Barbecue chicken is one of my favorite summertime dishes. I like every part of it – the sauce (the spicier the better), the crispy skin, even the bones.
It’s also relatively healthy, at least as compared to barbecue brethren such as ribs, brisket and pork. It’s chicken, after all, and it wears that lean-protein halo. Unfortunately, when prepared skin-on and slathered with a sugary sauce, barbecue chicken is very nearly as caloric.
So I set myself the task of coming up with a recipe for a leaner version of based on chicken breasts that still boasted a mouth-watering sauce and an element of crunch.
The breasts are covered for two-thirds of the cooking time, which helps keep them moist. Letting them rest for a few minutes after baking is another way to maximize the juiciness.
For the sauce, I started with the usual ketchup base, balanced off the sugar with acid and Dijon mustard, then spiked it with a secret weapon – adobo sauce from canned chipotles in adobo. (If you open a whole can of chiles to make this sauce, you can freeze each chile with a little sauce in the cube of an ice cube tray.)
Panko bread crumbs provided the crunch. I sautéed them in a little olive oil with some fresh thyme until they were nicely toasted, then topped the chicken with the crumbs for the last 10 minutes of baking, which guaranteed the crumbs would stick to the chicken, but not get soggy.
I was very pleased with the end result: a juicy, spicy, slightly crunchy, easy-to-make chicken barbecue that’s tasty hot, cold or at room temperature.
Sara Moulton hosts public television’s “Sara’s Weeknight Meals” and has written three cookbooks, including “Sara Moulton’s Everyday Family Dinners.”