No. 221 & 222: Bourbon BBQ Chicken & Southwestern Spiced Sweet Potato Fries

One of my highlights this week was finding an article by Food & Wine featuring 15 Lessons From 20 Years at The French Laundry. It's a collection of learnings from the chefs who worked alongside Thomas Keller at his famed restaurant.

Please note that dining at The French Laundry is on my bucket list. I have heard only great things from those who've been there. I've also heard it's worth the inevitably high tab. So take note, Mr. McCormick. We're going there someday!

But anywho, I loved this collection of insights about Keller and his techniques - from how to sear fish properly to rinsing onions to make them less harsh. It's a nice little read.

Bourbon BBQ Chicken

Not that this next recipe is from Keller:)

We've been on a bit of a bourbon kick the past few weeks, and it's been fun! I thought we'd keep the trend going with a savory barbecue sauce from our favorite New Yorker.


For the spice rub
3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons ancho chili powder
3 tablespoons chili powder
3 tablespoons ground cumin
3 tablespoons ground coriander
3 tablespoons ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon ground fennel seed
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
1 tablespoon allspice
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

For the sauce
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup bourbon, plus 2 tablespoons
1 cup ketchup
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons ancho chili powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1 heaping tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon molasses
6 bone-in, skin on, chicken breasts*
1/4 cup canola oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

*We used a couple regular boring old boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I also divided both the spice rub and the sauce recipes in half.

To make

Whisk all the spice rub ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

To make the sauce, heat the oil over medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan. Add the onion and cook until soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir in 1/2 cup of the bourbon and cook until reduced.

Onion and bourbon

Add the ketchup and water, bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients and simmer until thickened, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

Thickening sauce

Cool for a few minutes and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Pour into a food processor and blend until smooth. Pour into a bowl, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of bourbon and allow to cool at room temperature.

Finished sauce

The sauce will keep for 1 week in the refrigerator stored in a tightly sealed container.

Heat the grill to medium heat. Brush the chicken with the 1/4 cup of oil and season on both sides with the spice rub. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Spice rubbed chicken

Grill the chicken slowly, until golden brown on both sides. Begin brushing the chicken liberally with the bbq sauce during the last 10 minutes of grilling.

Final chicken

Serve hot with additional sauce on the side.

Southwestern Spiced Sweet Potato Fries

Fries are the ultimate barbecue side, and these sweet potato fries from Food52 sounded like a nice change up.


2 large sweet potatoes, cut in large matchsticks/batons approximately 1/4" x 2"
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chile powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne

To make

Preheat oven to 425. Toss sweet potatoes and olive oil in a large bowl. Combine salt, cumin, chile powder, paprika, pepper and cayenne in a small bowl. Add spices to potatoes and toss to coat.

Ready to bake

Arrange potatoes in one layer on baking sheet. Bake in oven on lowest rack until undersides are browned, 12-15 minutes. Turn potatoes with a spatula and bake 10 more minutes.

Final fries

Remove from oven and serve hot.

The results

This was a terrific meal, spiced to the nines with so much paprika and chili powder that we were sweating a bit when we were done. I promise that's a good thing.

Final plate

This barbecue sauce, oh my ... it's delicious. I'm not a huge bourbon fan, but it brings all other sweet and savory elements together perfectly. Mr. McCormick is very excited to have some leftover for when he is on his own this week.

The fries were great too. One of the challenges with having your sweet potato fries come out of the oven before your chicken is done is that you have to refrain from gobbling them all up before it's time for dinner. Sigh. Such hardship.

All in all, this was a wonderful meal, and there's plenty of dry rub and sauce to use later this week.

And the even better news? I'm all caught up! Right where I need to be in the resolution numbers game. For now ...

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Amelia McCormick

Kansas girl transplanted to Asheville, North Carolina. Smiler, lover of great food and wine, facilitator, runner, storyteller, wife, optimist, and mother of sweet twins:)

Asheville, North Carolina