In this week's The Willowbee Tree story, “The Clay Pot”, Piper is home sick from school and she doesn't like it. The previous day she did not listen to her mother or her teachers and was under-dressed for a class field trip. She got cold and wet, and now has a fever. When the Willow tree takes her to the Smoky Mountains to hear an old Buzzard's story, she learns the importance of listening to one's elders.
Because Piper got to go to the Smoky Mountains, I thought it would be fun to find a traditional food from that part of the world. But in my Google searches, the only thing that kept coming up was a chain restaurant dish called “Smoky Mountain Chicken”. Was this based on an authentic recipe, I wondered?
While I did find a few articles that suggested it might be, I never got a conclusive answer. But two things convinced me to present it to you anyway.
First, the Smoky Mountains are in Tennessee, which means barbecue is pretty much always appropriate.
But second, I ended up testing this recipe—on my own family, like I do—about five times. Usually that kind of repetition gets a few groans and grumbles towards the end, but not with this recipe. The whole crew was happy to help me perfect it, and there was one night my son actually got in a little trouble for, literally, licking his plate.
In short, authentic or not, these sandwiches are too good not to share!
Smoky Mountain Chicken Sandwiches
4 chicken breasts
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup barbecue sauce
1 cup water or chicken stock
4 slices deli ham
4 slices provolone cheese
4 sandwich rolls or buns
2-3 green onions, diced
Preheat your oven to 375°F.
Heat the olive oil in an oven-proof skillet that's just big enough to hold the chicken breasts in a single layer. Sprinkle the chicken breasts with salt and pepper, then—when the oil is hot—brown them up, letting them cook for about 5 minutes per side.
Pull the chicken off the heat and very carefully pour the water or stock into the bottom of the skillet. Then, slather the barbecue sauce on top of the chicken breasts. Put the whole skillet in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 160°F.
While the chicken is cooking, arrange the rolls — tops and bottoms separated — on a large baking sheet. When the chicken is done, top each roll with a chicken breast, a slice of ham, and a slice of cheese. Leaving the sandwiches open-faced, pop them under a broiler set to medium until the cheese is bubbly and starting to brown.
(Note: Food under a broiler can go from uncooked to blackened cinders in very short order, so I recommend setting a timer and checking on these every two minutes until they're done. Mine only took about five minutes, so you won't have to do it for long, promise.)
Sprinkle the diced green onions into the gooey cheese, match your bun tops with their bottoms, and tuck in!
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About the Author
The Sparkle Kitchen Series is created by Meryl Carver-Allmond.
Meryl lives in a hundred-year-old house near the prairie with her sweet husband, two preschoolers, one puppy, one gecko, and about ten chickens. While she's been writing since she could pick up a pen, in recent years she's discovered the joy of photography, too. She feels lucky to be able to combine those skills, along with a third passion — showing people that cooking for themselves can be healthy and fun — in her Sparkle Kitchen posts.