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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Friday, July 19

Gapers Block

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My best friend, Brandon, has been a source of inventive and seriously tasty meals for years -- especially in college, when I was a poor journalism major and he was working in a restaurant, fixing amazing dishes for himself based off ideas he came up with at work. From time to time, he'd email me his more successful recipes, which I would try on my friends and roommates.

Most of the dishes fell by the wayside over the years, but there was one I made a point of printing out and sticking in my cookbook. I've made it regularly over the years, and although when I mentioned it to him recently he didn't remember ever making it, I always associate this dish with Brandon. The following is the original emailed recipe for bourbon glazed chicken that he sent me so long ago, including the side dish he recommended at the time, baked yams.

Brandon's Bourbon Glazed Chicken
Saute (using very minimal oil and pinches each of salt and pepper) 1/4 cup thinly sliced celery, 1/3 cup shaved carrots and 1/3 cup finely diced or chopped onions (your preference). Saute quickly, and over high heat, until the carrots just begin to lighten and the onions begin to yellow. Reduce to medium heat and heap the majority of the veggies into a pile and lay boneless, skinless chicken breasts on top of the pile, sprinkling some of the sauteed veggies over the chicken. Cover and steam for about a minute, or until the chicken begins to whiten.

Uncover and add 1-2 teaspoons of premium bourbon and re-cover quickly. Reduce heat slightly, and allow it to steam for five minutes. Finish by actively sautéing the chicken to your preferred texture/finish.

Recommendations: Serve over a bed of wild or white rice which you've steamed or boiled also with carrot shavings, celery and onions, and possibly a few almond slivers. Be sure to add butter or margarine to the rice prior to cooking. The veggies you sauteed will more than likely be caramelized (chef-ese for "burned") and therefore undesirable. I also topped my chicken with a nice cran-raspberry dressing, which complimented the caramelly flavor added by the bourbon. Ocean Spray has an excellent product called "Fruit for Chicken" available in the juice aisle of your grocery store [note: this product may no longer exist], I think -- perfect for the dressing.

Double the sauteed veggies if you'll be cooking for more than one person. Serve with either French cut green beans steamed with almond slivers, baked butternut squash glazed with butter and brown sugar, or crisply sauteed red, yellow and green peppers (light on the oil) over a bed of crisp lettuce greens of your choice and a brisk Italian dressing.

Bitchin' Baked Yams
Fill a covered casserole dish snugly with cubed (and pre-peeled) yams or sweet potatoes (it's no sin to use'em canned -- apparently, the cans preserve their nutrients anyway). Cover with a layer of marshmallows ("How thick?" How sweet do you like your yams?) Sprinkle brown sugar and pecans over the marshmallows. Bake at 350 degrees until the marshmallows have mostly melted and the soupy sugary stuff at the bottom begins to bubble...just kidding. Bake until the yams are soft and hot, pull them out and serve.

So there you have it, a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants meal you could prepare on a near moment's notice (provided you've got a little bourbon in the house). It's important to point out that Brandon literally made this meal up. As I've made it over the years, I've made slight adaptations on occasion -- serving the chicken over couscous, for instance, or adding a little minced garlic to the sauteed veggies -- and it's turned out just as good as the original recipe. That experimentation is important in the kitchen; occasionally you'll be missing an ingredient and have to improvise. Some of the best recipes come out of such improvisations and experiments. Just take a look at what you've got in the fridge and see what you can do with it.


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Paul / November 10, 2003 11:17 PM

Mmmm, sounds good. I always keep a bottle of Knob Creek around for this kind of thing, also used in a sweet potato dish I do (sans marsmallows).


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