If I ever front up to take the Australian Citizenship Exam, I fully expect to be led to a test kitchen and asked to produce a platter of chicken sandwiches, while singing the national anthem.
My study is strictly anecdotal but, after nearly ten years of observation, I would be willing to bet the ranch that, over the course of a lifetime, the average Australian woman produces her own weight in chicken sandwiches.
If she is a mother, multiply that quantity by the number of her offspring.
They are required fare at nearly every children's party, school fete, and workplace afternoon tea - any daylight gathering with a quorum of women who have been asked to "bring a plate."
(If that sounds sexist, it's because it is. I am sure that there are men in Australia who make fine chicken sandwiches, and as soon as I meet and eat one - the sandwich, not the man - I will amend the text above.)
Why are they so ubiquitous? For very good reason:
A good chicken sandwich is about as good as it gets.
And because everyone makes them, they are a highly personal affair.
There are no rules, but a few broad guidelines do apply: no crusts; white bread preferred; a bit of crunch is best.
Everyone has their own, favorite, fail-safe, go-to recipe.
Here is mine, based on a recipe from family friend Eve Molyneux, who made the first, most delicious chicken sandwich I ever encountered - and never forgot.
Evie's Chicken Sandwiches
One Roast Chicken (store-bought)
Juice of Four Limes
One Bunch Coriander/Cilantro
One Bunch Spring Onion/Scallions
Mayonnaise (from a jar)
White Bread, medium slice
First, put the bread in the freezer.
If this sounds odd, I promise you, it will make all the difference when it comes time to cut your sandwiches. Mine always used to tear and looked as though I'd asked my five year old to make them, until I learned this tip: let the bread firm up in the freezer while you make the filling. When you are ready to assemble the sandwiches, pull the bread from the freezer; it will slice easily and precisely. Keep the sandwiches covered with a tea-towel as you work, to prevent them from drying out. When you are finished, cover with cling wrap and unveil at the last possible moment.
Second, poaching chicken breasts is the traditional technique, but, frankly, when there are party bags to fill, cupcakes to ice, and children who are bouncing with pre-party anticipation to manage (or just regular life to get on with) , I can't be bothered. This is easier and, I think, more flavorful. The roasting and the dark meat add a depth that you don't get from poached white meat alone, which, to my mind, can taste a bit anaemic.
Third, I use jar mayonnaise. Again, this is mostly about simplifying, but if you're serving these up on a hot summer's day, you can assuage any guilt with the knowledge that commercially prepared mayonnaise - as opposed to homemade - is probably a safer choice. May Julia forgive me.
For the filling:
Remove the meat - white and dark - from the chicken to a large bowl, discarding the skin and saving the carcass for stock later (if you are feeling pious). Wash, dry and chop the coriander and add it to the chicken. Thinly slice the spring onions/scallions - white and green parts - and add to the chicken. Squeeze in the lime juice and add several heaping tablespoons of mayonnaise, to suit your taste (I like a generous amount of mayo), and combine well. Taste, then season accordingly with sea salt.
For the sandwiches:
Remove the bread from the freezer. Spread the filling and form sandwiches before removing the crusts and slicing into rectangles (two per sandwich).