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Turn Pulled Chicken Into Quick Weeknight Meals

Pulled Chicken

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By Tony Rosenfeld
From Fine Cooking #132, pp. 74-79

Busy cooks know that preparing food ahead on the weekend makes life easier during the week, but it also can make dinners repetitive. Not so with pulled chicken. Cooked until tender and then shredded into bite-size pieces, it’s incredibly adaptable, so you can make diverse, flavor-packed meals, like the ones shown here, all week. And unlike, say, a pork shoulder, you can make a batch of chicken small enough to eat in a week without feeding the whole neighborhood. It also cooks fairly quickly, so you don’t have to devote a day to babysitting it. As a bonus, you’ll be left with tasty broth that you can use for reheating the chicken.

See a slideshow of more ways to use leftover chicken.

Choose white or dark meat. Either works well, but when deciding which to use, I try to consider what meals I might want to make with it. If I’m planning on cold sandwiches and salads, where the chicken won’t get dried out from being cooked again, I use breasts. Thighs are better for warm meals, because they’re a little fattier and stay juicy after reheating.

Use the stove or a slow cooker. The stovetop is quicker, but I think the slow-cooker version is slightly juicier. Either way, the ingredients are the same-combine the chicken with chicken broth, tomato paste for umami, garlic and bay leaves for a savory backbone, and smoked paprika to mimic the smokiness of barbecue- and then simmer until the meat is tender enough to easily pull apart. That’s all it takes to make this weeknight wonder. Now that you know your options, pick your chicken and your cooking method, and get started.

The Recipes

Pulled Chicken     Spicy Pulled Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Peanut Sauce
Pulled Chicken     Spicy Pulled Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Peanut Sauce
Tangy Pulled Chicken Sandwiches with Pickled Onions, Apple, and Smoked Cheese     Southwestern Pulled Chicken and Chile Hash
Tangy Pulled Chicken Sandwiches with
Pickled Onions, Apple, and Smoked Cheese
    Southwestern Pulled Chicken and Chile Hash

More Ideas for Pulled Chicken

Pulled chicken can shine in many dishes. Here are a handful of my favorites:

  • ENCHILADAS: Roll chicken and beans in tortillas, top with salsa and jack cheese, and bake.
  • CROQUETTES: Combine chicken with warm mashed potatoes, roll into balls, coat with bread crumbs, and deep-fry.
  • QUESADILLAS: Add pulled chicken to your favorite quesadilla fillings.
  • PANINI: Add rosemary to the chicken, and make a panini with roasted red peppers and provolone.
  • CHICKEN SALAD: Use in your favorite recipe.
  • PIZZA: Roll out dough and top with chicken, barbecue sauce, Cheddar, and red onion.
  • SHEPHERD’S PIE: Mix chicken with cooked vegetables, top with mashed potatoes, and bake.
  • EMPANADAS: Use frozen empanada wrappers or cut pie dough into rounds, fill with shredded chicken and cheese, and bake.
  • CHICKEN FRIED RICE: Cook shredded chicken and leftover rice in a skillet with eggs and vegetables.
  • BAKED PASTA: Toss chicken with blanched broccoli, cooked pasta, your favorite sauce, and cheese, and bake.
  • CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP: Add to chicken broth with noodles and vegetables.
  • CAESAR SALAD: Toss romaine lettuce with your favorite Caesar dressing. Top with chicken, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and croutons.

Photos: Scott Phillips


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  • poppy7usa | 01/16/2015

  • Harborcon | 01/05/2015

    To save time and effort, put your prepared chicken breasts into your mixer with the paddle attachment and turn it on low speed. The paddle will shred the chicken perfectly in seconds!

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