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Game Day Eats: Barbecue Chicken Sliders

There’s an unspoken rule in our house that when there is pork butt, it had better be smoked. And pulled. By a man. And while I think I have a pretty great recipe for oven pulled pork, it often gets scoffed at by the self-declared pit master I reside with. Problem is, I have barbecue cravings during the 50 weeks he’s not out back drinking beers and worshiping fire. So I found a loop hole. (Apparently the “pit master” doesn’t have any beef with me cooking chicken.)

It took a few tries, but I think I perfected my barbecue chicken recipe—a bold statement—but just ask my fiancé. He gave it his hard-earned seal of approval, which I gladly accepted. The secret is not really in the braise (although it helps) but in what comes next. To get the blackened, crispy ends that you expect from a barbecue joint, you’ve got to throw the chicken under the broiler. As for the results? You could fool anybody that’s not in on your scheme.

Since it’s finally football season, I prefer this barbecue chicken to make ultimate tailgate sliders with. Soft, fluffy potato buns and a quick vinegar slaw work as the perfect vehicles to cut the richness of the meat, and they make the sandwiches pretty cute, too. Sports fans: I believe we’ve got ourselves a touchdown! (Now, if only these were good enough to help my team win? Fat chance.)

Barbecue Chicken Sliders
Active time: 15 minutes
Total time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
Yields: 4 – 6 servings

For the barbecue chicken

4 – 5 pounds skinless chicken thighs* (I use a mix of boneless and bone-in)
Southern spice rub (recipe below)
1/2 cup pilsner-style beer
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup ketchup
2 teaspoons liquid smoke
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Favorite barbecue sauce (I prefer Sweet Baby Ray’s)

For the vinegar slaw

2 cups coleslaw mix
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
Kosher salt and pepper, to taste

For the southern spice rub

1/2 cup paprika
1/4 cup kosher salt
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons black pepper
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Rub the chicken thoroughly in the spice rub. In a large Dutch oven, whisk the beer, cider vinegar, ketchup, liquid smoke, and Worcestershire sauce until combined. Nestle the chicken into the Dutch oven, overlapping if necessary, and bring the mixture to a boil.

Cover the pot and move to the preheated oven. Cook the chicken until it is falling off the bone, about 75 – 90 minutes. Remove chicken with tongs to a large sheet pan or bowl. Allow to cool a few minutes, then shred using two forks (or my favorite bear claws). Discard any bones and gristle. Place the shredded chicken back into the cooking liquid and cool completely. (This step can be made up to two days in advance; just cover and refrigerate until ready to move forward.)

Turn the oven on broil. Push the chicken through a fine mesh sieve to remove excess sauce (do not discard the cooking liquid.) Arrange the chicken on two sheet pans and broil (working in batches) until the chicken is crisp and some of the ends are blackened, about 6 – 10 minutes each.

Toss the pulled chicken with your favorite barbecue sauce, a few tablespoons at a time, to your taste. Add a few tablespoons of cooking liquid to moisten, if desired. (I always save some liquid to add to the meat when reheating.) Serve barbecue chicken with steamed potato buns and vinegar slaw.

*Don’t use chicken breasts for this recipe because the meat will become very dry under the heat of the broiler. The fat in the dark meat will help keep the chicken moist.

For the vinegar slaw, combine the cole slaw mix with vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper. Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving. Taste, and adjust any seasonings if desired.

For the southern spice rub, mix all ingredients until well-blended. Refrigerate excess for later use.

Nealey moved from Alabama to the West Coast to follow her dreams, only to realize once there how much she missed good ol’ country cooking.  So she took to the kitchen and began re-creating the dishes of her past, but this time without any help from a can. What started out as a hobby turned into an obsession, so she quit her day job to pursue cooking, and eating, fulltime. Dixie Caviar is where you can follow her pursuits of all things Southern.

More Southern Favorites From Nealey

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