this ladies' luncheon favorite made with, of course, a can of condensed Cream of Mushroom soup. But I recommend it for men too, albeit without the soup.

My mom introduced me to this main dish sandwich many years ago, after I had stopped eating beef and pork (at the age of 16 or 17, but about 16 or 17 years too many!), and it quickly became a family favorite. It is simple, but feels special.

Veganizing the filling was easy using my formula to replace most any canned condensed "cream of" soup: 1 tablespoon vegan butter, 2 tablespoons flour, 3/4 cup unsweetened soymilk, and 1 "no-chicken" bouillon cube, though this filling calls for additional flour and milk or, in our case, soymilk. Note: "no-chicken" type cubes are seasoned differently than vegetable bouillon cubes, but if you can't find them, by all means use veggie cubes.

The filling for this sandwich is almost like a vegan chicken casserole, so it is especially good when baked. But my hunch is that any chicken salad recipe would work for the filling, provided you kept it on the moist side, since you want a little of that moisture to seep into the bread for a nice puff; and since the sandwiches spend about a half hour in the oven.

For the crust, the original recipe calls for dipping the sandwiches in an egg wash before adhering the crushed potato chips. I thought about a pureed and thinned tofu-wash, though that sounded heavy and messy; or a chickpea flour wash, though that still sounded messy. But, recently, I had lunch with a friend and we were talking about uses for (vegan) mayo. She recalled an egg-free eggplant Parmesan dish that called for coating the eggplant slices with mayo before coating them with crumbs.

That sounded like the perfect solution and it was! I was a little afraid that the sandwiches wouldn't "puff," but they did, most likely from the moisture in the casserole-like filling. It has been many years since I enjoyed the original sandwiches, so they might have puffed-up more than this version, but mine are plenty puffed and I was thrilled with the results.

Also regarding the delectable crunchy crust, I tried slathering all sides of the sandwich halves with mayonnaise, but that required a fair amount of mayo, potato chips and time. So I made the other three just by coating the tops, and that was the ticket! I honestly couldn't tell the difference once baked. However, you could strike a happy medium and coat the tops and bottoms if you were so inclined.

Just remember to make these sandwiches the day before you plan to serve them, as they need to rest in the refrigerator overnight before baking.

Potato Chip-Encrusted Baked "Chicken" Salad Sandwiches

This Recipe is :

Dairy FreeVegan

Serves

8 sandwich halves

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon vegan butter
  • 1 tablespoon chopped onion
  • 5 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/4 cup unsweetened soymilk
  • 1 “no-chicken” bouillon cube
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pimento
  • 2 cups diced chicken-flavored seitan (Learn how to make seitan at home by following this recipe)
  • 8 slices sandwich bread (I like a whole grain, though mom made this dish with white bread)
  • 1/2 to 1 cup vegan mayonnaise (use smaller amount if only coating tops of sandwiches)
  • 1/2 to 1 cup crushed potato chips (I use a baked extra crunchy variety found on the organic aisle of the grocery store; use smaller amount if only coating tops of sandwiches)
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds

Preparation

  1. In a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, melt vegan butter.  Add chopped onion and saute, stirring continually, for a just a minute or two until softened, but not browned.
  2. Place flour in a small bowl and slowly whisk soymilk into flour until completely combined.
  3. Whisk soymilk mixture into butter and onion mixture along with the bouillon cube, cooking just until nicely thickened and the cube is dissolved.
  4. Remove from heat, and stir in pimento and seitan.
  5. Place 4 slices of bread in the bottom of a pan with shallow sides, spread one-fourth of filling on each slice, top with remaining bread, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
  6. The next day, preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with Silpat or coat with non-stick cooking spray.
  7. Spread tops of sandwich halves with 1 tablespoon each vegan mayo and cut in half diagonally using a serrated knife.
  8. Place crushed potato chips in a shallow dish and coat each sandwich top with the chips (about 1 tablespoon per sandwich half).
  9. If desired, flip over and  repeat with mayo and chips on the sandwich bottoms.
  10. Place sandwiches on prepared baking sheet, an inch or so apart.
  11. Sprinkle the top of each sandwich half with about 1 1/2 teaspoons of sliced almonds and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until puffed and golden brown.
  12. Serve immediately.

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