Chicken Sandwich: “The Un-Popeye” – Two Variants – Regular or Gluten-Free


RECIPE ONE:  Contains:  Dairy, eggs, nightshades, gluten (wheat).  Is:  Closer to the “real thing”.

RECIPE TWO:  Contains:  Dairy, eggs, nightshades, almonds, coconut.  Is: Gluten-free, and grain-free, primal.

recipe. chicken sandwich, popeyes, makeover, chicken, thigh, grain-free, gluten-free

The “Un-Popeye” – A Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich makeover with thigh and lettuce wrap. This variant uses a Paleo breading that is grain and gluten-free. Both variants use chicken thighs and lettuce wraps.  Both variants here do contain dairy.  

I’ve heard of this “fabulous” Popeye’s chicken sandwich.  Mind you, the last thing I’d ever order out, especially at any fast food type of environment, is a chicken sandwich.  (It’s that white meat thing, and I really don’t want a hunk of not-so-tasty breast surrounded by not-so-tasty wads of commercial bread and tons of salt.  No amount of sauce will help that!  Plus just about everything you might pay for to dine out at has so many more delectable items on their menus, anyways!)

It was so popular, or at least the “in” thing to eat, that this sandwich sold out nationwide (here in the US, which I think is the only place it’s been on the market so far) quickly after introduction.  I’m not sure if it’s back at Popeyes’ yet or not, but I figured it was worth a try to see if I’d enjoy a “Primal”, grain-free type.   Primal is the lesser-known brother to Paleo – which allows dairy, as Paleo recipes do not.

recipe. chicken sandwich, popeyes, gluten-free, makeover, chicken, thigh

Two bowls of flour for the coatings: Left – self rising flour (contains gluten). Right – Paleo grain-free, gluten-free flour.

But, I’m a curious pup.  So I figured I could create the Popeye sandie in my own image by 1) switching out the boneless skinless chicken breast for boneless skinless chicken thigh and 2) enclosing the thing in a sheaf of lettuce instead of the bread wad.  Y’know, kinda like how I approached the Philadelphia cheesesteak sandwich, making a tasty “Un-Philly”…  And just maybe, while about it, test drive breading the sandie with King Arthur’s “Grain-Free Paleo Baking Flour” (contains:  blanched almonds, cassava flour, coconut flour).

Hence, I’m calling this sandwich “the Un-Popeye“.

recipe. chicken sandwich, popeyes, makeover, chicken, thigh

The boneless skinless chicken thighs, marinating in buttermilk and a little salt. (This set of bowls is fun.)

Out of curiosity, I looked to see where the nearest Popeyes’ to me is – I do know none are on my various beaten paths.  The nearest is in Springfield, MA, a city I have little cause ever to visit.  Besides there’s no clue on their website as to whether they sell the dark meat in any shape or form.  So… pffft.  I’m more interested in running across a genuine Philadelphia cheesesteak, anyway.

At any rate, why not investigate a “copycat” recipe on line?  So, here we go!

https://topsecretrecipes.com/popeyes-chicken-sandwich-copycat-recipe.html

They call for self-rising flour, but also provide an option for the stuff that doesn’t rise by itself – so I followed those instructions for RECIPE TWO.

recipe. chicken sandwich, popeyes, makeover, chicken, thighrecipe. chicken sandwich, popeyes, makeover, chicken, thigh

Their recipe also calls for MSG*, which I never purchase, but I figure that thigh meat has enough inherent flavor that it would not be missed.  I used store-bought thighs rather than my own (well, by that, I mean my own chickens’ thighs….) as deboning isn’t yet a skill set of mine and I’m in any case not practicing on the in-house flock which after all, is costly enough not to waste any meat, as they’re still paying off housing and organic feed.

recipe. chicken sandwich, popeyes, makeover, chicken, thigh

To save on oil, I used around 1/4 inch or less of it, and flipped the thighs accordingly. I did cook that one thigh to the left a little too dark on its exposed side – but it tasted fine & not burnt. The second was added later (along with chicken bits that broke off, not to be included in the sandwich…)

