Food & Drink

Inside the Mind of a Sandwich Savant

We asked Mason Hereford to devise a special creation for G&G. He didn’t disappoint.

A man eats a large sandwich

Photo: Cedric Angeles

Chef Mason Hereford digs in to his ultimate Southern sandwich, made with chicken-fried steak, pineapple-habanero white barbecue sauce, “shrettuce,” onion, pickles, and fresh dill on butter-toasted white.

He’s been called a Sandwich King and the Dr. Frankenstein of sandwich making (and he also rocks a Duke’s tattoo), so when we asked Mason Hereford to mastermind the ultimate Southern sandwich for G&G, we had faith he would come up with something spectacular. The owner and chef of the game-changing New Orleans sandwich joint Turkey and the Wolf, Hereford started by considering his essential elements: crunch, tang, creaminess, spice, something sweet, something sour, and a hit of richness. A bit of nostalgia also came into play. “When we opened Turkey and the Wolf, we had a chicken-fried steak sandwich on our menu, and it was by far our most popular item,” he says. “I knew I wanted to revisit chicken-fried steak, because I consider it a pretty ultimate Southern protein preparation.”

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For the bread, he went for texture and structure. “I think thick-cut, butter-toasted (in a pan or on a griddle) white bread is the perfect vehicle.” Next came the secret sauce—a pineapple-habanero white barbecue sauce originally developed by Nathan Barfield, Hereford’s partner at his new meat-and-three, Hot Stuff. “It’s bright and sweet from vinegar and pineapple that he cooks down to its wildly potent, concentrated pulp,” Hereford says, “and then it hits you from the opposite direction with habanero that evens things out in a super fun way. At Hot Stuff we use it to dress chicken wings. It was the obvious choice when I started formulating this sandwich.”

As for the crucial toppings, after tweaking and testing, Hereford settled on shredded lettuce (a.k.a. “shrettuce,” his favorite portmanteau) and thinly shaved white onion, plus a couple of key final additions. “Fresh dill was the last thing added to the sandwich, and it was that Holy shit, this is exactly what it was missing moment,” he says. And it’s hard to go wrong with a little added tang from pickle slices. “I tried some other things, but dill pickles are it on the ultimate Southern sandwich. Always have been, always will be.”

Get the full sandwich recipe below.


The Ultimate Southern Sandwich

Get the recipe for chef Mason Hereford’s spectacular chicken-fried steak sandwich, custom-crafted for G&G and featured on our August/September 2024 cover

A stacked sandwich

Ingredients

  • The Ultimate Southern Sandwich (Yield: 4 servings)

  • For Nate’s Pineapple Habanero White BBQ Sauce (makes 1½ cups sauce)

    • 1 (20 oz.) can of pineapple chunks in 100 percent pineapple juice (with no added sugar)

    • 1 cup mayo (Duke’s or bust)

    • 1 tbsp. white vinegar

    • ½ tsp. garlic powder

    • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

    • 1 tsp. kosher salt (Diamond Crystal or about half as much Morton) or to taste

    • 1 tbsp. habanero hot sauce (like El Yucateco) or more to taste

  • For the chicken-fried steak

    • 1 lb. boneless strip or sirloin steak cut into 4 pieces

    • 1 cup buttermilk

    • 2 cups all-purpose flour

    • 2½ tbsp. garlic powder

    • 1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. smoked paprika

    • 2½ tsp. kosher salt (Diamond Crystal or about half as much Morton)

    • 1 tbsp. ground black pepper (preferably freshly ground)

    • 1 tsp. onion powder

    • 1 tsp. granulated chicken bouillon (optional but optimal; go with Totole!)

  • For the sandwiches

    • Vegetable oil for deep-frying (about 1½ to 2 qt.)

    • 1 tsp. kosher salt (Diamond Crystal or about half as much Morton) or to taste

    • 2 tsp. (or more to taste) granulated chicken bouillon (optional but optimal; go with Totole!)

    • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temp so it’s soft and spreadable

    • 8 extra-thick slices of white bread

    • Nate’s Pineapple Habanero White BBQ Sauce for swiping

    • 2 cups shrettuce (thinly sliced iceberg lettuce)

    • Thinly sliced white onion

    • A handful of dill pickle slices

    • Small handful of fresh dill sprigs


Preparation

  1. Make Nate’s Pineapple Habanero White BBQ Sauce: Puree the pineapple chunks, including the pineapple juice from the can, and place in a nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring fairly often (and very often toward the end), for 25 to 30 minutes, until the pineapple puree is as thick as mayo and has been reduced down to the volume of ½ cup. It will caramelize a bit in the pan, taking it from a bright yellow to the color of an apricot. Place the puree in a small pot, and add the remaining ingredients. Stir together until completely combined, and reserve in the refrigerator. This can be done up to 3 days ahead of time. After about a week, the pineapple flavor fades a bit, but it’s still tasty.

  2. Make the chicken-fried steak: One by one, put the steak slices between pieces of plastic wrap, put them on a cutting board, and use a meat mallet, a rolling pin, or the bottom of a small sturdy skillet to evenly pound the heck out of them, so they’re very thin (⅛ inch at most). It’s no big deal if they get holes in ’em or tear apart a bit.   

  3. Grab two medium mixing bowls. Into one, pour the buttermilk. In the other, stir together the flour, garlic powder, paprika, kosher salt, black pepper, onion powder, and chicken bouillon powder. One by one, toss a steak slice in the flour mixture, patting to make sure it’s evenly coated. Next, shake off any excess coating and submerge in the buttermilk. Finally, let any excess drip back into the bowl and toss the steak in the flour mixture again, patting to evenly coat. As they’re done, put the slices on a plate. They’re ready to fry now, but they can hang out uncovered in the fridge for up to 12 hours.

  4. Make the sandwiches: Get 3 to 4 inches of oil to 350°F in a large heavy pot. It’s best to use a thermometer if you have one. Line a sheet pan (or big plate) with a wire rack or paper towels. Working in batches and using tongs, gently lay the steaks in the oil and fry, flipping them once, until they’re golden brown and super crispy like fried chicken, about 5 to 6 minutes per batch (keep an eye on the color as you fry). When they’re done, use tongs to transfer them to the sheet pan (or big plate), and season immediately on both sides with the kosher salt and chicken bouillon powder, breaking it up with your fingertips as you sprinkle. (Sneak a bite and add more bouillon powder and salt, if you want.) 

  5. Heat a wide, well-seasoned cast-iron or nonstick skillet or griddle over medium heat until it’s good and hot. Swipe the butter generously on each side of the bread slices. Working in batches, if necessary, toast the bread on the skillet or griddle until both sides are golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes per side. When they’re done, transfer them to a rack or stand them up so they lean against each other, so they don’t get soggy. 

  6. Generously swipe one side of each piece of toast with the barbecue sauce. Top 4 of those pieces of toast with a pile of shrettuce, then a small handful of sliced onions, then the steak, then some dill pickle slices and a few sprigs of fresh dill. Crown with the other 4 toast slices and get wild.


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