Dinner for the Road

A few Fridays ago
, Andy was on the way home from work early, having drawn the short straw to drive Abby to a soccer tournament in Maryland for the weekend, when Abby asked what the dinner plan was. She was packing her soccer bag and stopped to wait for my answer. I paused — I knew what my dinner plan was: Phoebe and I had an 8:00 date at the local seafood place I love, and afterwards we were going to watch Walk the Line. (“I have a craving,” she told me about the Johnny Cash movie.) But their dinner? Hmmmm. I hadn’t really thought about it, which I realized wasn’t very nice of me, especially since they had an almost five-hour drive ahead of them on the Northeast’s worst traffic corridor — I-95 south, from New York to DC. “I’ll figure it out,” I told her, thinking I’d pick up a few slices of pizza on the way home from a quick errand I was about to go do anyway.

What I ended up doing was picking up a rotisserie chicken at Stop & Shop. I thought maybe they’d appreciate something somewhat healthy-ish since tournament weekends usually end up being a lot of grab-it-while-you-can (read: fast food) eating. Or, if they do sit down, this is generally what the post-game looks like:

(And by the way, this was after a loss, not a victory.)

The point is, I thought it would be nice of me to kick off their weekend with something delicious, but not too delicious. Of course, a rotisserie chicken isn’t ideal for driving (Road Food Rule #1: If you have to pack a fork, you’re doing something wrong), so I set about turning it into a hot chicken sandwich. When I was little, a “hot chicken sandwich” was the official name for a dinner we had once a week: My mom would roast her own bird (this is pre-rotisserie days, though hers were just as delicious), top a piece of toasted Pepperidge Farm white bread with a few chicken slices, then smothered the whole thing in gravy. As I type this, I find it astounding that a) I have not recreated the dinner for my own children and b) I haven’t mentioned it on Dinner: A Love Story once after all these years.

Redemption for that begins now, I guess. Because I ended up making the 2.0 version for Abby and Andy. Since I almost always have a round loaf of Italian white bread in the freezer, I toasted a few slices, spread on some special sauce leftover from a fun instagram promotion I was working on, sandwiched in some chicken and caramelized onions, and wrapped them in foil. A few hours later, Abby texted from some bleak stretch on the New Jersey turnpike: Mom. Please make this sandwich again SOON. 

Hot Chicken Sandwiches with Caramelized Onions and Special Sauce
Sorry I don’t have a pic of the actual sandwich. (Shown above: special sauce, which should be in your fridge all summer long, btw.) Also, instead of a typical ingredient list, I just bold-faced what you’ll need. Hope you guys are OK with that. If you’re having these for a regular dinner (i.e. not in a car) might I recommend serving with a nice kale salad? Makes 4 sandwiches.

STEP ONE: Make Special Sauce
(This first ran in Bon Appetit.) Mix the following ingredients together:

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated onion
  • 1 tablespoon sweet relish or 1 tablespoon dill pickle relish
  • salt and pepper to taste

Store in a jar for 8 to 10 days.

STEP TWO: Caramelize Onion
Slice 2 medium-large onions. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a skillet set over medium heat, and add onion slices. Saute as long as you can, hopefully long enough to caramelize, about 15-20 minutes.

STEP THREE: Slice Rotisserie Chicken
Slice your rotisserie chicken into large pieces that can lay flat on a sandwich.

STEP FOUR: Toast 8 slices of good white bread.

STEP FIVE: Assemble Sandwiches.
Spread special sauce on one side of toast (preferably while still warm) then top with chicken, onions, and toast. Wrap in foil if you plan on taking it on the road.

Related: Top 10 Ways to Use a Rotisserie Chicken

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Rohini Sahni

Want to try the sandwich, but also so excited to know that Bread and Brine is good / DALS approved. I have been wondering if we should try!


Definitely try. It’s like a mini Eventide (my most favorite restaurant in Portland). Really good vibes and excellent food.


I have to say, I’ve been making salads for Long car rides recently, and we love it. It’s a good way to use up all the veggies in the fridge, and I like starting out a trip knowing that I’ve got something healthy in my belly. Though, I do appreciate your no forks rule, I have found it oddly satisfying to feed my husband salad as he drives. And now I feel like a nutcase.


We often make a big batch of veggie-packed pasta before a long drive and bring the leftovers with us. I also feed my partner while we are driving! I like to construct the perfect bites for her.


Sandwiches looks great, but my real question is how do you manage all these soccer responsibilities??!? I have a 10 year old soccer player on a traveling team and I work full time. It seems that soccer is starting to engulf my life and I dread how it’s only going to get worse as he gets older. Help!


Made these last night when I didn’t feel like “cooking” They really hit the spot!


We brought home a Costco rotisserie bird on Friday, so i made that special sauce for some sandwiches (no patience for carmelized onions, but maybe next time!). Oh, my! My husband thinks I’m some kind of genius. ha! Really good idea. We’ll be making the reverse trip (to CT from DC) in a couple of weeks and i bet these sandwiches will be in the feedbag!


Costco run today = rotisserie chicken. Bingo! This was good! Served with a bright, limey slaw on the side.

Ellen Scott

Well, whenever I have a long trip (like come back home), I always have to brain storm what I should eat , and when i arrive home, I so hungry because can not eat anything on that trip.
Thank for your great idea for long trips!


Did this treatment to turkey burgers that were languishing in our freezer. A revelation!


I have made a few times and this is a real winner. Very flexible for different kinds of chicken. The special sauce/caremlized onion combo is really magical. Thanks.


Made this for lunch today with a side of cole slaw. So good! Didn’t have ketchup, so subbed in bbq sauce (pretty much the same, right?) and it turned out delicious. Ten out of ten for taste & ease.


Great share! Simple to have a warm dinner, just follow your instructions and everything becomes easy. Thanks for your sharing