Pulling Chicken for a Crowd

This is one of my go-to recipes that although I prepare it off the top of my head on a regular basis, I had never taken the time to write down. I suppose I never bothered to write about it before because this recipe changes depending on what I have in my fridge and my cravings. Somehow I never thought to serve when I have people over… Until now!

This week my workplace is organizing a potluck and I had been pondering on what to bring for a while. On the sign-up list there were lots of salads, sweets, appetizers but no main dishes, so I decided that I would fill that gap. What is bite-size, easy to cook for a crowd and fun to eat? That is when I decided I would finally test drive this recipe and take the opportunity to finally jot down a basic version of my pulled chicken sandwiches.

At a potluck a full sandwich is too much per person since people usually want to taste a little bit of everything, so I shrank my sandwiches into an oh-so-trendy slider. Garnish with peppery arugula lettuce and pickled red onion – now I’m in business!

Note: you can estimate one boneless and skinless chicken thigh per person for a full sandwich. This recipe is written for 4 sandwiches.

Pulled Chicken

  • 4 boneless and skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 medium onion, halved and sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • ½ bell pepper, sliced thin and 1 inch long
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste (or use ½ of a fresh tomato)
  • ½ cup beer
  • ¼ cup barbecue sauce of your choice (jarred or homemade work)
  • Salt and pepper

In a pot, drizzle the bottom with vegetable oil and bring to a medium-high temperature. Add the onion, garlic, bell pepper and chicken thighs. Season well with salt and pepper, cook until chicken is brown on all sides, and the vegetables start to caramelize. Add the tomato paste and beer. Stir well until all brown bits have unstuck from the bottom of the pot (this is what we call deglazing). Bring down the temperature to medium-low and cook the chicken for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Now comes in the pulled part of the recipe. Some of the chicken pieces will have started to fall apart but for the larger ones, take them out of the pot, arm yourself with two forks and start pulling! With a fork in each hand, you want to bring the tips together into the meat and pull it apart, and then repeat until you get a stringy meaty mess. After a couple pieces you will get the hang of it. Once you have pulled the chicken thighs, transfer the meat back into the pot, add the barbecue sauc, mix well and bring it to a simmer. If you find the mixture to be too dry just add a splash or two of water to help combine all the final ingredients.

Pickled Onions

  • 1 medium red onion
  • ½ cup cider vinegar
  • 1 pinch chili flakes or pepper

Cut the onion in half and slice it thinly. In a bowl or jar, combine the sliced onion, vinegar and chili flakes. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Serving suggestions:

Like I mentioned, this recipe started as a sandwich, but it turns out it can evolve into many forms.

For the sandwich, grab any bread you like and start building: arugula lettuce, pickled onions and cheese is simple enough, but really showcases the pulled chicken recipe.

As I recently discovered, you can also turn them into sliders or open-faced bites on toast to serve at a party, as appetizers, hors d’oeuvres, tapas, snacks…and the list goes on!

Cut out the extra carbs and serve in lettuce cups with chopped cilantro and plain yogurt for a healthier alternative.

Create a new twist on nachos and grill some up before the next Habs game (in case they ever score again!).

Use it as filling in your home version of tacos and burritos.

Did I miss something? Let me know!

Dishcrawl – Discover the Montreal Downtown Core

For those of you who don’t know what Dishcrawl is, you can read all about my first experience and what it’s all about here.

The latest Dishcrawl Montreal event was all about the discovering the Downtown Core. I am not sure if many people would agree with me on this, but I feel that when faced with having to dine in this part of town, the general consensus is that it is lacking great places at a reasonable price. Sure I can recommend the Queue de Cheval, Café Ferreira or Cavalli, but most of us (including me) don’t always want to or have the income to spend upward of $100 per head to eat out on a regular basis, and if I were, I would probably still choose a different neighborhood at that. For the most part, I would rarely choose to eat out in Montreal’s Downtown Core.

However, when I signed up for this Dishcrawl I saw it as the perfect opportunity to discover new places and perhaps even change my opinion of the restaurants in this ‘hood. 

