Like most 20-somethings across America, I was an avid watcher of the sitcom Friends during its ten season run, from 1994-2004 (for me, more-so in the earlier years than later on.) While each of the characters had their significant funny moments, none made me laugh more than Joey Tribbiani, the womanizing struggling actor, perfectly personified by Matt LeBlanc. Despite his disarmingly naive personality and his deluded sense of self confidence (what else would possess someone to select "How you doin'?" as their go-to pick-up line?), Joey was somehow still likable and managed to be almost irresistible to women, much to Chandler's envious admiration.
Joey was also known for being passionately addicted to food, and this personality trait provided some classic comical TV moments. There were the Thanksgiving episodes, specifically the one where Joey managed to get a turkey stuck on his head, or the one where he wore maternity pants to the dinner table, so that he could eat more. Then there was the episode when Joey, Ross, and Chandler heard a car backfire, and they thought it was a gunshot. Rather than throw his body over Ross or Chandler in an attempt to save them, Joey elected to shield his precious meatball sub (in all fairness, he did offer Chandler one bite of his sub afterward as a goodwill gesture.) Yes, Joey was particularly known for being a connoisseur of sandwiches, and he never met one that he didn't like.
While I think a good sandwich is definitely more of a guy thing, there are times that I can definitely relate to this side of Joey. A great sandwich means that you have all of your choice ingredients stacked up for you, aligned so that you can taste them all with each bite. You need to have the perfect fresh bread to go with the filling, and it needs to be assembled with you in mind. We had just that kind of sandwich for dinner last night. Moist, marinated grilled chicken was layered with tangy sun-dried tomatoes, peppery arugula, creamy goat cheese, and caramelized onions on soft and chewy ciabatta rolls. Everything just worked and came together to make a really memorable meal. Joey would've been in love. Here are just a few extra tips for making these colorful flavorful sandwiches:
- If you want to up the flavor ante even more, try mixing some fresh or dried herbs, chopped garlic, or minced scallions into your goat cheese.
- If you don't like goat cheese, you can top the sandwich with blue or gorgonzola cheese, or you could spread the top side of the roll with a black olive tapenade or even hummus.
- I prefer to use crusty ciabatta rolls for these sandwiches, as they require something that can really hold all of the ingredients together. La Brea Bakery makes some good ones, which I believe are carried by most major grocery stores nowadays. Other good bread options would be bakery-style kaiser rolls, or a thick foccacia bread.
- Spinach or mixed greens can always be substituted for the peppery arugula.
- This recipe would be very easy to turn into a grilled chicken salad, for those of you who have nixed the bread from your diets. Toss the arugula with the balsamic vinegar and olive oil, and then top with the sun-dried tomatoes, grilled onions, and sliced grilled chicken. Sprinkle with the goat cheese.
Grilled Chicken Sandwiches with Goat Cheese and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
8 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons dried thyme
Salt and pepper
2 red onions, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
8 sandwich rolls, halved
1 cup chopped, drained, oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
3 cups arugula
1 cup soft goat cheese
Place the chicken breasts in a shallow dish. Add the vinegar, oil, garlic, and thyme. Season with salt and pepper, turn the chicken to coat on both sides, cover the dish, and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight.
Prepare a grill over medium-hight heat. Grill the chicken and the onions until the chicken has cooked through and the onions are golden brown, turning once, 12-14 minutes. Grill the cut sides of the rolls until they are golden brown. Spread the bottom halves of the rolls with the chopped sun-dried tomatoes. Top with the chicken breasts, grilled onions, and arugula. Spread the top halves of the rolls with some of the goat cheese and place atop the sandwiches. Serve warm.
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