Bourbon Vegan Chick’n & Mushrooms w/Barley

Way back in the early 2000’s, I lived in Boston and worked for a progressive non-profit organization. It was my second “real” job straight out of college so the hours were long and the pay was crap, but it was Boston, a city me and a very close friend had talked about living in during grad school.

I was there and the reality didn’t quite match the dream. Don’t get me wrong, the city was incredible. It was beautiful and old, with marks of history featured everywhere from the roundabout roads to the brick-paved streets downtown, Fenway Park and all that good stuff. Unfortunately I was (mostly) too busy working to see much of the city and surrounding area until after the election was over.

But one of the things that still sticks in my mind, years later is this freestanding food court off the Downtown Crossing exit on the orange line. There was all of your basic crap from burgers & fries, to greasy fried rice, fried chicken, smoothies and the like. But there was this one place, tangentially New Orleans themed, and they had the most amazing bourbon chicken.

I loved it. I devoured it. I ordered it all the time. Just a simple dish of chicken breasts, pan fried until crispy and coated with a delicious sauce and served on a bed of rice. You could sit in the food court to eat it, but it came in a totally not sustainable foam packaging that–unfortunately–made it perfect to eat at your desk while trying to dispense payroll for sixty offices located around the country.

So it became one of my favorites.

Over the years I have tried to recreate this dish with varying measures of success, but this time I think I’ve finally gotten it right.

Boo-ya!

Vegan bourbon chickpeas & mushrooms

Like I said, I’ve tried this recipe plenty of times even in my vegan life, using everything from tofu, smoked tofu, Quorn filets and even seitan, and they come out good but not quite the same. Ya know?

This time I decided to throw out the handbook on veganizing an old nostalgic meal. I just added what I wanted, while staying true-ish to the important part of this dish; the sauce.

I kept my ingredient list relatively simple. Obviously not as simple as just using some type of vegan meat replacement and grain, but, still. This way you get more food, more variety and more nutrients.

My ingredients: Potatoes, crimini mushrooms, garlic, TVP (inedit brand), barley, onion, ground ginger, soy sauce (Tamari or cocos aminos work well if you can’t find vegan soy sauce), almond milk no sugar (Alpro brand), broth and cornstarch.

Tip: Cook the barley separate because it’s easier and because this isn’t a one pot vegan dish.

This is an oil-free vegan recipe but if you prefer to use oil to sauté your veggies, go right ahead because it’s important you like what you’re cooking.

Start with the mushrooms. I sliced them relatively thin so they could get crispy without drying out completely, about 15 minutes or so over medium heat. Cut them how you want, as long as you remember that you want them to be uniform in size to the onions and potatoes that also go into my version of this dish.

When the mushroom are about 75% cooked, add the potatoes and the onions. I find that if you add a few tablespoons of water at a time and cover the skillet, you can really cut down on the cook time for the potatoes. Take a look at the photo and you can see that I didn’t use big pieces of potato for this dish.

When you can stick a fork in the potato, it’s time to get started on the sauce.

Instead of a very liquid sauce, I went with a more gravy-like consistency. So I left out the ginger and brown sugar and went with soy sauce, bourbon and ground ginger. If you’re not going oil free, you can sprinkle the food in flour, add liquid and stir to thicken.

Bourbon vegan chicken & barley

I opted for a cornstarch & waste free broth & almond milk slurry to thicken the sauce, so I added the bourbon, cooked down some of the alcohol and then added the rest of the bourbon along with the slurry. Let it come to a boil so it gets nice and thick and then reduced to a simmer to let all the flavors get together and party for a few minutes, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Serve on a bed of rice, barley, bulgur, couscous or rice, or whatever grain gets your motor revving.

And then…nosh!

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