And so our evening began at ZenYa, a Japanese restaurant on Ste-Catherine, across the street from the Saint James United Church. It was a great call to put ZenYa on the itinerary. This restaurant is tucked in on the second floor of a building with a narrow entrance and even tinier elevator. Unless you know about it, chances are you wouldn’t find it. I have been to ZenYa on many occasions so this was not a new discovery for me and they certainly lived up to expectations. Their sushi is always impeccable and for this event the chef presented us with a mix fresh and smoked salmon on a crispy roll over a miso glaze, and a generous portion of a tempura and freshwater eel maki. Both delicious with a different spin to a Japanese classic.

Our second stop was at iBurger, which opened up just six weeks ago. I knew that Montreal didn’t have enough burger joints (can you sense the sarcasm?) but I am always on the lookout for a great burger wherever it may me. This place had much more to offer than the typical fare – it offered an i-experience! Yes, you read that correctly: i-experience. Each table has a touch screen that enables each diner to select and order their menu directly. As Dishcrawlers, our food menu was preset but we did have the opportunity to order some i-drinks. Touch screen, browse around, select drink, sit back and relax until the waiter brings it to you. After receiving our drink orders, a description popped-up onto the table screen and we were presented three mini-burgers: an beef Angus classic, a vegetarian burger with a twist, and a salmon burger. My favorite was the vegetarian: it was such a creative take on a classic burger and all the flavours hit the spot nicely. Organic quinoa, shiitake and portobello mushrooms, spinach, goat cheese, all wrapped up in a phyllo pastry. Aside from the veggie-burger there isn’t much to write home about here… but I do think this place deserves another shot. I perused the menu using the nifty table touch-screen and noticed a duck hot-dog. I will be back – because as you know, I always kinda want a hot-dog!

We then proceed towards Decca77 for our third course of the evening. Decca77 has a good standing reputation on the Montreal food scene. It’s been talked about, raved about and more. It was my first time stepping through those large glass doors and I made my way up the staircase surrounding the wine cellar to our table. The dish served was a veal bbq short-rib cooked sous-vide, served with with a foie gras and ice-cider polenta and a mushroom fricassee, and it looked superb! The flavours however were seriously lacking. The veal tasted good with its tangy bbq sauce but the meat should have been tenderer. The polenta was incredibly bland and a shame that foie gras was wasted in there. For me this dish was sub-par for a restaurant with such a notorious reputation. According to the Dishcrawlers I chatted with, Decca77 was a disappointment that evening – but in this case it was an exception, not the rule.

Our final stop for the evening was dessert at Le Newtown. In case you haven’t heard, the Chef of Le Newtown – Martin Juneau – recently earned himself the title of best Canadian chef at the Gold Medal Plates this year held in British Columbia. I’ve never eaten at Le Newtown for the simple reason that I am not a fan of the crowd – too high maintenance all around. Dessert was perfect: a selection of bite-size and excentric flavours. The selection included (counter-clockwise, starting from the bottom) a passion-fruit jelly, a lemon-coconut marshmallow, an apple caramel and chocolate lollipop, a yuzu meringue tart, and a chocolate milk cake with apricot and praline. Each bite was heavenly, especially the marshmallow. It reminded me of my childhood, but with a sophistication I could never have dreamed of for such an iconic treat.

The Dishcrawl experience was just as great as my first time. At the end of the day, my general opinion of restaurants in the Downtown Core hasn’t changed much. However,  I will have to swallow my down-to-earth pride, wine-and-dine myself at Le Newtown to see what else Chef Martin Juneau has to offer.

Also on my Downtown to-do list is to digitally order a hot-dog at iBurger.

The next Dishcrawl is Les Nuits Borgia and should be an experience like none-other. For more information click here.

Sadly I have other commitments that night and will have to miss it. You will find me at the vegetarian Dishcrawl on April 26th!

