This is a favorite of mine–a chicken dish that’s hearty, savory, rich, and spicy, blending creole flavors with barbecue for a match made in heaven.
I’ve prepared variants of this dish for a long time, but it never had a name beyond “barbecue chicken.” Let’s face it, that evokes a mental image of just throwing a bare piece of chicken on the grill which I’m sure you’ll agree is a far cry from the above photo. So now that I’m writing about what I cook, I am faced with some of the really difficult life changing decisions. I tried to seek out dishes that seemed similar so I could have an interesting name. I was tempted to call this a gumbo, but it really isn’t. Same goes for jambalaya and étouffée…but they’re so close. The flavors at play are definitely similar, but there’s no roux, andouille, or celery, and let’s face it, those kinds of ingredients are key to classic creole cooking. So rather than risk the ire of the creole purists, my compromise is to simply call this “stewed creole barbecue chicken.” You have many of the same major flavor components, stewed together in a really zesty, full bodied sauce, which once combined, don’t take spectacular photos.
There’s a lot of strong flavors in this sauce, but the most important ingredient is obviously barbecue sauce. I like to go with a “wetter” sauce (some off the shelf sauces are really thick). Don’t over think this part, just go with a simple flavor that you like (e.g. don’t worry that its honey whiskey habanero memphis style dry wet mop sauce) and experiment (or make your own if you’re so inclined–its not hard!). There are a few other lively flavors backing up the sauce: red wine and some freshly juiced raspberries for a tart, dark, full body. Ultimately, you’ll be hard pressed to pick out the raspberry flavor in particular, but it adds a really solid backbone to the sauce. Broth, as usual, brings up the caboose. And not to slight the herbs (of course!), but this is also my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Susan of the Well Seasoned Cook.
- 1-1.5 lbs of Chicken breast
- Creole seasoning
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Red bell pepper
- Some combination of 3-6 hotter peppers (use what you have available–jalapeños, poblanos, serranos, habaneros, etc. Whatever you like)
- 8 garlic cloves
- 5 scallions
- 1 cup barbecue sauce (I tend to use Sticky Fingers brand)
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1/4-1/2 cup of raspberry juice
- 1/3 cup red wine (e.g. a fruity Shiraz is good if you have one already open)
- 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- ground chipotle pepper (to taste)
- ground cayenne pepper (to taste)
- ground black pepper (to taste)
This dish will help you get your daily dose of veggies. I like to get a lot of peppers in there and am not too particular about which kinds–whatever is handy in the fridge or the garden (which is usually a good selection). I just like to have different flavors and different levels of heat. So the first step: dice up your peppers and your garlic. In a separate pile, dice up your herbs and your scallions.
If you’d rather save a few bucks, you can get by without the raspberries, but give it a shot and see what you think. If you’re using them, mash them up a bit in your hands and let them sit on the strainer while you do everything else. The idea is to get the juice but not to unnecessarily load our sauce up with all of those seeds (of course, if you don’t mind them, no need to strain, I suppose…).
Chop up chicken breast into smallish pieces, sort of like how you’d see it served in a curry. Try to keep the pieces roughly the same size so that they all cook evenly. Rub liberally with creole seasoning so that your chicken will develop some really interesting flavor even before the sauce hits the pan.
Now, fry the chicken on medium-high heat for about 10 minutes in some olive oil, being sure to toss and turn to prevent burning. Once they’re cooked, remove from the pan and set aside. Pour in a little more oil, scrape up the brown bits, and fry the minced peppers and garlic for 5-10 minutes to soften them up a bit.
Once those are done frying, you can mix in all of the remaining ingredients–the sauce, broth, raspberry juice, etc–everything but the chicken. You might consider pulsing all of those in the food processor before adding to the pan, or you might prefer fewer things to clean–either way, simmer it all in the pan.
After about 5 minutes of warming the sauce up and getting everybody talking, return your chicken to the pan and cover it in the sauce. Simmer covered on low-medium/medium heat for 30-40 minutes. Stir periodically as the sauce can get tacky and the sugars will burn if left unattended, which is not what you want.
Once time is up, uncover, remove from heat, and get a good whiff of that sauce. I serve with a very simple side of citrusy rice (jasmine rice with a little bit of orange juice in place of some of the water) so that you have something mildly sweet to dampen some of the heat if things came out a little hotter than intended (I usually go overboard with the ground pepper and/or the habaneros if they’re in season…never too hot, just hotter than intended!).