A Glut of Plums
Julie Sahni's Saag

Jenny Rosenstrach's Pulled Chicken Sandwiches

Pulled chicken sandwich
When we were in Portland for one day last year on the book tour, our hotel was just a short walk from a square filled with food trucks. Once we'd unpacked, changed teeny tiny baby Hugo (sob!) and put on our walking shoes, we headed out for lunch. I wouldn't have been able to eat from more than one truck, but you should know that my husband's appetite belies his narrow frame. The man can eat and he certainly wouldn't let my wussy little appetite slow him down. Thanks to him, we were able to try things from several food trucks: poutine, Hawaiian barbecue and our absolute favorite, pulled chicken and coleslaw from a food truck specializing in Southern food.

Since then, that pulled chicken has come up more than once in conversation, mentioned in hushed, longing tones. But funnily enough, it never occurred to me that I could just make it myself. It turns out that I have a blind spot when it comes to meat. I sort of always forget that it's there, you know? Nine times out of ten, when I go to the grocery store, I don't even remember to go near the meat display.

But Jenny at Dinner: A Love Story mentioned pulled chicken sandwiches recently in a post about getting back into the cooking swing of things once the summer ends and, a few clicks later, there was her recipe staring back at me sweetly, looking all easy and satisfying and freezable, three words that get me hot and bothered these days. (I am such a cliché. I also cried after Hugo's first haircut the other day.)

Pulled chicken

True to her blog's mission, Jenny's recipe is such a cinch, but it totally delivers. You can used store-bought barbecue sauce (which I did - opting for one without any stabilizers, preservatives or high-fructose corn syrup) or make your own. You mix it up with some water, vinegar, a chipotle pepper, garlic, onion and bay, then poach the chicken in that mixture until it's cooked. The only real work you have to do is shred the chicken once it's cooked. Then you reduce the cooking liquid until it's saucy and stir the shredded meat back into it. Done.

What you're left with is a big pile of delicious meat that can be served for dinner right then and there, still leaving you with enough to freeze for a rainy day. The pulled chicken is sweet and spicy and delicious, as good forked up from a plate as it is piled high into a sandwich topped with cooling slaw. I used a mix of white and dark meat, because I like the flavor of dark meat, but Jenny's original recipe uses only breast meat.

I served the pulled chicken with coleslaw on hamburger buns to my mother-in-law, who was mightily impressed. I put a few shreds on Hugo's plate, figuring he'd find it too spicy or strange, but he gobbled them up like a good little American. (He preferred to daintily drop on the floor the shreds of cole slaw his grandmother gave him.) The rest I froze for when Max is home on the weekend and we are hungry and feeling nostalgic about our amazing trip to the US.

Money in the bank.

Jenny Rosenstrach's Pulled Chicken Sandwiches
Serves 6 at least

1 cup barbecue sauce
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1 chipotle pepper in adobo
6 to 8 boneless chicken breasts or a mix of white and dark meat (approximately 2 pounds)
Potato rolls or hamburger buns
Cole slaw or pickled vegetables

1. In a large heavy pot, combine barbecue sauce, cider vinegar, onion, garlic, bay leaf and chipotle. Add chicken and enough water to cover (about 2 cups), stirring a few times.

2. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 15-20 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pot and shred. Bring the sauce to a boil until it thickens and reduces, another 10 minutes. Stir in chicken.

3. Serve on rolls with cole slaw or pickled vegetables. If freezing, allow to cool, then spoon into freezer bags, flatten slightly for easier thawing later, and freeze.