Today we’re going to transform a popular Chinese take-out dish, Honey Sesame Chicken, into a pulled meat slider. I know it sounds weird, but bear with me.
We’re all familiar with loads of twists on pulled pork, pulled beef, pulled chicken, pulled any meat that can be shredded into juicy strands after being simmered in a sauce for a few hours, then slopped on a bun which soaks up some of that sauce. I’ve seen riffs on Asian pulled pork and chicken, but I’ve never seen a take on it using my favorite Chinese take-out dish, sesame chicken, until I scrolled through my blog assignment for this month’s Secret Recipe Club.
Does any carnivore NOT love General Tso’s or Sesame Chicken? Well, the blog I was assigned, Eat Little, Eat Big..authored and photographed by Susie, who just so happens to live on the beautiful island of Maui (lucky!), came up with this brilliant idea. She simmered chicken breasts in a similar sauce used for sesame chicken, in a crockpot for a few hours, and voila, Slow Cooker Honey Sesame Chicken!
Initially, I was going to make her Crunchy Oven Baked Fish Sticks, but then decided that there was no way I was turning on the oven in this oppressive heat. We’re talking 98 – 100 degrees the past week, so I loved that this dish was slowly simmered in a crockpot..or slow cooker, whichever you prefer to call it. Potatoes, puhtahtoes.
Of course I couldn’t leave well enough alone. First, I toasted the sesame seeds, then I omitted the ketchup and used tomato paste instead. I used chili paste (Sambal Oelek) in lieu of chili flakes, added rice wine vinegar for a bit of acid, and a little chicken stock for more sauce.
I also changed the cooking time since I was starting with semi-frozen chicken breasts, plus, to get that really shredded texture, more time was needed, semi-frozen or not. To thicken the sauce after simmering, I made a slurry of cornstarch and chicken broth instead of using cornstarch alone. I grated some fresh ginger into the sauce simply because I couldn’t fathom sesame chicken without ginger.
Before I even finished reading the recipe, I had already decided to pile this pulled sesame chicken on buns. At the bottom of Susie’s recipe, she suggested doing just that, so I piled this chicken on buns, but not just any buns. Back in Dec, ’11, I baked some plain buns using an extra batch of dough I made from the Daring Bakers Char Siu Bao recipe and froze them. Soft and velvety instabuns for the large sandwiches! For the sliders, I used store-bought slider sized potato buns.
I love Asian bun dough because, as mentioned above, it’s soft and velvety and it makes a great vessel for burgers or sandwiches, but use any kind of bun you like, even a doughnut if that suits your fancy. Doughnut sandwiches seem to be all the rage, but I’m not really recommending it so proceed with caution and an adventurous palate! Sprouted buns are also nice and work well because they’re sturdy, leaving lots of leeway for sauce soakage without falling apart. I highly recommend those along with the two aforementioned buns – but not doughnuts.
Finally, you know how much I’ve waxed on and on about my love of natural rainbow colors incorporated into dishes? What better than an array of colorful vegetables to pile on these buns with the pulled honey sesame chicken? We’ve got shredded red cabbage (the purple), a mix of red, yellow and orange bell peppers, and blanched snow peas – all tossed together with a light Asian inspired vinaigrette.
This is my summer of Eat the Rainbow. Well, I’m trying to Eat the Rainbow. More to come soon, I hope. You see, I always say I’m going to make something, and then I never come through. I’m definitely not cut out for blogging, am I? OK, I will rephrase that. I will do my very best to regale you all with loads of rainbow inspired dishes this summer. Maybe I should just stop saying it and try to actually do it.
In conclusion, these honey sesame chicken sliders are pretty darn amazing and perfect for any party, so I do recommend you proceed without caution! If you’re GF, eat it out of the slow cooker, like I did at one point.
Honey Sesame Chicken Sliders with Bell Pepper Slaw
- 4 semi-frozen chicken breasts, cut in half , OR, about 1 to 1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs *
- kosher salt and pepper
- ½ cup honey
- 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- ½ cup chicken stock or broth
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2½ tablespoons tomato paste
- 3 cloves garlic finely minced
- 2 teaspoons fresh, grated ginger
- 1 teaspoon chili paste (more if you like a lot of heat)
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons chicken broth or stock
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- Toasted sesame seeds, the amount depending on your preference
- burger buns or slider buns
- 1 small red bell pepper, seeded, ribs removed, sliced thin or shredded
- 1 small yellow bell pepper, seeded, ribs removed, sliced thin or shredded
- 1 small orange bell pepper, seeded, ribs removed, sliced thin or shredded
- 2 carrots, peeled and shredded
- About ¼ a small head red cabbage, shredded
- 1 very small red onion or half a large red onion, sliced very thin or shredded
- ¼ lb snow peas, blanched, each snow pea sliced in half vertically and horizontally. No worries about peas falling out - it just makes it better.
- 5 tablespoons peanut oil
- 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 1 clove garlic, minced with kosher salt until it's a paste, LIKE THIS
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
- 1¾ teaspoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- squeeze of lime juice
- freshly ground black or white pepper and kosher salt (to taste)
- Season frozen chicken breasts with salt and pepper, and place in the crockpot.
- Mix all the sauce ingredients together except for the sesame oil, sesame seeds, cornstarch and 2 extra tablespoons of chicken stock. Pour over seasoned, frozen chicken in the crockpot.
- Cook on low for 6-8 hours or high 3-4 hours, until the chicken starts to fall apart. Remove chicken from sauce and shred with two forks. Set aside in a bowl.
- Pour sauce into a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. Stir together the cornstarch and chicken stock until smooth, then pour into the simmering sauce. Cook until the sauce has thickened, whisking constantly - it should only take a few minutes.
- Remove from heat and stir in the sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds. Pour over shredded chicken and mix well. Season with more salt and pepper if needed.
- Combine all the shredded or sliced vegetables in a large bowl.
- In a clean jar with a lid, combine all the ingredients for the dressing and shake like crazy until uniform. Pour over shredded vegetables and toss to combine.
- Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let the flavors blend in the fridge for a few hours. You can use it immediately, but it's much better after marinating for a few hours. SO, make this salad while the chicken is cooking.
- Cut buns in half - toast if you like. Place a heaping spoonful of rainbow slaw on the bottom bun. Top that with a heaping spoonful of the pulled chicken. Pour some extra sauce over chicken and top with other half bun. Enjoy with plenty of napkins!
** If you want a really shredded slaw, use the shredding disk or very thin slicing disk in your food processor for all the veggies (stack the snowpeas to shred). I used a knife that needed to be sharpened so I couldn't slice the veggies as thin as I would have liked. It's much easier to pile a more shredded slaw on the sliders or sandwiches and much easier to eat.
Click on the blue frog below to see what my fellow SRC Group A participants chose from their assigned blogs.