For the sauce, I wanted to conjure up something with big flavor that wasn’t too sweet and somehow didn’t require hours of simmering on top of the stove. 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. Chipotles are smoked jalapenos; they are hot and smoky, as is the adobo sauce they swim in. You also could use an actual chipotle, finely minced, but I found that a tad too fiery for this small amount of sauce.
By the way, if you open a whole can of chilies to make this sauce, you can freeze what you don’t use by putting a chili with a little sauce into each cube of an ice cube tray. Caution: After this baptism by fire, this particular tray will be usable only for freezing other spicy or tomato-based preparations.
Finally, I needed to add some crunch to the recipe to replicate the missing skin and bones. Panko bread crumbs did the trick. One of my favorite ingredients these days, these fantastically crispy Japanese bread crumbs are available at most grocers (check the international aisle if you don’t see them in with the regular bread crumbs). I sauteed 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 happens to be tasty hot, cold or at room temperature.
EASY BAKED BARBECUE CHICKEN BREASTS
This barbecue sauce can be as flavorful as you like. For the adobo sauce and garlic, start with the lower amounts, then taste and adjust to your preference.