back to basics – braised (shredded) chicken

Ever since Abby posted her incredibly unabashed taquito recipe, I’ve been struggling to find time to make shredded chicken so I could either follow suit, or just make some tacos.

And ever since Abby posted the taquitos recipe I’ve been doing a totally unscientific poll about how people make their shredded chicken (and, in fact, I’ve NOT asked Abby how she shreds chicken … Abby, how do you prepare your shredded chicken?)

Some people use just chicken breasts.

Some use chicken on the bone.

Some use it already de-boned.

Some people bake their chicken.

Some fry it.

Some roast.

Some braise.

It’s apparently as personal a choice as what kind of toothpaste you use (we use Nature’s Gate Anise Natural Dentrifice … you?)

Basically, what I’m discovering is there is no really wrong way to shred your chicken.

But in case you don’t yet have a way that you’re committed to, I would suggest you give this braising a go, because the thing about braising (especially when it includes a little apple cider vinegar and garlic and onions and bone broth) is you end up with an incredibly succulent shredded poultry that falls off the bone and makes any recipe that calls for it taste even better …

Sure … it takes two and half hours to cook (it was 30 minutes in the oven when we decided we couldn’t wait last night and ended up ordering Chinese).

But today (regardless of the bloat from the bad food last night), we’re happy to have a vat of shredded chicken that we’ll be able to use in tacos for lunch … chicken salad for dinner … or maybe a pot-pie … or Abby’s taquitos! … the options are endless!

shredded chicken

Here’s how we do it …

INGREDIENTS:

  • about 6 lbs of skinless dark meat chicken (legs and thighs)
  • 1 cup poultry bone broth
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 3 cloves garlic (peeled and a rough chop)
  • 1 medium yellow onion (quartered)

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DIRECTIONS:

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

If the chicken you have still has skin, peel the skin, trim the fat and separate the legs and thighs.

IMG_5604 Heat the broth in a large dutch oven on your stove top.  Whisk in the salt, pepper and apple cider vinegar.  Add the onion quarters and garlic. (The onion almost acts as a “stand” upon which you layer the chicken … keeps it out of direct contact with the liquid at first).

Turn off the heat and start stacking your chicken on top of the onion.

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IMG_5639 Once it’s all in, turn the heat back on and bring the liquid to a boil.  Once that happens (which only takes a moment), put the lid on your dish and pop it in the oven.

Let it slow cook for two and half hours.

(About halfway through the process, give the contents of the dutch oven a good toss, rotating the chicken from the bottom to the top and vice versa so it gets a nice even cook.)

Remove it from the oven, take off the lid and let the chicken cool enough that it’s not so hot you can’t touch it.

Use a large fork to remove the chicken from the bones (discarding the bones and the onion)

IMG_5653 And this is what’s left in the pot …

IMG_5652 At this point, drain the liquid and separate the chicken into meal portions (freeze what you don’t need immediately, or just make a plan for a lot of tasty chicken in the next few days).  As of this moment, I’m planning on tacos, taquitos, chicken salad and maybe a pot pie.

Whatever you decide … enjoy it!

How do you shred your chicken?

chai tea – for those long January days when you just can’t shake the cold

Winter’s been going on for months.

The thermometer hasn’t reached above freezing in weeks.

And no matter how thick my socks are, I just can’t shake that chill!

So that’s when I fire up the burner on the stove, boil some water and add some of my favorite spices for a satisfying (and warming) homemade version of Chai Tea.

NOTE:  If you’ve had Chai Tea from a coffee shop, it’s likely a pre-mixed blend.  Maybe it’s a syrup.  Or a powder.  Or maybe they use a Tazo tea bag and add milk.  Whatever the case, when you taste a home-made Chai, there’s a good chance you’ll never go back to your coffee shop for tea.

Seriously.

It’s that good.

