Sunday, July 29, 2012

A late dinner of barbecued pulled chicken

July 22, 2012

  • Barbecued Pulled Chicken on Potato Buns
  • Sweet Corn
  • Fruit Salad
  • Kona Longboard Island Lager
  • Häagen-Dazs Bars
I had made these pulled chicken sandwiches once before and I have fond memories of these messy summer-time sandwiches. You might want to call them Sloppy Chicken. However, I had forgotten how much work the pulled chicken required, otherwise I might have planned on having something else for dinner. After the chicken has cooked and cooled it still takes a while to remove it from the bones and shred and chop. I had a lot of things to do around the house this weekend, and the combination of this and my poor planning was a very late dinner.

The pulled chicken is pretty easy to make. The recipe calls for 8 bone-in chicken leg quarters (about 7 pounds). Not finding any chicken leg quarters at the supermarket, we selected a five-pound tray of chicken thighs. The chicken is smoked on the grill for several hours until it reaches an internal temperature of 185°. The recipe allows two hours for this but it took longer on our grill. After 2¾ hours I took the chicken off of the grill and finished cooking it in the microwave oven. At this point you would think (at least I did) that you're almost done, but there's still a ways to go. First, let the chicken cool so that you can pull the meat from the bones with your fingers after discarding the skin and bones. About half of the chicken, the smaller pieces, is chopped in a food processor while you use two forks to pull apart the larger pieces. This combination of chopped and shredded chicken provides an excellent texture for the sandwiches. It also, allows for more of the sauce to be incorporated into the meat. The flavorful, well-balanced sauce includes many ingredients and is neither too sweet nor too sour nor too spicy. It's a relatively mild sauce that goes well with the smoked chicken meat, not overwhelming it.

The current issue of Cook's Illustrated has a recipe for Potato Burger Buns. I have eaten store-bought potato buns and enjoyed their soft texture and thought they would work well with pulled chicken. The recipe cites four advantages provided by the addition of potato to the dough: a quicker rise, a "super-soft crumb", moist texture, and a longer shelf life. If anything, these buns were easier to make than an all-wheat bun because the dough is so easy to work with. Unlike the hot dog buns I made a few month ago, the hamburger buns were reasonably uniform in size and shape.  I probably should have let them rise longer but they still came out well, soft with nice flavor but still strong enough to stand up to the wet filling. A nice fringe benefit is the left over mashed potatoes. I fried these in a little butter, seasoned them with some salt and pepper, topped with ketchup, and enjoyed a snack.

At it most basic level, bread is made from just four ingredients: flour, salt, yeast, and water. While these buns have a few additional ingredients, they come a lot closer to the simple recipe than those you buy at the supermarket. Next time you buy supermarket bread, look at the list of ingredients and count how many there are. How many do you recognize and how many can you even pronounce? Might it be worth the extra effort to make your own bread which tastes better, has much better texture, and is probably healthier, than anything you can buy.

I tried a new method for cooking fresh sweet corn after reading about it in two places this week, on 101 Cooking for Two and the America's Test Kitchen Feed. The unhusked corn was placed in the microwave and cooked for four minutes an ear. The stalk end of the corn was then cut off and the husk removed. It didn't just slip off as described though slitting the husks before pulling it off helped. As I went through the four ears of corn, however, I got better at the process and any difficulties I had may disappear with more experience. Even the silk slips right off the corn and there is little left to pick off. It was an interesting approach and worked pretty well once I started to get the hang of it.

I made a seasonal salad using fruits that we had at hand: watermelon, peach, nectarine, apple, and banana. I sprinkled a little lemon juice over the fruit to help prevent the banana and apple from turning brown.

For Caryn we bought some vegetarian chicken and mixed it with the barbecue sauce so she had very much the same meal as we did. Alex had dinner with us, too, and even with three of us eating the chicken sandwiches we had a lot left over, our portion sizes are apparently smaller than those of the recipe writers.

A lesson to learn from this meal is to be more careful when planning so there is enough time to prepare the food given other commitments. Creating extra pressure on yourself to get the food on the table before it gets too late to eat is not as enjoyable as having time to enjoy your time in the kitchen.

Potato Burger Buns
Barbecued Pulled Chicken


  1. I bought a 12-pack of various beers from this brewery. Caleb had some when he was here. He didn't care for the dark ale, too mug coconut.