If you’re planning to attend Les Nuits Borgia Dishcrawl and would like to contribute your experience to Kristel’s Kitchen, then please contact me!

Can’t go out… Must still celebrate St-Patty’s

March 17th is the day that the Irish and its diaspora celebrate St-Patrick’s Day worldwide. For the rest of us, it is the day we like to pretend we’re Irish. We wear green, indulge in Guinness and after a few too many beers, believe we have the best Irish accent in town.

As for me, I like drinking Guinness all year round and I usually do my part of celebrating on the day of the St-Patrick’s Day parade in Montreal, which is tipically held the Sunday closest to March 17th.

Today however, I’m staying in because I’m sick with a cold. Now, just because I’m staying in wrapped in a blanket doesn’t mean I can’t observe this glorious holiday.

Earlier this week, a fellow food blogger posted this recipe for a simple yogurt cake. I’m not muh of a baker so when a cake recipe states “simple”, I’ll give it a try. Given my ill-ish state and the inability to go out and celebrate, I asked myself: How can I turn that cake into a St-Patty’s celebration?

Now, here’s what I did…

Yogurt Cake

You can find her cake recipe and her original post here. She also kindly provided an English translation for me to use, so I’ve posted it for those who have limited skills in the langue française:

  • 1 individual plain yogurt (generally a 125 ml pot or slightly more, use the pot to measure the other ingredients)
  • 2/3 pots of oil
  • 2 pots of sugar
  • 3 pots of flour
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon (or more) and zest of 1 lemon (optional)

In a bowl, combine the yogurt, flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Add the eggs, oil, lemon juice and its zest and mix until well blended. Pour the dough into a buttered cake pan or covered with parchment paper. Bake at 375° F for 30 minutes. Check for the baking with a knife or toothpick, which should come out dry and clean.

In her post she states that you can play around with a variety of different ingredients to make this cake your own. So in the spirit of St-Patrick’s Day, to her cake recipe I added 3 tbsp of Irish whisky and made a Guinness syrup to have with it.

Guinness Syrup

In a pot, bring one king-can of Guinness and 1/2 cup brown sugar to a simmer. Reduce the tempature to medium-low heat. Cook and reduce until syrupy, about 40 minutes. You should end up with a little less than one cup of syrup per kin-can of Guinness. To serve, drizzle over the cake. Any leftover syrup can also be used on top of icecream.

On that note, slainte everyone!

Easy Snacks, Apps, and Spreads

It is 6pm. You just got home from work. You just found out some friends/family are stopping by. Or you just want a nice snack to tide you over until a late dinner. Whatever the reason, you’re shuffling to put something together ASAP. Often when I’m on my own I enjoy plating a nice snack that looks good, tastes good and is a tease of indulgence, especially if you pair that with a beer, a dram of whisky or glass of wine. Though some may require a little more prep time, these snacks are easy to make and quick to put together. The first tip to keep in mind here is to pick up a baguette on your way home; you can top it with anything and makes for a quick snack. Or keep some crackers in you pantry; always useful.

Sliced Pear and Blue Cheese Crostini

All you need is baguette sliced on the bias, sliced pear and crumbled blue cheese. Layer the pears slices on the baguette, top with blue cheese and broil in the oven at 500°F until the cheese is melted. Plate-up and eat-up!

Caramelized Onion and Sundried Tomato Relish

Instead of an open-faced sandwich, serve this relish on bite size toast, crackers or bread. You can find the detailed recipe here. No sundried tomatoes on hand? Skip them and make a Caramelized Onion Relish. Top it with parmesan or cheddar shavings.

Tuna Tapenade

We almost always have a can of tuna on hand. Come on, admit it… they’re just practical. Liven up plain tuna by mixing it with olive oil, capers, sliced scallions, chives or marinated onion (soak onion slices in vinegar – I like using cider vinegar for its sweet and tart flavour), season with salt and pepper. Again, play around with different seasonings, oils, ingredients. Serve on toast, crackers, bread or even crudités.

