ChurchKey‘s new fried chicken sandwich could have dual citizenship. Chef Jarrad Silver combines traditional German or Austrian accoutrements with Japan’s signature tonkatsu barbecue sauce in his latest creation.
“I’ve been wanting to do a schnitzel sandwich for a while—they go really well with beer,” he says. ChurchKey on 14th Street NW just celebrated its 10th anniversary as one of the city’s top craft beer destinations. To make the sandwich, Silver brines the bird, smokes it for 20 to 25 minutes, and then breads it in panko breadcrumbs before dropping it into the deep fryer.
Schnitzel is the word broadly used to describe a piece of protein (be it chicken, turkey, pork, or veal) that’s been pounded thin and then coated in flour, beaten eggs, and bread crumbs. At least 40 countries make a version of schnitzel. Argentina calls it milanesa or carne empanizada while the Portuguese call it bife panado, for example.
Silver first fell in love with schnitzel in Israel when he traveled there in 2013 for the Birthright program. “I wasn’t expecting it but they have it all over the place,” he says. “They do chicken mainly because people don’t eat pork.”
He says he looked into schnitzel’s German and Austrian heritage. That’s how he decided to add the cabbage slaw and spicy mustard, the latter of which he spreads on a Martin’s potato sandwich roll. He keeps the slaw ice cold and adds Granny Smith apple for extra freshness.
“Then I started to read a little more about it and realized tonkatsu from Japan is so similar to all of this,” Silver says. There are restaurants in Japan that are solely dedicated to tonkatsu—breaded and deep fried pork cutlets coated in a sticky, sweet brown sauce. Often they’re sandwiched between white bread to form a “katsu-sando.”
Silver tried his hand at making tonkatsu sauce or “Bulldog Sauce” with tomato, soy, and Worcestershire sauce. “It’s got this slight sweetness, acidity, and spice that ties the whole thing together.”
The chef doesn’t like neat and tidy sandwiches. “I leave the chicken bigger than the bread on purpose,” he says. “My favorite bite is that outside bite before you get into the sandwich because it’s like a bonus piece.”
The $13 sandwich is currently available on ChurchKey’s nighttime menu. You can pay extra to add cheese, egg, or bacon. Silver says he may add it to the bar’s brunch menu.
ChurchKey, 1337 14th St. NW; (202) 567-2576; churchkeydc.com