Football does not excite me. Watching guys who are paid millions of dollars to dress in tight outfits and run around a field tackling other guys does not excite me. A game that turns 5 minutes into 20 minutes and makes me wait to watch The Amazing Race does not excite me. You wanna know what does excite me? Cheesy dips, spicy chicken wings, salty chips and peanut butter brownies shaped like little footballs. That’s right, the truth is out…I like football food. And I’m not alone. I recently read that in terms of food consumption the Super Bowl ranks third, behind only Thanksgiving and Christmas! I guess there’s something about this game that really makes us hungry. I’m all about any excuse to have friends over for eating and sharing good food so naturally the Super Bowl is my kind of thing. Never mind the fact that I can’t follow the game, don’t know which team belongs to which city and couldn’t tell you the names of any of the players if my life depended on it. It doesn’t matter because I’m really only in it for the food. Every year we have few people over for a Super Bowl gathering. I like to keep it small because that way everyone has a comfy place to sit and also it’s a bit more conducive to eating an actual meal rather than just stuffing ourselves with appetizers and desserts. Alright, maybe the truth is that we have a meal and we stuff ourselves with appetizers and desserts. It’s okay though because it’s the Super Bowl and that’s what we do. Even though this favorite day of gluttony is still more than a week away I figured it wouldn’t hurt to brush up on one of my favorite game day dishes. The best way to describe this Crockpot Chicken Sandwich is that it’s like pulled pork without the pork. After slowly simmering the chicken thighs until the meat is falling off the bone you mix it with a boldly flavored home made barbeque sauce packed with spice, sweet and plenty of tang. If that isn’t enough flavor, you then top the whole thing with a crunchy cabbage, carrot and apple slaw and serve it inside a whole wheat roll. Yup, that’s right… you put the coleslaw inside the sandwich. Trust me when I tell you how incredible this is. It’s not just the flavor – smoky sweet meets tangy fresh- but the texture of the crisp cabbage and apples combined with the melt-in-your mouth chicken that makes this sandwich so truly amazing. You don’t need a football game to make this recipe, but when you have a football game- you need this recipe! This is a great meal to make for a crowd because it serves 8 people, but even if you are only 4 (or 2 like us) make the whole thing anyway. Believe me…you will be glad you did the next day when you’re feasting on the leftovers.
Crockpot Pulled Chicken with Crunchy Slaw
Chicken recipe is adapted from the Penskys Spice Catalog, the coleslaw is my own creation
Makes 6 generous portions or 8 modest portions
For the Chicken
4 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (You can use boneless skinless chicken if you must but the cooking time will probably need to be reduced by a few hours so it doesn’t dry out)
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 medium onion, sliced into rings
1 (12) ounce medium flavor beer
Whole wheat rolls for serving
For the Sauce
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
14 ounces diced tomatoes
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup molasses
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon brown mustard
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon chipotle pepper
For the Coleslaw
4 cups red cabbage, shredded or chopped small
1 cup carrot, grated
2 tablespoons green onion, finely chopped
3/4 cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
* This makes enough coleslaw to top the sandwiches with plenty extra left to eat on the side. If you just want to top the sandwiches I would recommend cutting the recipe in half.
1. Combine the chili powder, garlic powder, paprika and brown sugar in a small bowl. Rub all over the chicken. Place the onion in the bottom of the crock pot. Put the chicken in on top of the onions and pour in the beer. The liquid should come about 2/3 of the way up the chicken. If it doesn’t, add enough water to reach this level. Alternatively, you can substitute all the beer for water, but I promise the flavor with the beer is far superior. Turn the crockpot to low and cook for about 6 hours or until the meat is falling away from the bone.
2. Make the coleslaw. (I like to do this an hour or so before the chicken is ready so that I can let the veggies and dressing hang out in the fridge together for a while before serving. It softens the cabbage a bit and makes the whole thing more flavorful. ) In a large bowl combine the cabbage, carrot and green onions. In a small bowl mix together the plain yogurt, vinegar, honey and spices. Pour the dressing over the cabbage mixture and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
3. When the chicken is cooked remove it from the crockpot and set on a plate until cool enough the handle. In the meantime you can make the sauce.
4. In a medium size saucepan heat the olive oil and cook the onions and garlic over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes or until the onions are just starting to turn translucent. Turn the heat down to medium and add the remaining sauce ingredients (diced tomatoes through chipotle pepper). Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. The sauce will thicken and darken as it cooks. You can either leave the sauce as is in its chunky state, or you can throw it in your blender and make it smooth. I like it both ways, but it’s hard for me to pass up any excuse to use my favorite kitchen tool- the immersion blender- so usually I stick that baby right in the pot and give it a few whirls till I have a thick, smooth sauce.
5. When the chicken is cool enough to handle peel off the skin and discard. Remove the meat from the bones using a fork or your fingers. Place the shredded chicken in the pot with the sauce and mix thoroughly. You can serve the chicken warm or at room temperature.