Booze-Free Bourbon Chicken

Oh, what panacea of earthly hunger is the mall food court. The malls in my area being too strip-y (it is New Jersey, after all) or fancy (you could never call it Short Hills Mall) for food courts, I really first discovered them in college, when I hopped the Wave to the Cambridgeside Galleria. There I spent many happy lunches among cheap Indian food, glistening pretzels, barrels of bright and beautiful sherbet, and, of course, free samples. I like free samples, even though I am aware that they are mini food traps, designed to lure you in with one bite, so that the tiny chocolate-chip-studded bite from Mrs. Fields eventually morphs into an $8.99 "chocolate deluxe" cookie monster. Still, free food=good deal.

Usually I am shameless about free samples (there is a cheese shop in Cambridge Dave refuses to enter with me), and I rarely end up buying what's offered, but a few weeks ago I fell head over heels for a sticky, sweetish, deliciously fattening and flavorful morsel--bourbon chicken.

Bourbon chicken is what you would get if Chinese food and Southern food exploded together. It is rich and tangy, completely coated with a sweet, dark glaze. Although the name suggests otherwise, there's no bourbon in it (at least not the recipe I use), making it safe to feed to infants and recovering alcoholics alike (what do people who can't drink do when confronted with vodka sauce? or beer-battered chicken? or chicken marseilles? hmm...). I found this recipe online, and the delicious result, simple ingredients, and no-fuss directions make it a keeper in my (recipe) book. I served it over white rice, Uncle-Ben-style since I don't have a rice cooker. Still good.

chicken thigh and leg meat, cut into bite-size pieces
1-2 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/4 teaspoon ginger
3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup apple juice
1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup soy sauce

Heat oil in a large skillet.
Add chicken pieces and cook until lightly browned.
Remove chicken.
Add remaining ingredients, heating over medium
Heat until well mixed and dissolved.
Add chicken and bring to a hard boil.
Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
Serve over hot rice

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