So here we are, at the end of June, and it already feels like an endless summer. Probably because the kids have been home and the world has been virtually shut down since March, or maybe because the warm weather arrived early this year. Whatever the reason, the pool water has reached temperatures it doesn’t usually hit until late July and the zucchini coming out of my garden are about 3 weeks ahead of schedule. It feels like nature hit the fast forward button this year, and I’m loving it! It’s hard to believe that July 4th is this weekend, and although I’m sure there will be at least 2 other families here, I don’t have a thing planned for them to eat. I get overwhelmed with menu planning for large groups sometimes. I just want to hang out with my guests and not end up in the kitchen or at the grill the whole time. That’s why these Hot Honey BBQ Chicken Sandwiches with Crispy Onion Strings work – they can be prepped fully in advance so that we can enjoy more time outside.
So, I know that we don’t typically think “crock pot” when we think “summer”, but go with me on this. You can prep an entire crock pot of pulled chicken in advance of your barbecue. Then, you simply unplug it, bring it outside, and let your guests make their own sandwiches. No slaving by the grill all day, no running in and out of the house for random condiments. I honestly don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner. We very often have crock pots going during our fall and winter parties, so why not summer too? Crock pots are one of the absolute best ways to lower stress when entertaining, and there’s no reason not to use them in the summer.
So you’ll prep your pulled chicken in the crock pot, and you’ll pour lots of Hot Honey BBQ Sauce in there. If you’ve never made your own barbecue sauce, it will be hard to go back to the bottle after you make it. And you’ll be so proud when you brag to your guests about how you actually made the sauce. This barbecue sauce is, quite simply, ridiculous. It’s thick, tangy, sweet, hot and kicky all at once. The little bit of heat (and it’s not much, I promise) gets you at the back end just when you think the bite is over. Kind of a spicy little surprise. Like any good barbecue sauce, it gets better with age, and this recipe will make enough to last you for a few uses. So you dump the sauce in with the chicken – check.
Next, the onions. You won’t believe how many thin onion strings you can make with just one large onion. It’s so easy, and you can reheat them in the toaster oven if needed. The biggest challenge with these onion strings is having enough left over for the actual sandwiches, because you won’t be able to stop picking on them while you’re cooking.
So the only thing left now is the bread. I don’t care what kind of bread you use, as long as you slice it thick. I’m talking Texas Toast kind of thick. I love using challah because it adds a little sweetness to these Hot Honey BBQ Chicken Sandwiches with Crispy Onion Strings. But any kind of bread will do. Be sure to buy your bread unsliced, so that you can control the thickness of the slices. The bread is the only thing you’ll be putting on the grill. Give it some butter, and give it a good grill on both sides. If you don’t grill or toast the bread, it won’t hold up to the sandwich, so don’t skip this step.
All that’s left to do is pile these sammies high with goodness. Throw some pickles on there if you like. And when you make these Hot Honey BBQ Chicken Sandwiches with Crispy Onion Strings, be sure to put out lots of napkins. It’s a messy kind of fun. Enjoy!
For the Sandwiches
- 2-3 lbs. boneless, skinless breasts and/or thighs
- Hot Honey BBQ Sauce
- Crispy Onion Strings
- 1-2 loaves white bread, unsliced
Place the chicken into a crock pot on the low setting. Add 1 cup of Hot Honey BBQ Sauce plus 1/2 cup of water at a time until the chicken is coated and saucy. Cook 4-6 hours, then use forks to pull the chicken apart into long strings.
Slice the bread into 1 inch-thick slices and butter on both sides. Grill over medium heat until both sides are crisp and golden. Pile the pulled chicken and onion strings in between two slices of grilled bread.
For the Hot Honey BBQ Sauce
- 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup ketchup
- 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
- 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
- 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 2 Tbsp. ancho chili powder
- 1 Tbsp. paprika
- 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
- 2 Tbsp. honey
- 2 Tbsp. hot sauce
In a skillet, saute the onion and garlic in oil until softened. Add ketchup and 1/2 cup of water. Bring to a boil, the lower the heat and simmer 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer until thickened, 10-15 minutes longer. Off heat, use an immersion blender to puree until smooth. Alternately, use a food processor or standard blender.
For the Onion Strings
- 3 cups vegetable oil
- 1 large sweet onion
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 Tbsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
- 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
Peel and slice the onion crosswise as thinly as possible. Separate into rings. Pour buttermilk into a shallow bowl. In a separate shallow bowl, combine the flour, salt, pepper and cayenne.
Heat oil over medium heat in a large nonstick skillet. Dredge each onion ring in the buttermilk, then the flour mixture, and drop into the skillet. Flip after 2-3 minutes so that both sides are golden brown. Remove onion rings to a paper towel-lined plate. Keep warm.