Panes Con Pollo

Time 2 hours (including marinating and roasting times)
Yields Makes 6 sandwiches
Panes con pollo by Karla Vasquez, made in the LA Times test kitchen,
(Katrina Frederick/For The Times)
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Panes con pollo, the Salvadoran version of a chicken sandwich, is a wonderful way to celebrate a party, birthday, holiday or just a regular family cookout.

One thing to note is the type of bread used. Some folks say that pan francés and Mexican bolillo are the same and interchangeable; I say for some things, sure, but not for this Salvadoran dish. This sandwich requires a hollow bread that will hold and absorb a lot of sauce. Bolillo can sometimes be too doughy and its crumb doesn’t absorb liquid very well, so using it would be a travesty. If you cannot find a good pan francés from a Salvadoran bakery, the next available bread will have to suffice, but I am just giving you the facts. Some Salvadoran cooks add curtido, sliced hard-boiled eggs and sliced beets to their panes, but this is optional.

If you’re eating the sandwich and realize that it’s falling apart because of the sauce, that’s okay — it just means you’re doing it right. I’ve been to parties where the bread is soaked and whoever is putting the sandwiches together still says, “Oh, wait, let me spoon more sauce on there.” Once, on Christmas Eve, my brother, my husband and I were making the holiday family rounds, and a tía whom we went to visit was still cooking and cutting the vegetables for the panes. She told us to wait until they were ready. By the time we needed to leave, she was just finishing, but we couldn’t stay to eat them or else we’d fall behind in our carefully planned family Christmas tour. My brother got one pan to go, and let’s just say it’s not a sandwich that travels well. He loved every bite, but he had sauce and crumbs all over him.

At last, after nearly 10 years, Karla Vasquez’s “The SalviSoul Cookbook” is being published by Ten Speed Press with terrific Salvadoran recipes you’ll want to make and stories of the women who shared them.

March 19, 2024

This Salvadoran sopa de res, beef and vegetable soup from Karla Vasquez’s “The Salvisoul Cookbook” is both easy and celebratory — not just a meal but an event — refreshing and satisfying at the end of a day.

April 9, 2024

Recaudo for Panes con Pollo

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine ¼ cup of the mustard, the vinegar and salt (1 teaspoon of salt per pound of chicken) and stir to mix thoroughly. Add the chicken and rub this marinade all over the pieces until they are well coated. Insert the celery and smashed garlic between the chicken meat and skin, cover the chicken with a manta or kitchen towel, transfer to the refrigerator, and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.


Make the recaudo: Set a comal or griddle over medium-high heat. Once it’s hot, sprinkle with a little water to check whether it is ready; the water should quickly evaporate. Add the tomatoes, onion, bell pepper, celery and whole garlic and grill until the vegetables darken on the outside, about 7 minutes. Using tongs, flip the vegetables and grill another 7 minutes to darken the other side. Transfer the vegetables to a plate and set aside. Turn the heat to medium-low.


In a small bowl, combine the sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, oregano, cloves, allspice, bay leaves, guaque and ciruela and stir to mix thoroughly. Transfer the spice mixture to the comal and toast until it turns fragrant, about 1 minute, making sure to stir it so it doesn’t burn. Transfer the toasted spices to a blender and add the charred vegetables, achiote powder and chicken bouillon. Blend on high speed until smooth, adding the water to keep the mixture moving as needed. Set aside.


In a small bowl, combine the remaining ¼ cup mustard, the mayonnaise, and ¼ teaspoon salt and stir to make an aioli.


About 30 minutes before you are ready to finish cooking, remove the chicken from the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Remove chicken from marinade and discard marinade. Place the chicken in a large roasting pan, pour the recaudo over the chicken, add the olives and vinegar, and cover the pan with aluminum foil. Roast until the chicken juices run clear and an instant-read thermometer inserted into a thigh registers 165°F. Depending on the size of the chicken pieces, this will take 40 to 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and season with additional salt if needed.


Meanwhile, split the pan francés lengthwise, about three-fourths of the way through, so the halves are still connected. Place in the oven right until golden and toasty.


Once the chicken is done and the bread is toasted, slather the mustard aioli inside of the cavity of each pan francés and top with 1 cup of the chicken and a few slices each of the tomato, radishes and cucumber, as well as some watercress sprigs and lettuce leaves.


Drizzle each sandwich with a bit of the recaudo in the roasting pan. There will be a lot, so pour the remainder into a serving bowl. Serve the sandwiches with the remaining on the side.

If you are using a whole chicken, debone it and then divide into eight pieces: two breast halves, two thighs, two drumsticks and two wings. Discard the rest.

Toast the pan francés in the oven right before the chicken is done cooking and while you’re preparing all the vegetables.
From “The SalviSoul Cookbook: Salvadoran Recipes & the Women Who Preserve Them” (Ten Speed Press) by Karla Tatiana Vasquez.