I have absolutely zero interest in football, so for me, the annual gathering of friends on Super Bowl Sunday is all about the food. The spread always includes a few of the grubby, nostalgic snacks we grew up with — cheesy queso dip, I'm looking at you — as well as some fresher, lighter snacks that often incorporate flavors from one of the many international cuisines that surround us here in Los Angeles. You're looking at my contribution this year: a Korean take on the usual pulled-meat slider, a juicy sandwich loaded with gingery, chile-spiked shredded chicken and tender kale braised with garlicky kimchi.
These sliders were inspired by a simple meal made by The Kitchn's own Faith, a one-sheet-pan roast of cubed winter squash and boneless, skinless chicken thighs marinated in a mixture that included gochujang (Korean red pepper paste), ginger, toasted sesame oil and sherry vinegar. It was deeply flavorful — and an abrupt reminder of the tub of gochujang sitting unused in my own refrigerator. Why wasn't I using the stuff on a weekly basis?
Motivated, I decided to incorporate a similar combination into my usual braised chicken thigh routine the following week. A bag of kale, a pouch of Trader Joe's kimchi and a seeded baguette on the verge of going stale led to an incredible discovery: a new sandwich, near-perfect the first time around. I credit the gochujang. And the kimchi; that stuff has magical powers.
As with any new discovery, this one needs to be shared with the world, and what better a time than during the television event watched by over 111 million viewers last year? For maximum crowd exposure, I've revamped the recipe as sliders, although the fillings can also be used to make full-size sandwiches or even tacos. The Super Bowl comes but once a year, but this sandwich is a year-round keeper.
Korean Chicken Sliders with Braised Kale & Kimchi
Makes 12 sliders
For the chicken:
2 tablespoons gochujang
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 cup water
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs (about 6 small thighs)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2-inch piece of fresh ginger, washed and cut into 1/4-inch coins
5 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly smashed
For the kale:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup cabbage kimchi, chopped
5 cups kale (about 4 ounces), thick ribs and stems removed, chopped
3/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
12 slider buns or dinner rolls
In a small bowl, whisk together the gochujang, vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil and sugar until smooth. Whisk in the water and set aside.
In a 10-inch pot or dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, brown the chicken thighs and set aside on a plate.
Pour the gochujang mixture into the pot and stir, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom. Add the ginger and garlic, followed by the chicken and any accumulated juices. Arrange the chicken in a single layer in the pot and bring mixture to a boil. Lower heat, cover and let simmer for 30 minutes, turning chicken halfway through cooking. Remove from heat and let sit, covered, for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the kale. In a large skillet with a lid, warm the oil over medium-high heat. Add the kimchi and stir-fry for about 30 seconds, until hot and fragrant. Add the kale, water and soy sauce and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and cover. Simmer covered for 30 minutes, or until kale is very tender. Taste and add more soy sauce if needed. (If making ahead, kale mixture can be covered and refrigerated at this point.)
Transfer the chicken thighs to a bowl and use two forks to shred meat. Pour 1/4 cup of the braising liquid over the meat and mix. (If making ahead, chicken can be covered and refrigerated at this point. Re-warm before assembling sliders.)
To assemble, place a sheet pan in the oven and preheat to 350°F. Arrange slider buns cut side down on preheated sheet pan and bake for 3 to 5 minutes, until lightly toasted. Spread mayonnaise on the bottom bun and top with the chicken, followed by the kale mixture and top bun. Repeat with remaining buns. Serve immediately.
Both the chicken and kale can be made up to 1 day ahead. Reheat before assembling sandwiches.
Chicken and kale mixture can also be used to fill tacos. Use corn tortillas and tamari in place of soy sauce for a gluten-free option.
Related: What Can I Do With a Tub of Korean Red Pepper Paste?
(Images: Anjali Prasertong)