If you live in Utah and Arizona, you've been blessed with access to a gem of a place to eat: Cafe Zupas . It's one of our favorite restaurants. They have the most wonderful soups, the most beautiful salads, and the most killer sandwiches/paninis I've ever eaten. Plus, at the end, they give you a free chocolate-dipped strawberry. Ryan loves the Lobster Bisque (surprise, surprise) and I usually switch around between the Wild Mushroom Bisque and Tomato Basil with Orzo Pasta. The salads are huge, and healthily worth every bite, but I love their sandwiches the most. I've tried several things on the menu, and have yet to taste something that's not completely mouth-watering. But my all-time favorite has been the Gourmet Chicken Pesto Sandwich.
My obsession is to the point where I find myself wanting it between Zupas visits (which with our budget, can be a ways between). So what do I do? I make it at home!
First step, find a copycat recipe online. NOTHING. I'm serious. I couldn't find any copycat recipes, and the website was locking away every recipe secret known to man concerning this beautiful sandwich. So I flat out called the restaurant and asked them what was in the chicken mixture. The guy laughed out a ''nice try, lady.'' On our next visit, I was a little sneaky, and casually asked him what was in the chicken mixture (as if I've never had it before) - he must have thought I was asking for food-allergy purposes, and explained what a few of the ingredients were. It was just enough for me to get a head start in the kitchen.
I was planning on serving these at a bridal shower I'm hosting this weekend, so I wanted to test my ''in-brain'' recipe this afternoon. I felt like I was on an episode of Hell's Kitchen when Gordon Ramsay had the competitors taste a dish he made, and then asked them to recreate the recipe from "taste-memory."
Let me just say this: I have cracked the code, my friends.
The chicken mixture is genius with pesto mixed right into the mayo, met with the perfect crunch here and there of the toasted almonds, and spicy zing of the roasted red peppers. I am in love with this sandwich, and can't wait to make them for a crowd of ladies this weekend!
Zupas Chicken Pesto Sandwiches
makes 4 sandwiches
4 ciabatta rolls, sliced in half
1 large tomato, stem removed, sliced
about a cup of alfalfa sprouts
4 slices muenster cheese
1 chicken breast, cooked, cubed
1 roasted red pepper (I used the ones from the jar = easiest), sliced into small cubes
1/2 C slivered almonds, toasted
1 batch of my homemade basil pesto (basil, garlic, pine nuts, EVOO, parmesan, lemon juice)
1 cup real mayonnaise (I love miracle whip, but don't use it with this recipe. I beg you)
In a bowl, mix together chicken breast, roasted red pepper, slivered almonds, basil pesto, and mayo until just combined.
Slightly broil your ciabatta rolls in the oven so they're warm and a teeny bit crispy (or, if you're one of those people with a panini-maker... use the heck outta that thing after assembling the sandwich).
On the bottom half of the ciabatta roll, layer on your muenster cheese, chicken mixture, tomato (seasoned with salt and pepper), and alfalfa sprouts. Top with the other half of the roll, and use a toothpick to hold in place.
Dunk in soup, or devour as is. Both will rock your world.
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