Black Pepper Molasses Pulled Chicken Sliders

  Black Pepper Molasses Pulled Chicken Sliders   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Black Pepper Molasses Pulled Chicken Sliders | Image: Laura Messersmith

Back in the day (like 7 years ago) Mike and I took a roadtrip from Boston, MA to Dallas, TX and decided that we’d make it a BBQ Tour since our route took us through the Carolinas, Memphis, and then of course, on to Texas. Since then we’ve both developed some strong opinions on what constitutes “good” barbecue. Don’t get me wrong, I love some Lockhart smoked brisket, but I also can’t get enough of Kansas City-style sauce.

This recipe started from one I spotted in an issue of Cooking Light and after making it over and over again I eventually developed my own version that combines the sweet, spicy, layered flavors that I love so much. The chicken cooks in a thick, molasses and ketchup based sauce that has a little tang of vinegary umami from the Worcestershire sauce add in the smoky depth of cumin and this pulled chicken is so, so good.

And, since you might be in the market for some Game Day ideas this is one I’d recommend since it’s really easy to make ahead and reheat before serving (an extra splash of chicken stock will help if it seems a little dry.) I put these together with a few different toppings – fresh arugula, pickled red onion, dill chips – but a spoonful of coleslaw, or some sweet pickle relish along with an extra smother of sauce would be great.

Keep this baby in your back pocket for a summer cook out too – it works in all seasons!

  Black Pepper Molasses Pulled Chicken Sliders   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Black Pepper Molasses Pulled Chicken Sliders | Image: Laura Messersmith

Black Pepper Molasses Pulled Chicken Sliders (yield: 12 sliders)
Ingredients:
1/2 cup tomato ketchup
1/4 cup tablespoons molasses
3 tablespoons spicy brown mustard (I like Gulden’s)
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 dash Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons dark or light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ancho chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 pounds skinless boneless chicken breasts
1 dozen mini hamburger buns
1 cup dill pickle chips
1 1/2 cups pickled red onion
Barbecue sauce, for serving (I like this one from W-S)

Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large pot or French oven, whisk together the ketchup, mustard, molasses, cider vinegar, chicken broth, brown sugar, and spices. Warm over medium-low heat until the sauce comes to a simmer. This is a good time to taste the sauce if you want to make adjustments.

Meanwhile, trim the chicken breasts and dice into large pieces, about 1 inch square. Add the chicken pieces to the sauce and toss to coat evenly. Cover the pot and place in the oven to braise the chicken for 50-60 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.

Allow the chicken to cool slightly and shred into pieces with two forks while still warm. It will appear at first that there is too much sauce, but as the chicken is shredded it will absorb the excess.

Serve on toasted mini hamburger buns with dill chips, pickled red onion (recipe below), coleslaw or fresh arugula.

Recipe adapted and rewritten from Cooking Light.

Quick Pickled Red Onions
Ingredients:
5 ounces (1 medium) red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
Boiling Water

Instructions:
Boil 2 - 3 cups of water in a kettle.  Peel and thinly slice the onion into approximately 1/4" slices or half-moons.

In the container you plan to store the onions, add the sugar, salt, vinegar and flavorings.  Stir to dissolve.

Place the peeled and sliced onions in a sieve and place the sieve in the sink.  Slowly pour the boiling water over the onions and let them drain. Add the onions to the jar and stir gently to evenly distribute the flavorings. Seal the jar and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. 

The onions will be ready in about 30 minutes, but are better after a few hours. Store in the refrigerator. They will keep for several weeks but are best in the first week.

 Recipe rewritten from The Kitchn.

  Black Pepper Molasses Pulled Chicken Sliders   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Black Pepper Molasses Pulled Chicken Sliders | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes, indeed! For the pulled chicken I used my trusty 5.5 quart French oven, a large cutting board, serrated utility knife, liquid measuring cup, measuring spoons, a rubber spatula, and two dinner forks.

The quick pickled red onions need a teakettle or pot (for boiling the water), medium jam jar or other glass container, small cutting board, chef’s knife, liquid measuring cup, measuring spoons.

  Black Pepper Molasses Pulled Chicken Sliders  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Black Pepper Molasses Pulled Chicken Sliders | Image: Laura Messersmith