How many times have you leafed through a cookbook and encountered hard-to-find ingredients? This is pretty much the norm – and not the exception – these days. I don’t usually have the time to visit several specialty shops to look for unique ingredients and I’d assume you don’t either. Instead, I take a more flexible approach and study each recipe to understand it’s essentials and how I can make it work for me. Will your substitutions be the exact same as the original recipe? Likely NOT. It will be your own and sometimes even better than the original. The ability to swap and experiment provides the ultimate kitchen freedom.
Here’s a great example. A year or so before I wrote my own cookbook, FOOD YOU WANT For The Life You Crave, I set out to make Chrissy Teigen’s Chipotle-Honey Chicken With Mango-Avocado Salad from her first cookbook Cravings. (Trust me, one look at the recipe’s image and you’ll drool for it too.) Her recipe calls for canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. Back then, I didn’t actually know what the heck those canned peppers were or where to find them in Hong Kong. Turns out, chipotle chiles in adobo are pretty easy to find in the US. Go figure! If these canned commons are like ketchup to you, go ahead and laugh. But actually, for real, I hadn’t a clue what they were.
Nonetheless, I was fairly obsessed with nailing this recipe with precision, so I called and visited a dozen supermarkets with no luck. I broke my rule “though shall not go on a wild goose chase for an ingredient”. The failed ingredient chase took far too long, until I decided to get smart. And flexible.
I finally thought, surely there’s a substitute for these obscure spicy and smoky peppers canned in tomato sauce. So, I concocted my own version of this recipe and … wow … it’s seriously delectable! It’s totally different than Chrissy’s original, which you should really try too. But I urge you: Get out of the box of following a recipe line-by-line and learn to experiment. Life is more fun that way.
My Flexible Adaptation of Chrissy Teigen’s Chipotle-Honey Chicken
A Twist On Chrissy Teigen's Amazing Chipotle-Honey Chicken
- 1 cup BBQ sauce
- ⅓ cup brown sugar
- ⅓ cup bourbon
- 15-20 garlic cloves
- 1 tsp hot pepper sauce
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- ¼ cup canned peppers (I uses piquillo)
- 2 tbsp sriracha sauce
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- Pepper, to taste
- 8-12 chicken thighs, bone in
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Salsa (Use Original)
- 1 large firm mango, pitted and finely diced
- 1/2 firm avocado, diced
- 3 tbsp finely diced red onion
- ¼ cup cilantro leaves, lightly packed
- 1/2 lime
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a blender, combine all marinade ingredients. Set aside.
Generously season chicken with salt and pepper.
Place chicken in a large Ziploc bag and add sauce. Let marinade in refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or up to 1 day.
Preheat oven to 375ºF and line a baking sheet with foil.
Transfer marinated chicken from bag to pan and bake about 40-45 minutes, or until fully cooked
While chicken cooks, toss together salsa ingredients.
Once chicken is fully cooked, top with salsa and serve.