Sunday, April 29, 2012

Barbecue Pulled Chicken with Marinated Cucumbers

Sandwiches often get relegated to lunch time, but if you make them fancy enough, they equally deserve a place at the dinner table, or even for company.  This barbecue-spiced Gardein chicken sandwich is begging to be served al fresco on a warm spring evening.  Serve with a simple salad, or make an extra batch of the marinated cucumbers to serve on the side.

For the chicken:
  • 1/4 cup vegan brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 Gardein Tuscan chicken breasts (without sauce)
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 cup thinly sliced onion
  • 1 cup vegan chicken broth (prepared from Not Chick'n bouillon)
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
For the cucumbers:
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons vegan brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cucumber
For the remaining ingredients:
  • 4 (2-ounce) hamburger buns
1. To prepare the chicken, combine 1/4 cup brown sugar with the chili powder, cumin, 1/2 teaspoon salt, paprika, and black pepper.  Rub evenly over the Gardein chicken.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken and cook for 2 minutes on each side; remove the chicken from the pan.  Add the onion and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

3. Return the chicken to the pan and add the broth; bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes.  Remove the chicken and shred into small pieces (use two forks or your hands if easier).  Return the chicken pieces to the pan and return to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes, until the liquid is all absorbed.  Stir in the balsamic vinegar.

4. Meanwhile, make the cucumbers: combine the cider vinegar with 2 tablespoons brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large zip-top plastic bag.  Peel and slice the cucumber, and add to the vinegar mixture; seal and marinate in the fridge for 10 minutes.  Remove the cucumber slices from the bag and discard the marinade.

5. To assemble the sandwiches, spoon about 1 cup chicken mixture onto the bottom of each hamburger bun.  Top each serving with 1/4 cup cucumber mixture and the top of the bun.

Note: if you're in a rush, you have at least two store-bought options for barbecue chicken: Gardein's bbq pulled shreds and Trader Joe's chicken-less pulled barbecue chicken.  However, I find these versions to be a little too sweet, whereas the brown sugar in this homemade version was just right.  Plus, by virtue of the fact that I have a cooking blog, you know I prefer to make things at home.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1 sandwich), Calories 373 

Tasting Notes:
Absolutely delicious, but I was expecting bigger, bolder tastes.  The spicy-and-sweet flavors in the rub could both be stronger (though perhaps this is my fault, since not all of the rub made it from plate to skillet after I initially rubbed it on the Gardein).  I would also marinate the cucumbers longer for stronger pickled flavor.  Even so, the cukes were delicious, and you might want to make extra just to snack on.  The sandwich could also have used more moisture; in that vein I wouldn't simmer off all the liquid next time, but leave it a little syrupy; as is, the hamburger buns are a touch dry. With those changes, this sandwich has the potential to be spectacular. 


Vegan extra:
If you want to add decadence to a sandwich without the trouble of a full recipe, it's easy to dress up your standard lunch fare with a fancy spread instead of plain mustard or vegan mayo. Try your next sandwich with bottled pesto, olive tapenade, or Tofutti cream cheese with fresh herbs stirred in.

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