Saturday, November 15, 2008

On Barbecue Sauce and Coleslaw

As I posted about below, I planned on using leftover meat from my roast chicken to make North Carolina-style pulled chicken sandwiches. I've been making pulled chicken sandwiches for years, since I found a recipe in Cook's Illustrated a while back. The basic idea is that it looks and tastes like pulled pork, but it's healthier. I've tooled with the Cook's Illustrated recipe for barbecue sauce over the years, and it's now one of those things I can make without much guidance.

A week or two ago, I came across another recipe for North Carolina-style barbecue sauce, and I noticed an immediate difference. While the hallmark of each recipe is the same: a watery, vinegary, slightly spicy sauce, The Cook's Illustrated recipe is much more tomato-based than the recipe I had found, which called for 1 part crushed red pepper flakes (buckle up!) to 6 parts cider vinegar, with (a lot of) salt and peppercorns to taste, combined and let rest for at least five hours.

I spent some time looking into regional barbecue sauce variations, and found some helpful guidance on the internet. A lot of people have written a lot about barbecue, too much to repeat here in any detail that does them justice. But in a nutshell, as you travel from the northeast (relatively speaking in this case, the northeast is coastal North Carolina) to the southwest (again relatively speaking, coastal Texas), barbecue moves from focusing on pork with a vinegar sauce, to beef with a tomato sauce. From Texas, tomato-beef based barbecue traveled up the Mississippi, like the blues, to Chicago. Note that a lot of easterners consider Texas outside the "barbecue belt" - apparently substituting beef for pork is an irrevocable sin.

At any rate, I wanted to try the more vinegar-based barbecue sauce recipe I had found, in large part because it's a lot easier (two ingredients, plus salt and pepper, as opposed to the laundry list of ingredients the Cook's Illustrated recipe I had modified called for). My regional knowledge also hinted that the CI recipe was probably based on inland North Carolina sauce, while the simple recipe was for very coastal North Carolina barbecue - I'm picturing the Outer Banks in this case, since the sauce is literally cider vinegar plus hot plus salt.

I substituted pulled leftover chicken for the pulled pork. That's probably barbecue heresy, but since I'm a Yankee, I'll plead ignorance and hope I get away with it. I piled chicken and a thimbleful of sauce (it's powerful stuff, and I'm usually the one with a steel stomach) on a toasted hamburger bun. I topped it with the following coleslaw recipe, which I made up and composed from vegetables that we got in our CSA share:

Coleslaw (use whatever vegetables make sense)

combine in a big bowl:
1 head napa cabbage, cleaned and cut into thin strips (1/8-1/4")
4 carrots, peeled and shredded with a cheese grater
1 daikon radish, peeled and shredded with a cheese grater
1 medium red onion, halved and then sliced into very thin semi-circles (as thin as possible)

and toss with a mixture of:
1 part mayonnaise (1/4-1/3 cup)
1 part plain yogurt (i used greek, but regular yogurt would work too)
1 part sour cream
1 big tablespoon of whole grain mustard
juice of one lemon or lime
lots and lots of fresh dill (at least a quarter cup).
taste this and adjust for taste - add some salt and pepper if you want.

let that sit for as long as possible in the refrigerator, tossing occasionally. it will get nice and coleslaw-y by the time you eat as flavors have a chance to come together and the acid beats down the veggies a little. adjust for seasoning again right before serving.

The end result of the sandwich was good - Warm, tangy, spicy meat topped with cool, refreshing, creamy coleslaw that also had a bite to it. We cracked open a reisling and set about enjoying our Friday night dinner. If I could make one change, I would have tried to heat up the chicken in a way that would have given it more of a barbecue texture as opposed to a roast chicken texture - maybe I should have roasted it to try to make it drier and a little crunchy? I briefly looked into assembling a smoker for my oven (I live in an apartment with no outdoor space, a continual bar to my quest for grilling and barbecue), and decided it would be 1) a pain and 2) a quest with a serious potential for me burning down the building. So I passed. But as soon as I save my pennies for a house with a backyard, the first thing I'm buying is a grill.

Oh, one more thing, an update on the chicken stock: I ended up with eight succulent cups of stock, which I froze in two-cup portions in ziploc bags. I will probably use four cups of it for chicken noodle soup later this weekend (it's supposed to be rainy and gross here all weekend - perfect soup weather), and save four cups of it for some other creation down the line. Or maybe I'll try what the commenter suggested, and fiddle with the leftover stock to make boullion. It's my kitchen, after all.

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