Summer means barbecue and casual outdoor eating. Growing up meant family BBQs at my Great Aunt Helen and Uncle Perry’s rural home in upstate New Jersey on Labor Day Weekend and 4th of July with a crowd of at least 50, all immediate family related.
There was a freestanding field stone fireplace with an ancient iron grill fitted in cooking those burgers, hot dogs, and chicken positioned between the fish pond and the picnic table for the penny Annie poker game for the over 80 set, all players wearing visors.
But many cooks do not have room on their apartment deck for a barbecue set up, don’t have a yard with their condo, are too lazy, or else they never learned how to cook on one. My mother got a new gas BBQ with all the bells and whistles and misses her simple old charcoal BBQ that she had for 25 years which cooked perfect every time. Enter the slow cooker for making a pulled dark meat chicken BBQ. There wont be the burned edges, but you wont miss that at all. And no mess.
Some cooks are just naturals in their ability to create tasty food. This is a favorite casual entertaining dish shared especially for the NYMSC books by my foodie friend Mary Ellen Evans, the author of a bevy of excellent books on chicken. She not only teaches this recipe in her cooking classes, but makes it at home for parties as well. It’s a hit everywhere and as great for eating on super bowl Sunday in front of the TV as it is for fourth of July and Labor Day backyard picnics. It goes together so fast (you just stir together the sauce ingredients and there is no browning of the chicken) you can make it even if you cannot cook. It cooks all day, so it is very convenient if you are away for the day or working.
The secret to the incredible dimension of taste? A dash of ground smoky chipotle chile powder. Oh gosh is it good. Go ahead and double or triple this if you are serving a large crowd; it will cook in the same amount of time, but be sure to use a large slow cooker so the meat is loosely piled in.
The Best Pulled BBQ Chicken
Cooker: Large round or oval
Setting and Cook Time: LOW for 8 to 9 hours
1 small yellow onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 large garlic clove, minced (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
8 to 10 (2 pounds) boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon dried ground chipotle chile powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 to 12 hamburger buns, split
1. Spray the crock with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle the onion and garlic over the bottom, then top with the chicken thighs.
2. In a bowl, stir together the ketchup, cider vinegar, oil, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, chipotle chile powder, and salt together in a medium bowl until well blended; pour over the thighs. Cover and cook on LOW for 8 to 9 hours, until the chicken is fork tender and easily pulls apart. Remove the chicken, then in batches, pull the meat apart into chunks; return to the slow cooker and stir to combine. Cover and place on KEEP WARM until serving.
You can leave the slow cooker on the table and let guests help themselves. Serve piled into fresh, soft buns (and have lots of napkins nearby) with coleslaw, a bean salad, and wedges of cold seedless watermelon on the side. I have included recipes for the side salads since when I read about meal suggestions, I go crazy not getting those recipes too:
Coleslaw with Apple Cider Vinegar Dressing
Everyone eats coleslaw! There are all manner of cole slaws, since cabbage takes to so many flavor additions. Here is the most basic coleslaw you will ever find and the most addicting. The first time I was served it, a specialty of my friend the late Mary Ann McCready, I almost poo-pooed it for being too simple. But I dare you to stop eating after a few bites. The secret is good, organic apple cider vinegar, one of Mary Ann’s favorite ingredients, which tastes way better than just regular cider vinegar. While you can shred the cabbage in the food processor, Mary Ann always used her favorite chef knife and took the time to hand cut the cabbage very fine; she said it made the salad better.
- Serves 8
- 2 medium heads green cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
- 1 medium-large red onion, sliced very thin and coarsely chopped
- Few pinches of salt
- Plenty of turns of freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup light olive oil or other neutral oil of choice
- 1/4 cup cider vinegar
- Place the cabbage and onion in a deep serving bowl and toss with your hands. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil and vinegar; pour half of the dressing over the cabbage. Toss to evenly coat the cabbage, adding more dressing as needed. Cover and chill 6 to 8 hours. Serve cold.
Black and White Bean Salad
The best effect of the vegan revolution is that beans have a new found respect. I adore bean salads and this one is from California Sol Food from the Junior League of San Diego (2004). The mango is sensational with the tomato, beans, celery, and cucumber and it is easy to assemble.
- Serves 8
- 2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 (15-ounce) cans white beans (Great Northern or cannelloni), drained and rinsed
- 1 large mango, peeled and chopped
- 1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
Tomato Cilantro Dressing
- 3 oil-pack sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
- 2 plum tomatoes, seeds and finely chopped
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup light or mild flavored olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Combine the beans, mango, cucumber, and celery in a large salad bowl.
In a small bowl, combine the sun-dried tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, cilantro, shallot, and vinegar. Whisk in the olive oil with a fork. Season to taste.
Add the dressing to the beans and toss to evenly coat with an over sized spoon. Cover and let stand 30 minutes at room temperature to meld the flavors, or refrigerate up to 6 hours until serving and let stand to come to room temperature. Best eaten the day it is made.