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!

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