1 large head fennel (about 1 pound), bruised outer pieces removed
3 small carrots (about 1/2 pound), peeled and trimmed
1 jalapeno, stemmed
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 cup white distilled vinegar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
2 tablespoons kosher salt
For the Basil-Lime Mayo
2 cups basil leaves
1/2 cup mayonnaise
juice of 1/2 a lime
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
For the Chicken:
14 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 lime, zested
1 large egg
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup vegetable oil, for frying
For the Sandwich:
4 bolillo or hoagie buns
To Make the Fennel-Carrot Pickles:
Slice all the vegetables paper-thin using a mandolin if you have one, or sharp knife. Place in a large bowl.
Place cumin seeds in a small saucepan and toast over medium heat, shaking pan occasionally until they are fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add vinegar, sugar, water, and salt and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
Pour over vegetables and let cool at room temperature for 1 hour. Transfer to a container with a tight-sealing lid and refrigerate overnight. Pickles will keep refrigerated for 2 months.
For the Basil-Lime Mayo:
Combine basil leaves, mayonnaise, lime juice, salt, and pepper in the bowl of a food processor and blend until smooth.
For the Chicken:
Heat oven to 300°F.
Cut chicken breasts in half horizontally. Place one half on a cutting board and cover with plastic wrap. Pound chicken until it is 1/2-inch thick using a meat mallet or anything else heavy (rolling pin or wine bottle would also work). Repeat with remaining chicken.
Cut the pounded chicken into 4 equal pieces if you do not have 4 already.
Season chicken with salt and pepper.
Place Panko in a shallow dish. Season with salt and pepper and add lime zest. Mix seasoning into Panko.
Crack egg into a separate shallow dish. Add 1 tablespoon of water, season with salt and pepper and whisk until smooth.
Place flour in a third shallow dish. Season with salt and pepper and mix to combine. Place one or two chicken pieces in the flour mixture and coat on all sides.
Transfer floured chicken to the egg wash and turn to coat. Now place in the Panko mixture and press to coat with Panko on all sides. Repeat with remaining chicken pieces.
Line a baking sheet with paper towels.
Heat 1/4 cup vegetable oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Once shimmering, test with a pinch of Panko. If the oil is hot enough the Panko should sizzle immediately.
Slide 1 or 2 Panko-coated chicken breast into the hot oil (don’t crowd) and let cook, undisturbed until deep golden brown and crisp, about 3 minutes. Flip and cook the other side for 3 minutes more.
Transfer chicken to the baking sheet and place in the oven to keep warm while you cook the rest of the chicken. You can place the rolls in the oven too if you want them toasted a little bit.
If most of the oil has been used in the pan add a couple more tablespoons of oil to cook the rest of the chicken pieces.
To Make the Sandwiches:
Slice each roll in half and spread some basil-lime mayo on the top and bottom of the rolls. Put a bit of baby spinach on the bottom half then top with a piece of chicken. Pile some pickles on top and cover with the top bun.