Grilled Chicken with Cherry–Bourbon Barbecue Sauce
This finger-licking barbecue sauce has a classic thick, clingy texture and irresistible savory-sweet-tangy flavor, but here you get it in a healthier way, without lots of added sugar, thanks to the cherries at its base, as well as a touch of molasses, which adds a deep, distinctive taste and is as unrefined and mineral-rich as a sweetener gets. The bourbon spikes it with an exciting layer of flavor, but you can simply leave it out if you prefer. The sauce requires no cooking, just an easy whir in the blender, and of course you can make it ahead so it’s ready whenever you want it. Although I have paired it here with chicken, it also works perfectly with pork, and the cooked meat will keep in the refrigerator or freezer too, to be rewarmed or served at room temperature, piled in a sandwich or with a side.
Recipe reprinted from You Have It Made by Ellie Krieger and Quentin Bacon. Copyright © 2016 by Ellie Krieger and Quentin Bacon. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
For the Cherry–Bourbon Barbecue Sauce:
- 1 cup pitted fresh sweet cherries, or frozen, thawed
- 1/2 cup canned, no-salt-added tomato sauce
- 3 tablespoons molasses
- 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons bourbon, optional
- 3 whole peeled cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Pinch ground cloves
- Eight 6-ounce skinless, boneless chicken breasts, pounded to an even 1/2-inch thickness
- Cooking spray
Combine the cherries, tomato sauce, molasses, vinegar, bourbon, garlic, mustard, salt, pepper, and cloves in a blender and purée until almost smooth. The sauce may be refrigerated or frozen at this stage.
Set aside about a cup of the sauce for serving. Brush the chicken breasts generously with the remaining sauce. Spray a grill or grill pan with cooking spray and preheat it over medium-high heat. Grill until the chicken is cooked through, the outside is charred, and grill marks have formed, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Serve drizzled with the reserved sauce.
For the sauce:
To refrigerate and reheat: the sauce will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 1 week. Allow the sauce to come to room temperature, or warm slightly on the stove in a small pan over medium-low heat for 5 to 10 minutes. Alternatively, place in a microwave-safe bowl, cover with a splatter guard, and microwave on high for about 1 minute for a half-batch of the sauce.
To freeze and reheat: place the sauce in full or half-batches into one or two sealable plastic freezer bags and freeze for up to 4 months. (The sauce will not freeze to a solid state.) Thaw in the refrigerator for 24 to 36 hours, or to thaw quickly, run the bag under hot water for 30 seconds to release the sauce from the bag, then transfer the sauce to a saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat, covered, for 6 to 12 minutes, until warmed through. Alternatively, place in a microwave-safe dish, cover with a splatter guard, and microwave on high for about 90 seconds for a half-batch of the sauce.
For the cooked chicken:
To refrigerate and serve: place in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. The chicken may be served at room temperature, or to reheat, cover in foil and place in a 350°F oven for about 10 minutes, until warmed through. Alternatively, place on a microwave-safe plate, cover with a splatter guard, and microwave on high for 1 minute for a single portion.
To freeze and reheat: chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, wrap the chicken pieces individually in foil or plastic wrap, and place in a sealable plastic freezer bag in the freezer for up to 3 months. Allow to thaw in the refrigerator for about 24 hours, and reheat as above. Or to thaw and heat quickly, wrap the chicken in foil and place in a cold oven set for 350°F. Once the oven reaches temperature, continue to cook for 25 minutes, until warmed through. Alternatively, place on a microwave-safe plate, cover with a splatter guard, and microwave on the defrost setting for 3 minutes, then on high for 1 minute for a single portion.