Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Heaven On A Bun

Good evening everyone! I spoke a few weeks ago about seeing certain recipes and then becoming motivated to make them. Last time, it was french toast that spurred me into action. This week, it's pulled pork sandwiches. The pulled pork sandwich seems to vary from region to region. Some regions prefer a sandwich that is dripping with a light, almost soupy BBQ sauce. Others prefer the sauce and pork to 'fuse' together, creating a thick almost stew like mixture. Some sauces are sweet, some are tangy, some are spicy. The only consensus on the pulled pork sandwich is that there is no consensus on how it's 'properly' done.

I'm using that lack of consensus to my advantage tonight and making one large change to the classic pulled pork sandwich. I'm removing the pork. This isn't in some dramatic attempt to shake things up - I'm actually removing the pork because pork and my digestive system don't get along too well. While the flavor of a pulled pork sandwich would be great; the all night long full of discomfort and suffering would really put a damper on things. As such, I'm substituting pork with chicken.

For this recipe, it is best to use boneless, skinless chicken thighs over any other piece of chicken. This is because the thighs of a chicken are dark meat - and a little more dense. While breast meat is leaner, chicken it also isn't as 'absorbent' when marinating all day. Thigh meat tends to be a little more moist than breast meat, and given the recipe we're making today - all the moisture we can get, we will take.

The major difference between the two is that thighs tend to be higher in fat than breasts. However, since we are using boneless, skinless thighs, you are cutting a significant portion of fat (from the skin) out of the equation. If you are like us, and cannot find boneless skinless thighs, that problem can be remedied with a good pair of kitchen shears and a few minutes of extra work.

Simply take you shears and trim the skin right off of the the chicken. If you start in the middle of the thigh, you should be able to work and easy seam right down the center. Simply lift the skin like a book page, and it should completely rip off on the side or at the very least expose where one extra snip is needed.


We didn't go to the extra work of removing the bones from the thighs for this recipe - I didn't see a lot of advantages for all of the extra work. Since we're shredding the meat from the bone at the end of the recipe anyway - no sense in making extra steps for things that can be remedied later on.

Once all the prep work is out of the way - all you need is a good BBQ sauce recipe and you're ready to go. During last summer, I came across a BBQ sauce recipe that blew Maggie and myself away. We could not believe the flavor that this particular recipe delivered. I've made up a batch or two since that time, but only to keep in a jar and use as a table BBQ sauce with other recipes. I've been looking for a way to feature this sauce again and tonight I have finally found the place to do so. If you have your own favorite homemade BBQ sauce recipe, it can easily be substituted into this dish as well. Now, let's get cooking!

The Recipe: Savory BBQ Chicken Sandwiches
This is an Out Of The Culinary original recipe!

What You'll Need:

For the BBQ sauce-

1 Cup Ketchup
3 Tablespoons Molasses
3 Tablespoons Cider Vinegar
2 Tablespoons Grated Onion (Minced Onion OK Too)
2 Tablespoons Maple Syrup
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
2 Tablespoons Dijon Mustard
1 Teaspoon Chile Powder
1/4 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper

4-6 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs

It is important to choose a mild or 'original' flavored molasses - as lighter styles are more bitter and will ruin the rich, smokey flavor you're looking for in a BBQ sauce.

Begin by mixing all of the BBQ sauce ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Whisk until everything is blended very well.

I'm always amazed by the metamorphosis this sauce makes while its being blended together. When everything is first piled into the bowl, it's black, soupy and pungent smelling (thanks mainly to the molasses). However, after a few minutes of elbow grease, the mixture develops into a deep crimson colored, thick and certainly BBQ-like smelling concoction. For those that still doubt that this hodgepodge of pantry items can create a fantastic BBQ sauce, I invite you to take a little taste of the mixture now. See? Told ya so.
Fresh BBQ Sauce

Normally, with this BBQ sauce recipe you'd have to cook the mixture in a skillet or pot for about 15 minutes to thicken the sauce up and bring out all of the great smokey flavor. However, since you're cooking the sauce with the chicken for at least 5 hours - I don't really think the 15 minutes of stove top cooking is going to make a lot of difference in the long run.

All that's left to do is pour a little bit of the sauce into the bottom of a 4 to 5 quart slow cooker. Next, nestle the chicken thighs in the bottom of the cooker and pour the remaining sauce over the chicken. Make sure everything is evenly covered with sauce.

Set the slow cooker to low and allow to cook for at least 5 hours before serving.

Just before you're ready to serve the chicken. Remove the thighs from the slow cooker (set the cooker to warm) and place them on a large tray or in a large bowl (I found that a bowl works best). You wont have to do much more than pick up the chicken pieces with a pair of tongs - the meat should be dropping right off of the bone. Simply transfer the chicken pieces over to the bowl, toss with the tongs until the meat is shredded to the desired consistency and pick out the bones.

The bones literally fell right off the meat
The one thing I wasn't expecting with this recipe was that the BBQ sauce would break down during cooking. While the sauce went in thick and crimson - by the end of a 8+ hour cook - it was soupy and a little black. You can still make use of the sauce here, however, while it may not look visually like BBQ sauce - it certainly still tastes like BBQ sauce. Simply use a ladle to spoon the sauce into the bowl (as much or as little as you prefer) with the shredded chicken, toss with tongs and serve. 

The Results:

Last summer, when I first made up a batch of this BBQ sauce, I claimed that it was the best sauce I had ever tasted. I still stand by that claim. This sauce produces a rich, smokey flavor that walks the fine line between spicy and hot - all the while delivering that 'fresh off the woodsmoker' flavor without all of the fuss of the wood and smoke. The chicken was amazingly tender and still incredibly moist - and as a bonus, it had absorbed the great flavoring of the BBQ sauce after stewing in the mixture all day.

This recipe is the definition of simple cooking. With about 20 minutes of total prep time (even less if you don't have to skin the chicken) you can whip this up before work, let it cook all day and then return home to a delicious dish that will taste like it took you hours to prepare. All day flavors, a few minutes prep time - that's what I like to call the best of both worlds.

Recipes like this are prime candidates to make it into our next cookbook (which could be pretty huge if we keep up cooking great recipes like this!) If you have yet to buy our current edition of the cookbook (what's wrong with you?) you can pick up your copy here. It's affordable, filled with great recipes and goes towards a great cause (supporting your favorite amateur chefs!)

We didn't post an update via our Facebook page yesterday - but we did share a brief story involving honey bees and organized crime. If you missed it, scroll down below this post and check it out. It's worth a read and sure to be the strangest thing you've read today.

That's all we have for you this evening. Maggie closes out cooking for the week tomorrow evening with revisit to a recipe I've made on the blog before - but she's taking it on in a whole new way. Old recipe, 100% new way to make it. It should be interesting to see how the two compare. Check back tomorrow evening to find out. Until then,


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