Since many healthy high temperature cooking oils are also expensive, I used a bare minimum of grape seed oil.  I’d also consider safflower oil for such a project, or if one has no objections to the peanut legume, I’d consider peanut oil, for cost cutting.  (Since this is I believe only the second time in 2020 that I “deep”-fried anything, I went with the grape seed oil.  It’s still less expensive where I am than avocado or, say, coconut oil.)  I’ve begun writing up a post on healthy/unhealthy oils and fats, which probably won’t see the light of day until the tail of November, at the earliest.  

recipe. chicken sandwich, popeyes, makeover, chicken, thigh

Draining on a rack.

I also make sure that my dill pickles have no sugar or sweetener added, whether store-bought or home-made.   (This is actually my taste preference, not something that I’m trying to “hide” from!)  These were store-bought, since I haven’t had a good canning chance these past three years.

recipe. chicken sandwich, popeyes, makeover, chicken, thigh

Setting up the lettuce “bun”. Mayo and pickles on bottom, more mayo on top.

Note:  You should be able to replicate the actual recipe (RECIPE ONE), at least according to the source I worked from, by re-subbing back boneless, skinless chicken breast, and using real brioche-style hamburger buns instead of the lettuce.  Meanwhile, I’ll keep mine this way, but… Have at it!

Prep Time:  1 hour + 10 minutes.
Marinating Time:  4-5 hours.
Cook Time:  6-8, or 11-15 minutes, depending on frying method.
Rest Time:  Maybe two minutes.
Serves: 2 – one sandwich apiece.
Cuisine: American, copycat, make-over.
Leftovers:  Why not?  Reheat the chicken and assemble the wrap and toppings when ready to eat.

recipe. chicken sandwich, popeyes, makeover, chicken, thigh

Popeyes chicken sandwich, makeover, chicken thigh, recipe, lettuce wrap

Assembling RECIPE ONE – self-rising wheat flour. Pickles and more mayo underneath.

Popeyes chicken sandwich, makeover, chicken thigh, recipe, lettuce wrap

Served, and ready to eat!

RECIPE ONE
Chicken Sandwich:  “The Un-Popeye”  (with wheat flour/gluten)

For the Brine:

  • 1 cup / 235 mL buttermilk (or enough to cover the chicken).
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 7 – 8 total ounces / 200 – 225 total grams / 2 medium-large boneless skinless chicken thighs.  (Basically, use one thigh per person; this recipe makes two.  For four – double everything except the buttermilk, which merely needs to cover.)

For the Breading:

  • 7 – 8 total ounces of boneless skinless chicken thigh, see above…
  • 4.5 ounces / 0.875 cups of self rising flour.  Source recipe does not recommend Lily (whatever brand that is).
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/16 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 large beaten egg
  • 1/2 cup / 120 mL buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons milk

For the Cooking:

  • High temp oil for frying. (I used a bare minimum of grape seed oil.)

For the Surround and Toppings:

  • Thick lettuce leaves for wrap – Romaine or Iceburg
  • 6 – 8 dill pickle slices
  • 2 tablespoons mayo, preferably home-made.  (I used store-bought because I wasn’t going to have much use for the rest of a batch and the store bought lasts longer.  And I already had some of that.)

Method:  

Remove any fat from the chicken.  I find kitchen scissors are at least as efficient as a knife for this task.  You might consider using the tines of a fork to pierce the smooth side of the chicken (thigh or breast) in order to further the marinating process, and tenderization.  Make sure whatever cut of chicken you use, it is no thicker than 1/2 inch (1.3 cm).  You can slice the piece in half longitudinally to make two thigh filets, if needed.  You can trim off bits aesthetically, of course.

In an appropriate bowl, place the chicken, add enough buttermilk to cover, and add the salt.  Make sure this coats all sides of the chicken pieces, which will also help mix in that salt.  Set aside in the fridge for 4-5 hours.

