Whiskey Kitchen: Bourbon Chicken
- by Mike Wargo
When you think of bourbon chicken, it may conjure up images of food court steam tables and dirty tables you’re not crazy about sitting at, surrounded by noisy teenagers doing whatever it is noisy teenagers do. And it would be fair to have those images.
I loved bourbon chicken growing up. The sticky and sweet food court staple holds some fond memories of my teenage years. It harkens back to my days as a bedraggled mall employee, taking half hour lunch breaks before dealing with demanding customers. Y'know, the good ol' days.
But, as an adult, dealing with the chaos that is the Opry Mills Mall (Nashville’s biggest and perpetually busiest mall) makes my anxiety kick into overdrive. So when I get a craving for that classic dish, I use this recipe.
For this recipe, the brand of bourbon you use isn't particularly essential. Whatever you have is perfectly fine, but if you're shopping for a bourbon, get something cheap that you can still drink, like Jim Beam. I used Woodford Reserve, as that was the only bourbon I had lying around.
2 lb. of chicken breasts (use thighs if you like your chicken more tender)
3 tbsp. canola oil
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup fruit juice (I'm partial to apple)
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp. ketchup
3 tbsp. bourbon (pretty much whatever you have around)
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper (or 1/4 if you don't want it noticeably spicy)
1/4 tsp ground ginger
3 tbsp. chicken broth
1 tbsp. cornstarch
Let’s get cooking:
1. Cut the chicken into 1 inch pieces and season with salt and pepper (you may be coating it in sauce, but you should still season your chicken).
2. Heat your canola oil in a high-sided skillet over medium high heat. Cook your chicken until cooked through, about ten minutes. After they're cooked through, transfer to a bowl or plate
3. In the same skillet, whisk the water, brown sugar, fruit juice, soy sauce, ketchup, bourbon, apple cider vinegar, garlic, red pepper flakes, and ginger together. Bring the sauce to a boil while scraping the bottom of the pan to get any stuck on food off the bottom
4. Optional: take a swig of bourbon
5. Carefully put the chicken back in the sauce and bring the sauce back to a boil. Then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the sauce is reduced, about fifteen minutes
6. Take the chicken out of the skillet again with a slotted spoon. Mix the chicken broth and cornstarch together until smooth, then whisk it into the sauce.
7. Once the sauce starts noticeably thickening, return the chicken to the sauce and stir to combine everything. You want as much sauce to stick to the chicken as possible.
8. Serve immediately with whatever side dish you want. I like mine with brown rice
Give this recipe a try and let us know how you like it in the comments.