I’ll say that the combination of flavors in this sandwich are quite possibly the best that ever exist, ever. Of course, I cannot claim the rights to the origin. My favorite cafe here in L.A. called il Tramezzino introduced me to this mouth-watering panini—only the “il tram” original disciples refer to it as the “chicken special” when ordering. Even il Tram virgins, like friends and family from out of town that visit, walk away with what some may consider a life-changing experience. Some become absolutely livid that they don’t have an il Tram available to them and have to come back to L.A. asap just to have one. It is truly addictive.
So for all you chicken special lovers… I have done my absolute best to recreate this local gem. The secret combo of ingredients in their basil garlic mayo was never fully revealed to me, no matter how much ass-kissing and pestering I gave all the staff whenever I invade the place over the years. But I think I pretty much got it down, and you’ll have plenty of mayo left over to satisfy any cravings for it again during the week (oh, it will happen). Even if you are a vegetarian, you will fall in love with these flavors, even with out the chicken. The original version calls for provolone cheese, but feel free to swap it for some fresh buffalo mozzarella for added creaminess, and a sprinkling of more fresh basil can’t hurt either.
The Chicken Special
For Basil Garlic Aioli
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1 clove garlic
1/2 c good quality mayonnaise
Sea salt and pepper to taste
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
1/4 c oil packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
1/2 avocado, sliced thinly
2 slices provolone cheese
Ciabatta or any other artisan white bread
In a food processor with the blade running, drop in garlic to finely chop. Add in basil, salt and pepper and pulse until fine. In a small bowl, combine mayo and the chopped basil mixture and allow to sit at least 20 minutes to allow the flavor to fully develop.
Preheat a grill pan (or outdoor grill) over medium-high heat. Lightly drizzle extra virgin olive oil on both sides of the chicken breast and season with salt and pepper. Grill chicken until just cooked through, about 10 minutes per side. Transfer to cutting board and allow to cool slightly, then slice into 1/4 inch slices.
Cut ciabatta into squares to make 2 sandwiches (about 4-6 inches wide depending on how hungry you are) and slice evenly in half horizontally. Spread about a tablespoon of basil garlic mayo onto each of the 4 bread halves. Add a layer of chicken to each bottom slice, then add sun-dried tomato, avocado and top with provolone cheese. Place bread top on and squish down slightly.
Allow to grill in a panini press until cheese mets–about 5-10 minutes depending on your press. If you don’t have one, just heat a pan over medium heat, add the sandwich, and weigh down with another pan.
Makes 2 panini.