Open-Faced Creamy Chicken Rainier Sandwich with Caramelized Onions and Gruyère
This Open-Faced Creamy Chicken Rainier with Caramelized Onions and Gruyère Sandwich makes a decadent lunch or a great dinner with a side salad. Delicious creamy caramelized onion filling over a toasted ciabatta bun, topped with chicken and asparagus and dotted with a bit of Gruyère. And it’s only 236 calories or 7 WW points!
If you have the chicken already grilled or cooked, this sandwich goes together fairly fast. You can make up the filling ahead of time (up to 7 days) and have it whenever you want. While you can cut the recipe in half to make only 4 servings, there will be left over cream cheese and 1/2 onion. For me, I find it’s easier to just to make a full batch. It’s ready and waiting in the fridge. In our family, we’ll eat it up over the course of a week in various ways – sandwiches, wraps or over salads.
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Mix the caramelized onions with the light cream cheese, a bit of light mayo, liquid smoke (if desired), garlic, a few grinds from the nutmeg grinder, salt, pepper and part of the Gruyère cheese.
Nutmeg isn’t essential in this recipe but it does add a nice complement to the filling. Use a nutmeg grinder for best results.
Arrange ciabatta halves on a baking pan, top with caramelized onion filling, grilled or cooked chicken, steamed asparagus and a tablespoon of Gruyère cheese. Broil until hot and cheese is melted. Serve with a fork and knife.
This Creamy Chicken Rainier Sandwich can definitely be made into a wrap. Use a medium tortilla. Spread about 1/4 c. filling over the tortilla, add chicken, maybe even some lettuce, asparagus and 1 T. cheese. Roll it all up and you have a fantastic gourmet wrap for about 7 points depending on the tortilla you use.
Make it into a salad
You can also make a salad version. Place lettuce greens in a bowl or plate. Add chicken and asparagus and a few dollops of the filling (equal to 1/4 c. for calorie/point purposes). Drizzle a little balsamic over it if desired and you have a gourmet salad for only 4 WW points.
How did I lighten it up?
I created this healthy version of my Creamy Chicken Rainier because it’s such a great combination of flavors. Originally this sandwich was probably around 30 points per sandwich. Obviously it was too pricey in points and calories for me to fit realistically with my healthy lifestyle.
First of all, I made it an open- faced sandwich. While I love a good French roll or ciabatta sandwich, I don’t need to consume 7 points right off the top- just for the bread. By being open-faced it cuts the bread points down to 3. (Weight Watcher math, not mine).
Next I lightened the filling. Originally I mixed the chicken with full fat cream cheese, lots of swiss cheese and mayo. This new healthy version still includes cheese. (I just can’t live without my cheese, just need less of it now.) Instead of regular cream cheese, I used light cream cheese.
Instead of a huge amount of swiss, I reduced the amount in the filling and also replaced the swiss with a more flavorful Gruyère. Gruyère is also a swiss but a hard yellow swiss cheese. In my opinion it has more flavor than a regular swiss cheese. I wanted a smokey flavor, so I added a bit of Liquid Smoke. This is entirely optional, it tastes great without it as well.
I substituted a small bit of light mayo for the full fat mayonnaise. (I’m not a huge fan of light mayo but in this recipe it works.)
Instead of caramelizing the onions in lots of butter, I did them in a pan with olive oil spray.
Last but not least, I wanted this sandwich to be filling so I added asparagus. You could also add sauteed green beans, mushrooms (really any vegetable that you like that goes with chicken and Gruyère/swiss cheese). That helps gives the sandwich some bulk.
Origin and inspiration of the Chicken Rainier
Years ago when I lived in Sacramento, California, there was a restaurant near the Arden Fair Mall called, Bistro 33. They had a version of this sandwich called, The Rainier. It was creamy chicken and caramelized onion on focaccia -then grilled as a panini. They also used smoked mozzarella and a mango mayonnaise. It was almost like an adult gourmet grilled cheese with chicken. So yummy! After they closed, I found myself craving it so I created my own version. It was delicious but obviously not so healthy back in those days. Just the other day I started dreaming about that sandwich again (can you tell I’m a foodie?). I told my husband I was going to try and lighten it up. His response was, “Good luck with that one!” But surprisingly I did and he raved,”This one is a winner!”
This Open-Faced Creamy Chicken Rainer Sandwich makes a decadent lunch or a great dinner with a side salad. Delicious creamy, caramelized onion filling over a toasted ciabatta bun, topped with chicken and asparagus and dotted with a bit of Gruyère cheese. And it’s only 236 calories or 7 WW points. You can make up the filling ahead of time (up to 5-7 days) and have it whenever you want. Have it ready in the fridge, great in various ways – sandwiches, wraps or over salads.
1 large (about 19 oz) walla walla onion or a sweet onion variety, roughly chopped in bite size pieces
Add chopped onions. Spray the onions with a little more olive oil spray. Cook on medium high heat for about 8-10 minutes, stirring as needed. Add more olive oil spray if needed. Don’t let them burn. Be sure to scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan.
Reduce heat to low. Continue cooking onions until brown and caramelized for at least 20 minutes. The onions will stick to the pan, that’s ok, just continue to keep scraping up the bits. You may be tempted to consider them “done,” but allow the full 20-30 minutes for best flavor. Add minced garlic to the onions during the last few minutes of cooking. Remove from heat.
While onions are cooking, in a medium bowl, combine cream cheese, Gruyère cheese (minus 8 T.) kosher salt and pepper.
When onions and garlic are done cooking, transfer them to a food processor and lightly pulse a few times. Add to cream cheese mixture.
Spread about 1/4 c. over half of bread. Top with chicken and asparagus. Add a bit of gruyere cheese to top.
Broil in oven or toaster oven until hot and cheese is melted.
Variations: Turn these sandwiches easily into wraps. Place about 1/4 c. of the filling on a medium tortilla, add the chicken and asparagus. Top with 1 T. gruyere and roll up. Or turn it into a salad: place lettuce greens in a bowl, top with chicken and asparagus and 1/4 c. of the filling. Drizzle balsamic over the top.
To Steam Asparagus Quickly: This may not be a traditional way but it’s the way I’ve been doing it for years. I put asparagus (cut into pieces) in one of my Polish pottery bowls (any microwavable dish will work). I sprinkle a few drops of water over asparagus, cover with a small plate. (Or if you have a lid to the dish, that works too.) Microwave for about 1 1/2-2 minutes. Leave plate on bowl (or lid) for a few minutes and serve it when ready.