Ever since its reported first iteration in a Spar back in 1997, the chicken fillet roll has reigned supreme as the forefront pillar of Irish cuisine.
As a nation of people who are a touch conservative when it comes to taste and adventurous food choices, a well-made chicken fillet roll is an essential part of our culinary landscape. When you're hungover, up against lunch hour time constraints or simply not in the headspace to make a decision, this golden-crumbed, carb-heavy sambo will always be there for you.
Although it's indisputably a fail-safe order, there are still a few variables that separate the grand from the great. As self-professed experts in appreciating the art of this deli deity, we've broken down the key elements needed to create a perfect chicken fillet roll.
Now obviously, it's the consumers choice but we're of the belief that spicy chicken fillets are infinitely superior to their plain counterparts. A great chicken fillet can also be measured by the quality of the crumbs - lightly seasoned and golden brown, not too crunchy but also not so soft that they fall away from the chicken itself with the slightest bit of friction. The bind between chicken and crumb should be strong, the chicken itself succulent and cut into even, square chunks - only cutting them long ways is half-arsing it.
Mayo is the traditional sauce of choice, and with good reason. Its creaminess and slight sour taste perfectly offsets the poultry - based on our deli experiences as a whole, it's advisable to ask for a bit of extra mayo or a "good bit" to go with the culturally accurate term, to ensure all fillings are adequately coated. A scrape of butter never goes amiss either. I know there are some advocates for the addition of taco sauce, and I'm happy to endorse this for the gentle smoky spice it brings.
The famous extra-chopped chicken fillet roll at Daybreak, Ballybough.
The classic pairing of lettuce and grated cheese simply can't be underestimated. If the cheese is grated on the fine side of the grater, resulting in extra thin almost hair-like shavings, even better - these melt into the warm chicken more effectively. You're taking your life into your own hands with the addition of tomato (too watery) and red onion (too acidic) but hey, whatever you're into. The addition of stuffing feels a step too far for me, there's already enough going on in the breadcrumb department - but I'm not here to yuck anybody's yums.
If you're at a deli where they use a cut-off from a full sized baguette to make the rolls, you're in safe hands. They're softer, more luxurious and their width allows for a more even distribution of the toppings inside. It makes the whole experience so much better. Otherwise, a simple white roll cut in half does the trick, or possibly a seeded brown in a pinch.
Deli deals that throw in a can of coke, cup of tea or packet of crisps with your roll are hard to come by these days, but always appreciated. For me, the cooling fizz of a can trumps a paper mug of tea with this dish, but the Irish urge to have tea with every meal does need to be considered here. The addition of a packet of crisps is the true mark of a great deli - keep an eye out also for Centra in Stillorgan where you can get mashed up Taytos as a topping on the roll itself.
The deli at O'Hare's Spar in Johnstown, image via Facebook
Finally, bonus points if the roll is wrapped in tinfoil rather than paper - it forces the ingredients to make closer friends with one another, compacting everything beautifully and ensuring the all-important meltiness of the cheese.
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