Roasted Garlic and Zucchini Spread (make ahead)

This one requires a little more time to make but make a big batch ahead of time to use throughout the week. I use it in sandwiches but it makes a great spread or dip for appetizers. Preheat oven to 350°F. The garlic and zucchini are prepared simultaneously. Slice off the top of the head of garlic, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, wrap in foil and roast until brown and caramelize, about 45 minutes to an hour. Slice the zucchini in half, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper, spices and/or herbs of choice (try thyme or cumin). Roast on a baking sheet for about 45 minutes or until soft. Once cooked, sneeze out the garlic flesh from its skin into a food processor, add the zucchini and blend until smooth. Store in the fridge and consume as needed.

Stovetop Popcorn

I do not have a microwave. Nor do I own any form of popcorn making machine. Hence, I rediscovered what popcorn really tastes like without all the fake butter and salty additives that you get from the packaged kind, and it’s fantastic. It pops up in under 5 minutes and you can add any flavouring you like.

General guidelines: use a big pot on medium-high heat, generously drizzle the bottom with olive oil, pour in ½ cup of popcorn kernels add seasonings, cover and shake the pot as the popcorn begins to pop. Once popping slows, remove from heat, add salt and serve hot. Play around with flavours, different kinds of oil, etc. Here are some seasoning suggestions I’ve really enjoyed: mustard seeds and turmeric, lemon pepper, smoked paprika, I also like using popcorn as garnishes for some dishes. Be creative, play around with different oils, herbs, spices, etc.

What are some of you’re easy snack ideas? Share your tips or ask your questions in the comments section below.

Icehouse

Five hungry and slightly tipsy friends could not have made a better decision for a Friday night out. To the Icehouse we went! The Icehouse is a new Texas-style restaurant created by Nick Hodge from Kitchenette.

I could have ordered all items on the Chalkboard menu but we let our charming waiter Alejandro guide us through the process. He gave us fabulous wine, beer and drink suggestions. And came up with this menu for us:

Jalapeño stuffed with crab: the jalapeño remained crunchy and not too spicy too overpower its crab stuffing;

Lobster burrito: phenomenal, you can taste the sweetness of the lobster and other flavours complimented it perfectly;

Tater tots: crispy sweet potato taters – just pop them in your mouth;

Pulled pork tacos: thiŝ portion was a bit small to split amongst 5 people – I really liked it but didn’t get enough of a taste to get into a more thorough explanation;

Crab cakes: somehow you don’t often get crab cakes that taste like crab, but I may have found the exception – these cakes a packed with real crab meat

Bucket of fried chicken: coated in tangy BBQ sauce yet perfectly crispy with tender and juicy meat. Can’t find better fried chicken in this city!

Bucket of dr pepper ribs: the were cooked to perfection – often ribs just fall off the bone when you pick them up when they really shouldn’t, instead the flesh should come of clean when you bite into it and that’s exactly what these ribs were like;

The buckets are served with potato salad and cole slaw, typical sides but a blend of flavours that you would not get anywhere else, as well as the most delectable corn bread and buttermilk biscuits I’ve ever had. The combinations are excellent and I thoroughly enjoyed every bite.

It’s a very casual setting, don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and dig in. I loved digging into the buckets filled with damned hot chicken and ribs. Yes, forks are available but don’t bother asking for plates. As one friend found out – there are none, but you know what? It’s meant for sharing y’all!

The food was incredible to say the least. Nothing complicated here: great ingredients, comfort food, fun ambiance and a talented chef make for a winning combination. I foresee a very bright future for him, his team and this new venture.

Since that Friday, I’ve been hearing about their Lobster Tacos for Habs’ game nights… looks like I will be returning regularly, especially during the hockey playoffs. Now all I need is for the Canadiens to make it to the finals to justify me eating so much fried chicken and lobster buritos…

Oh, did I mention that they played the best music when we were there? They should publish their own iTunes playlist so that I can download it. Yeah, this place rocks.

Icehouse

514-439-6691
51 Rue Roy Est, corner of St-Dominique
Montreal, QC