First things first … invest in a tea strainer.  It doesn’t have to be fancy.  This one was at World Market and cost about $6.99.  We use it all the time (not only for hot tea, but for kombucha, too)

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And second … here are some of the common spices used in Chai tea.  It’s just about finding the balance and mixture that you like best.

Ginger is known for it’s anti-inflammatory properties, ginger will also warm you! from the inside out.  It soothes the tummy.  And ginger is supposed to boost the effectiveness of other herbs and spices, so if I have ginger in the house, it makes its way into almost any tea that I brew up.

Cinnamon is not only tasty and good, but it’s a staple in the Ayurvedic diet.  It increases circulation, opens breathing and can increase your vitality (who couldn’t use a vitality boost?).  And we’ve already talked about the anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-septic properties of cinnamon. I would have added cinnamon today, but we ran out yesterday and I didn’t’ make it to the store this morning.

Cardamom is a natural mood elevator (actually, I just have to smell cardamom and I start to feel better … especially on a “blue” day). It’s also supposed to have a positive affect on the lungs, kidneys and heart.

Black Peppercorns are good for your circulation and in the Ayurvedic tradition are said to help alleviate chronic coldness!  Also, like ginger, peppercorns are supposed to enhance the healing traits of other spices and herbs.

Cloves are so fragrant and wonderful.  I just can’t imagine Chai tea without them.  And they are apparently used as a pain reliever in Eastern Medicines.

Anise Seeds are, like cloves, super aromatic.  Their subtle licorice scent adds a luscious layer to the tea and I love how it just makes the tea smell “warm.”  Do you know what I mean?  And from a traditional medicines standpoint, anise seeds are used as a digestive, as an expectorant and to help reduce anxiety.  Like … the anxiety that comes from being constantly cold?

Star Anise (is not related to anise seeds, but also has a licorice aroma/flavor) is a wonderful digestive aid.  It’s been used for ages for nursing mamas who need to increase their supply.  And midwives through the ages have suggested that war anise can aid in the health of female reproductive organs.

Fennel is related to anise seeds, and have some of the same medicinal traits.  It’s also used to aid digestion (it’s a diuretic), and like Star Anise, it’s used to increase milk production for nursing mamas.  It’s anti-bacterial.  And it helps alleviate bad breath.  It also adds some nice flavor to your chai tea … especially if you don’t have anise seeds or star anise in your cupboard.

Nutmeg can help you relax, and is so good for detoxing your liver and kidneys.  It helps cure stomachaches.  And just a whiff makes me joyful.  It’s no wonder it shows up in all those holiday treats!

Black (or green or oolong) Tea Bags – the tea in these tea bags help “activate” the goodness in the spices and herbs in the tea.  I use PG Tips … mostly because an English friend turned me onto PG Tips and I like to pretend sometimes that I was British in another life … plus it’s really tasty tea.

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Don’t be afraid to experiment … it’s your tea.

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Here’s what went into my tea today (makes about 4 quarts … I store leftover in a 1/2 gallon glass jar and put it in the fridge to heat up as I want it.  Lasts about 5 days in the fridge):

chai tea ingredients

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4-5 thin slices Ginger
  • 8-9 pods Cardamom
  • 30-35 Black Peppercorns
  • 20-25 Cloves
  • ½ teaspoon Anise Seed
  • 2 black tea bags
  • 2 tablespoons milk (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey or maple syrup (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

Pour three quarts of water into your 4-quart sauce pan.  Add the spices to your tea strainer and add the tea strainer to the water.  Bring to a boil.  Once it reaches a rolling boil, lower the heat to let it simmer for a good 20-30 minutes.  Then, turn the heat off and add your tea bags.  Let the tea bags steep for about 5-10 minutes.

Pour tea into your favorite cup (mine is adorned with stars and the sun and moon … see above :), add honey and milk and feel the warmth spread through your entire body … head to toe!

There’s a reason people have been turning to Ayurvedic healing for thousands of years … and I believe Chai Tea is it 🙂

– Jeanne