For a fresh take on barbecued pulled pork we decided to reinvent it from the bottom up. And we started by ditching the pork.
As delicious as pork is, for this July Fourth offering we wanted something that didn't take hours upon hours on the grill. Instead, we went with chicken thighs. Nearly as lean as chicken breasts, thighs stay moist and are difficult to overcook. They also happen to be delicious when doused with a one-two punch of lemon-pepper sauce.
We start by marinating the thighs in a blend of lemon juice and zest, salt, pepper and olive oil. Do it for at least two hours, but you also can toss it together the night before. After that, you just pop the thighs on the grill for about 10 minutes, then shred them with forks. A second dose of lemon-pepper comes in the sauce you toss the shredded chicken with, a tangy blend of lemon juice and zest, mayonnaise and buttermilk.
The result isn't just delicious, it also is wonderfully versatile. Pile it onto bulkie rolls, or heap it onto a mess of baby greens.
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat
Zest and juice of 2 lemons, divided
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons light mayonnaise
1/4 cup buttermilk
Bulkie rolls or salad greens, to serve
In a zip-close plastic bag, combine the chicken thighs with the zest and juice of 1 lemon, plus a hefty pinch of salt, 1 teaspoon of pepper, and the olive oil. Close the bag, then turn and massage with your fingers to work the marinade into the meat. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.
When ready to cook the chicken, heat the grill to medium-high. Use a vegetable oil-soaked paper towel held with tongs to oil the grates.
Grill the thighs for 5 to 6 minutes per side, or until cooked through. Transfer the chicken to a plate, then use 2 forks to pull and shred the meat into bite-size pieces.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, buttermilk and the remaining lemon juice and zest. Stir in the chicken and season with salt and an additional 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Serve the chicken piled on bulkie rolls or over a bed of greens.
Start to finish: 2 1/2 hours (30 minutes active).