Bourbon-Peach-Barbecue Chicken, Baby

Sometimes I think to myself, “Hmm, it’s been too long since I’ve had the bourbon out.” Wait, that’s not me, that’s some sad, priority and taste challenged individual I imagined. While I admit that I cannot give every distillation in my wee collection of scotches, bourbons, and ryes equal attention, I endeavor to be a fair parent and get each one of them out for individual play time as often as possible. What this means, on occasion, is that one of my lovelies is taken out not for drinking, but for cooking (though one must taste a wee dram to, as it were, refresh one’s memory). Peaches are in season and nothing goes with peaches like bourbon––never scotch, most of which will be too peaty, smoky, or salty for this sauce, or rye, which will be too yeasty or grainy. And may the gods have mercy on you if you stew peaches in Lagavulin or an Oban 14. I’m using chicken thighs here, but this works as well with pork. It does not work with lamb, and if you must use white meat chicken (white-meater loved ones, can’t have them committed, gotta make do) take it out as soon as the sauce comes to a simmer and only put it back in to finish cooking near the end.


As to the bourbon, I was out of Maker’s Mark––for years my basic bourbon for cocktails, cooking, and baking (it’s just not smooth enough to drink)––and didn’t want to cook with my wonderfully delicate small batch Basil Hayden’s so went to the boozeporium thinking to restock or try something new. Turns out that Maker’s is no deal so I chose a Knob Creek. It’s a wonderfully dark, molasses-y, caramel-y concoction that I knew could hold up in this sauce, and it’s great to drink. If you’ve got crap bourbon at home and want to use it here I’ll refrain from praying that Mozambiquean fire ants swarm up your pant legs, but do taste some good bourbons and pick a favorite to keep in stock.


Regarding barbecue sauce, I usually don’t use it, but “make my own” by putting the classic ingredients in the sauce individually. This allows control over the sweetness, vinegarness, smokyness, and etc., as well as the character of these things––brown sugar versus molasses, apple cider vinegar versus a wine vinegar and such––but it’s a lot of ingredients. Make sure you know the bottled barbecue sauce you use, read the ingredients and taste it first. For a non-barbecue version of this dish, use tomato paste, honey, and the vinegar and flavorings of your choice, but keep the bourbon-peach character in mind.




9 skinless, boneless chicken thighs


1 medium sweet onion, chopped


½ bulb fennel, chopped


8 medium or 4 large crimini mushrooms (baby bella), sliced


4 cloves garlic, chopped


1 lemon (zest and juice separated)


½ jar peach preserves


½ bottle barbecue sauce


¼ to ½ cup bourbon


Chicken stock




Salt and pepper the chicken liberally and set aside for 10 minutes. Heat to medium high a coating of vegetable oil mixed with a bit of ghee (clarified butter) or olive oil in a large Dutch oven style pot. Brown one side (Don’t move it around!), then the other of the thighs and remove. Sauté the onions, fennel, mushrooms, and––once those have started––the lemon zest and garlic. You want the onions and fennel soft and some color on the crimini. Clear a spot in the center of the pot to cook the barbecue sauce a bit, then add the peach jam and stir the pot. Add the bourbon, stir, bring to a boil. Add the browned chicken, stir to coat, then add enough chicken stock for the liquid to come just over the chicken. Cover and turn the heat to low. Simmer slowly for about an hour.


Taste for salt and pepper, and sweetness. You can add all the lemon juice (after you’ve turned off the heat––never cook lemon juice) or half, or more depending on how the sugars developed and how sweet your jam was. I served this batch over egg noodles that I’d finished with a bit of the sauce and garnished it with chopped green onions. Alongside, I served a simple salad of green and red lettuces, carrots, and red onion and I dressed it with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.



About the peaches: the peachy key to this is the jam, but I do sometimes add fresh or frozen peaches. I usually enjoy the first bite or two, as a sort of surprise, but then find they just distract from the caramel woodiness of the mushrooms, the more solid tenderness of the chicken, and the smoky–sweet tartness of the sauce. Besides, those peaches I bought when I shopped for this dish will make a greater impact starring in their own production tonight. Will they be halved, roasted, filled with bourbon flavored mascarpone, and cushioned upon crispy phyllo baskets, or will they find themselves sliced and baked under a ginger-bourbon crumble topping?

4 Responses to “Bourbon-Peach-Barbecue Chicken, Baby”
  1. Laura says:

    But…I don’t get it. They both have alcohol, right?

  2. Laura, the wine (a quixotic Italian white, in this case) you sip as you cook helps you maintain focus. The bourbon, beyond that initial taste to assure it’s the flavor you want in the food, is reserved for dessert.

  3. Laura says:

    Once the bourbon comes out, where do you find the focus to actually cook this delicious recipe?

  4. roger says:

    It was totally yummy––even the dark meat bits

%d bloggers like this: