SLOW COOKER CRISPY CHICKEN CARNITAS

To be sure, carnitas are traditionally made with pork, which I’ve enjoyed cooking for years and years with my little “shortcut” method by simmering pork in the crock pot and then crisping it them up the broiler before serving.  And it’s always delicious!  But recently, I’ve randomly been wondering (as my little food blogger’s mind tends to wander) about what carnitas would taste like when made with different meats, since the word carnitas does literally translate to mean “little meats”, and not just pork.  ;)

So a few weeks ago, I decided to try out a carnitas recipe using some boneless skinless chicken breasts that I had in the freezer, and bring it along to a taco night with friends for taste-testing.  I was a little worried that the lean chicken wouldn’t end up being quite as flavorful as less-lean pork tends to be.  But sure enough, after hours of simmering in that yummy broth, then spending a few minutes under the broiler and getting a good toss in the leftover juices from the slow cooker, the results were in.
Chicken can be made into some seriously good carnitas!

The other good news about this recipe?  It’s seriously easy to make.

Just toss all of your ingredients in a slow cooker.  (And if you happen to not drink alcohol, as some commenters asked about in my pork carnitas recipe, hakuna matata — you can just sub in some chicken broth with maybe an extra squeeze of fresh orange juice.)  Give them a little toss to mix everything up.  And then let the chicken cook on low for 6-8 hours, or on high for 3-4 hours, until it’s nice and tender and shreds easily with a fork.

Shred it to the size you would like.  (And don’t worry about all of those extra juices — we’ll use them later!)  Then use a slotted spoon to transfer the chicken to a large baking sheet (or two smaller baking sheets).

Spread the chicken out in an even layer, then pop it under the broiler for about 5 minutes, or until the tops of the chicken are nice and browned and crispy.  Remove the baking sheet from the oven, drizzle the chicken evenly with about 1/2 cup of the remaining broth, and then turn it with a pair of tongs so that some of the less-crispy bits are on top.  Repeat by broiling again, then drizzling/tossing again, then one more broil, one more drizzle/toss…
INGREDIENTS:
4-5 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts*
1 bottle beer (or chicken stock, if you do not like to cook with alcohol)
1 small white onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon chipotle powder (or 1 chipotle in adobo sauce, minced)
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2-4 fresh limes

DIRECTIONS:
Add the chicken, beer, onion, garlic, chipotle, cumin, black pepper, chili powder, and salt to the bowl of a large slow cooker.  Gently toss to combine.
Cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours until the chicken is completely tender and shreds easily with a fork.
Once the chicken is cooked, preheat your broiler to high heat and grease one large baking sheet with cooking spray. Use a fork to shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces.  Then use a slotted spoon to transfer it to the prepared baking sheet, spreading the chicken in an even layer and leaving the juices behind in the slow cooker.  (Don’t discard the juices, we’re going to use them later!)
Place one sheet under the broiler, 2 racks down from the very top, and broil for about 5-6 minutes, or until the edges of the chicken begin browning and crisping up. Remove the sheet from the oven, then ladle about 1/2 cup of the juices from the slow cooker evenly over the chicken, and then give it a good toss with some tongs so that the chicken is evenly coated with the juices.  Broil for an additional 5 minutes to get the meat more crispy. Then remove and ladle an additional 1/2 cup of broth over the crispy chicken.  Broil for an additional 5 minutes.  Then remove sheet from the oven, and toss chicken with the remaining broth.  Then drizzle with however much fresh lime juice you’d like (I love a ton of lime flavor!), and toss once more to combine.
Serve immediately in tacos, burritos, salads, or whatever sounds good to you!  This chicken can also be refrigerated in a sealed container for up to 3 days, or frozen in a sealed container for up to 3 months.