Image: Panera

Sous what? It’s amazing how many people I’ve mentioned sous vide cooking to who have favored me with a quizzical look. Maybe the reason is that this revolutionary style of food preparation (which entails vacuum-sealing food in a bag and cooking it to a very precise temperature in a water bath) has yet to filter down into the general populace.

But regardless of the reason, that’s about to change. Panera has announced that on March 30, it will showcase two new chicken sandwiches, both of them sous-vided. According to the nationwide bakery-cafe chain, the sandwiches will be variations on a theme. The “Signature Take” will feature a quarter-pound chicken breast that is marinated, seared, and finished à la sous vide. The “Spicy Take” will include the additional step of being doused in a cayenne-laced buffalo sauce. Both sandwiches are served on brioche rolls slathered with aïoli. The sandwiches will be priced starting at $10.99.

“This is no ordinary chicken sandwich,” Eduardo Luz, Panera’s Chief Brand & Concept Officer told Nation’s Restaurant News. “This is for a guest looking for a delicious, chef-crafted, gourmet-level sandwich…. This will shatter the expectations of what a chicken sandwich should taste like.”…

But will it? In November 2019, people waited in line two hours to sample Popeyes’s vaunted chicken sandwich. But that sandwich was battered and deep-fried and cost only $4. Is that where Americans’ tastes run or are they ready for something completely different?