Crock Pot BBQ Pulled Chicken

In New England, there’s a funny thing that happens to everyone when summer fades, the fall leaves all hit the ground and winter’s unmistakable bite is in the air.

Everyone gets upset.

“Ugh, it’s going to SNOW soon.”

“Not looking forward to snow, that’s for sure.”

“I can’t get used to this. What happened to summer?!?”

Well I’ll tell you what happened to summer. The seasons changed, just like they do every year, and now it’s winter.

It’s because of the general unhappiness about this well-known tradition in weather patterns that most people think I’m nuts for not regarding it with the same disdain.

But honestly all I can think about is winter cooking. It’s kind of like rediscovering your sweater collection after a summer of wearing dresses and shorts. It feels new and exciting and full of possibilities (I really like sweaters).

Squash Chicken (10)

Out comes the crock pot. Slow cooking delicious veggies and meats all day long is one of the absolute best things about winter. Especially after a long, cold day hiking or snowshoeing, it’s all I can think about.

This pulled chicken dish was inspired by my recent trip to Syracuse, NY for a race. While there, my running travel buddy Kate and I went to Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, which is well-known for its authentic BBQ – and for good reason. It was a truly amazing meal.

Squash Chicken (6)

I actually found Dinosaur BBQ bottled sauce at our local grocery store (that’s how famous it is), so even though it’s not pulled pork, this dish is still slathered in mouth-watering, lip-smackingly sweet and savory sauce that you’ll dream about when it’s gone.

What You Need:

  • One whole chicken. Size doesn’t matter too much, as long as it’ll fit in your crock pot
  • 1 yellow onion (or half a yellow and half a red, like I did)
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 jar of your favorite BBQ sauce – look for Dinosaur BBQ!

What You Do:

Slice the onion and lay the slices on the bottom of the crock pot, creating a bed on which the chicken will lie. This helps insulate the heat and keep the chicken from over cooking in one area over another.

So I skinned the chicken (messy business) and trimmed off some of the fat before I put it in the crock pot. If you like the skin, that’s up to you. It’ll save some time to leave it on, for sure. Just make sure to empty the insides. If you’ve ever made a Thanksgiving turkey, it’s the same deal.

Squash Chicken (1)                    Squash Chicken (2)

Place the whole chicken over the bed of onions. Pour the vegetable broth over the whole thing, and then sprinkle with pepper.

Place the lid on there and set on high for 4 hours, or low for 6.

A good way to test if the chicken is “pulled chicken-ready” is to try pulling off a leg or something. If it pulls right off the bone, you’re good to go.

Using two large wooden spoons, lift the chicken out of the crock pot and place on a large cutting board. VERY CAREFULLY pull the meat apart, separating it into a large bowl. Pull out any and all bones you find. Some will be big and obvious, but there are a multitude of smaller, more hidden bones and/or hard cartilage parts that will make a giant mouthful of pulled chicken sandwich suddenly more of an ordeal than it should be.

Squash Chicken (3)

Once you have separated the meat from the bones and pulled out all the bones you can find, use a fork to break it up further. I then used my hand to sift through the pulled chicken to double-check all the bones and hard part had been removed. This is a critical step so be extra careful.

Then, add your BBQ sauce! Be liberal and mix it around well with your fork.

Serve on two pieces of toasted bread and, of course, add more BBQ sauce if the mood strikes you!

 

Pro-Tip: Don’t mash too hard with the fork. Pulled chicken is pulled chicken, not chicken salad! 🙂

Squash Chicken (13)

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork with Sweet Potato and Beer

On Sunday I received a text that spoke directly to my heart.

photo

The text came from my friend Mary, and to be fair, we had finished a 17 mile run just hours earlier. But if I’m going to be honest here, I will admit that I usually feel like I want to eat everything, regardless of how far I’ve run or even whether I’ve run at all.

I have a lot of cravings that tend to dictate what Mike and I eat for dinner.

IMG_3699

As you probably guessed, On Sunday like my friend Mary, I too felt like eating everything. To handle this feeling in the most mature and self-controlled way possible, I ate a handful of sour jelly beans and drove to the supermarket to buy ingredients for one of my favorite comfort food meals – slow cooker pulled pork. I felt like I needed comfort food – who doesn’t?!?

Knowing Mike and I couldn’t eat it until Monday night practically drove me insane, but it was well worth the wait. Absolutely delish! And I got kudos for making pork (Mike’s all-time fav meat dish that I rarely make).

IMG_3667

Seasoned Pork ready to start slow cooking.

IMG_3661

Spice Rub!

What You Need:

  • A boneless pork shoulder (also commonly called pork butt) between 3 and 5 pounds
  • One large sweet potato, grated or shredded (I used my food processor)
  • One large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3-4 scallions, chopped
  • 1 1/4 cup beer (I used a brown ale. If you don’t want to use beer, the same amount of vegetable or chicken broth works too)
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp ground red pepper (cayenne)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups of your favorite BBQ sauce (I used Thicker Style Hot Bone Suckin’ Sauce)

IMG_3645What You Do:

Line the bottom of the crock pot dish with the graded or shredded sweet potato, the thinly sliced onion, minced garlic and chopped scallions.

Pour the beer over the mixture. Drink the rest!

In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, chili powder, salt, cayenne, cumin and cinnamon.

Prepare your pork. I sliced it into large chunks and cut off as much fat as I could.

Rub the spice mixture over the pork pieces and place the pork over the onion mixture in the crock pot dish.

Set the crock pot on High for 6-8 hours OR on Low for 8-10 hours.

When it’s ready, spoon the pork out of the crock pot onto a separate plate.

Drain the liquid left in the crock pot through a strainer and INTO A POT so it doesn’t go down the drain. (This is only important to do if you do not wish to use BBQ sauce. If that’s the case, see below for the Pro Tip).

Return the onion mixture that was captured in the strainer to the crock pot. Return the pork to the crock pot and with a fork, begin pulling it apart until it is all looking like goodness.

Add your BBQ sauce and it’s ready to serve!

Pro Tip: If you do not wish to use BBQ sauce, pour the strained liquid back into the pulled pork mixture slowly until the pork is moistened (you may not need all of it!)

Pro Tip #2: Select a gluten-free BBQ sauce for a totally GF meal!

Pro Tip #3: Take advantage of the fact that this recipe allows you to say “pork butt” multiple times in conversation.

Smuttynose Old Brown Dog

Smuttynose Old Brown Dog – a perfect beer for this recipe!