Remove from fridge, remove marinate by washing.  Dry with paper towels.

Allow to sit at room temp for 45-60 minutes, so the meat will cook more evenly.

Preheat your high temp cooking oil to about 300 F in a suitable pot or pan.  High heat is your friend for this.  I’d actually recommend something closer to 350-375 F / 175-190 C, especially with dark meat.  I’d go above 300 F for the white, as well.   Also – for whatever reason, the higher the temperature of the oil (as long as the temperature is within the smoke point for that particular oil), the less oil will be absorbed into your meal.

To make the breading, combine all the dry ingredients together in a bowl that will be suitable for breading the pieces.

And in another bowl, combine the egg, buttermilk and milk.

When everything is ready, dredge the chicken in the flour, then in the egg batter, then back into the flour again.  This second time you want to build up a craigy or bumpy texture on your chicken.  You can let the pieces sit there a bit.

Place each piece on a plate to rest five minutes, then cook in the hot oil, 6-8 minutes.  You want this golden brown, and to reach an internal temperature of 185 F.  Since I limited the amount of oil used, I flipped pieces at 6 minutes, and carried on for at least another five.  Watch as you cook – cooktops are definitely NOT all alike.

Remove from skillet and place on a rack to drain for at least a couple minutes.

Each lettuce “bun” should get about a 1/2 teaspoon of mayo, top and bottom.  3 or 4 pickle slices should adorn per each bottom “bun”.  (And of course, sub in a real bun, or perhaps even a couple slices of toast, for all this if you should prefer…)

 

 


recipe. chicken sandwich, popeyes, makeover, chicken, thigh. gluten-free, Paleo

recipe. chicken sandwich, popeyes, makeover, chicken, thigh, primal, grain-free

Assembling the grain-free sandwich.

recipe. chicken sandwich, popeyes, makeover, chicken, thigh. gluten-free

Enjoying the grain-free one. Notice cross-section.

RECIPE TWO
Chicken Sandwich:  “The Un-Popeye”  (with Paleo, Gluten-free flour)

For the Brine:  (Same as above).

  • 1 cup / 235 mL buttermilk (or enough to cover the chicken).
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 7 – 8 total ounces / 200 – 225 total grams / 2 medium-large boneless skinless chicken thighs.  (Basically, use one thigh per person; this recipe makes two.  For four – double everything except the buttermilk, which merely needs to cover.)

For the Breading:

  • 7 – 8 total ounces of boneless skinless chicken thigh, see above…
  • 4.5 ounces / 0.875 cups of any Paleo/gluten-free recipe for flour intended for baking.  (This is automatically going NOT to be self-rising, hence the additional ingredients.  Also choose this method if you have wheat flour that isn’t self-rising to hand – this just won’t be gluten-free….)
  • 1/4 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/16 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 large beaten egg
  • 1/2 cup / 120 mL buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons milk

For the Cooking:  (Same as above).

  • High temp oil for frying.  (I used a bare minimum of grape seed oil.)

For the Surround and Toppings:  (Same as above).

  • Thick lettuce leaves for wrap – Romaine or Iceburg
  • 6 – 8 dill pickle slices
  • 2 tablespoons mayo, preferably home-made.  (I used store-bought because I wasn’t going to have much use for the rest of a batch and the store bought lasts longer.  And I already had some of that.)

Method:

Remove any fat from the chicken.  I find kitchen scissors are at least as efficient as a knife for this task.  You might consider using the tines of a fork to pierce the smooth side of the chicken (thigh or breast) in order to further the marinating process, and tenderization.  Make sure whatever cut of chicken you use, it is no thicker than 1/2 inch (1.3 cm).  You can slice the piece in half longitudinally to make two thigh filets, if needed.  You can trim off bits aesthetically, of course.

In an appropriate bowl, place the chicken, add enough buttermilk to cover, and add the salt.  Make sure this coats all sides of the chicken pieces, which will also help mix in that salt.  Set aside in the fridge for 4-5 hours.

Remove from fridge, remove marinate by washing.  Dry with paper towels.

