The fried chicken sandwich frenzy has cooled off a bit. Having a representation of a fried chicken sandwich is now just a requisite on every fast food menu. The company responsible for kicking it all off, Popeyes, must have sensed that it’s time for a change, because they’re releasing a new chicken sandwich today. And guess what? It’s not breaded.
Enter the Blackened Chicken Sandwich. It features a breading-free chicken breast, marinated and coated in seasoning, served on Popeyes’ brioche bun, with your choice of spicy or regular mayo, along with pickle slices.
According to a press release sent to The Takeout, it’s a sandwich years in the making:
With the desire to create the next innovation for the brand’s iconic sandwich platform, the Popeyes Culinary Team spent four years perfecting its version of the classic Blackening cooking technique, which originated in Louisiana and is used to better seal in seasoning and spices to flavor the meat, which then develops a crave-worthy, yet subtle browned or blackened crust.
While there’s no explanation of exactly how the chicken breast is cooked, I’m guessing it’s tossed around in seasoning before it’s dropped in the fryer in order to get that crust to form. Typical blackened seasoning is a mix of paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, and other herbs and spices, which is generously applied before your meat of choice is cooked off.
The spice blend then blackens or deeply browns, giving whatever you’re cooking a robust flavor along with a distinct almost crackly crust. While the seasoning may look burnt, it’s not—it’s more along the lines of deeply caramelized. This is a now-common cooking technique populated by chef Paul Prudhomme in the 1980s. This was his invented cooking technique, and not originally a classic Cajun one as is commonly believed, but Prudhomme’s Cajun roots soon made it part of the culture. It’s natural that Popeyes would head this direction.
Beneath it all, this signals the fact that Popeyes knows that all hype trains must eventually decelerate. Since the Popeyes’ fried chicken sandwich is now canon, the company’s taking its mainstay protein in a slightly different direction. Whether or not it’ll work the world up into another wild shitstorm remains to be seen (I’m guessing people won’t get nearly as excited), but we may finally have seen the last of the fried chicken sandwich gold rush.