Allow to sit at room temp for 45-60 minutes, so the meat will cook more evenly.

Preheat your high temp cooking oil to about 300 F in a suitable pot or pan.  High heat is your friend for this.    I’d actually recommend something closer to 350-375 F / 175-190 C, especially with dark meat.  I’d go above 300 F for the white, as well. Also – for whatever reason, the higher the temperature of the oil (as long as the temperature is within the smoke point for that particular oil), the less oil will be absorbed into your meal.

To make the breading, combine all the dry ingredients together in a bowl that will be suitable for breading the pieces.

And in another bowl, combine the egg, buttermilk and milk.

When everything is ready, dredge the chicken in the flour, then in the egg batter, then back into the flour again.  This second time you want to build up a craigy or bumpy texture on your chicken.  You can let the pieces sit there a bit.

Place each piece on a plate to rest five minutes, then cook in the hot oil, 6-8 minutes.  You want this golden brown, and to reach an internal temperature of 185 F.  Since I limited the amount of oil used, I flipped pieces at 6 minutes, and carried on for at least another five.  Watch as you cook – cooktops are definitely NOT all alike.

Remove from skillet and place on a rack to drain for at least a couple minutes.

Each lettuce “bun” should get about a 1/2 teaspoon of mayo, top and bottom.  3 or 4 pickle slices should adorn per each bottom “bun”.  (And of course, sub in a real bun, or perhaps even a couple slices of toast, for all this if you should prefer…)

 


Note:  I found both recipes to be excellent, but I recommend you eat them right away.  The crispy breading is essential for a tasty sandwich.  I couldn’t really discern a real taste difference between the two – so the option should go with what you prefer/what your food sensitivities/allergies and needs require.  The added seasonings add a nice kick to this, without overwhelming anything.  And I’m always a fan of a good pickle.  Keeping the chicken crisp (yet moist inside) seems paramount, and moisture is still best attained with the boneless, skinless thigh meat. IMO.   I don’t find myself craving to try the real sandwich, when I can do either of these.

PS:  This has been my most klutziest meal ever.  The balance for weighing flour tossed about three ounces of the stuff onto my floor when the pan decided it didn’t want to stay where I’d put it.  Then, when I was cleaning up after cooking, the milk quart (which only had 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons removed from it) slipped out and landed all over the floor.  I perhaps buy milk 2 or three times a year… and here I was cleaning up, dredging the stuff out of my grout.  Lovely.  GRRRR.   At least, unlike an old Potato Au Gratin recipe, I didn’t cut myself!

Popeyes chicken sandwich, makeover, chicken thigh, gluten-free, recipe, lettuce wrap

* MSG::  Is monosodium glutamate as bad as some claim?  I really don’t know, but yes, there are those who are subject to headaches if they consume it.  I think the world of spices and seasonings is diverse enough that it is not an essential ingredient to purchase, ever.  And yes, to those who will point out that some foods naturally contain MSG, that’s fine.  I just don’t see the need to ADD it, and so I don’t.


Serving this to the following link parties:

Fiesta Friday
Full Plate Thursday

 

 

 

 

About goatsandgreens

The foodie me: Low/no gluten, low sugars, lots of ethnic variety of foods. Seafood, offal, veggies. Farmers' markets. Cooking from scratch, and largely local. The "future" me: I've now moved to my new home in rural western Massachusetts. I am raising chickens (for meat and for eggs) and planning for guinea fowl, Shetland sheep, and probably goats and/or alpaca. Possibly feeder pigs. Raising veggies and going solar.
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2 Responses to Chicken Sandwich: “The Un-Popeye” – Two Variants – Regular or Gluten-Free

  1. I’m with you, I would never choose a chicken breast if thighs are available (although sous vide is a different kettle of fish). You made my mouth water.

    • Yes, I did find that sous vide chicken breast really does bring that item out into previously-unrecognized glory. Temperature modulation is otherwise just about impossible, especially if the breast part in question has any thickness to it.

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