The other morning, I tiptoed into the bedroom and shook my slumbering fiancé. “Babe, wake up. I want you to taste my barbecue sauce.”
He was still groggy, but he nonetheless asked a valid question: “Why are you making barbecue sauce?”
Making barbecue sauce, indeed. Isn’t that like reinventing the wheel?
Nothing wrong with that if the wheel is busted.
I realized this the other day, when I was at the supermarket and found myself standing before the Great Wall of Condiments. I began reading various lists of ingredients — artificial smoke flavor, caramel color, sodium benzoate.
“That’s enough” I thought, “I’ll just make my own.”
I went to bed thinking about this BBQ sauce. I dreamt about the tiny kitchen at Home restaurant in the West Village years ago, where we made our own everything, including ketchup and BBQ sauce.
At the time, I abhorred those blackening onions on the flattop griddle, the vinegar reductions burning my sensitive nasal passages, the smell of nearly burnt garlic on my clothes and on my skin. The smoke was aggressive, and got in the way of my sensitive pie baking and pastry making.
At the same time, I fondly recalled the grunts and the groans of pleasure from Home’s customers as they chewed on chicken legs and baby backs, stopping only to signal their server — with stained fingers — for extra napkins.
But now I know the trick: browning of the onions and the garlic, and cooking the BBQ sauce nice and slow until it is a deep glossy cherry wood red.
1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 small red onions, peeled, stemmed, quartered
10 garlic cloves, halved
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup clover or orange blossom honey
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 chipotle pepper in adobo
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup whole grain mustard
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated zest and juice of one lemon
In a heavy-bottomed medium sized saucepan, dry toast the coriander seeds over medium low heat until toasted and fragrant.
Add the olive oil, red onions, garlic and salt. Cook over medium high heat stirring occasionally, developing deep dark color, browning without burning. The onions and the garlic should be brown and soft, and falling apart.
Add the crushed tomatoes, honey, brown sugar, chipotle, vinegar, mustard, cumin, black pepper, lemon zest and juice. Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, stirring often.
Remove from heat and carefully ladle the sauce into a blender. Puree until smooth.
Return the sauce to the saucepan over low heat and simmer 10- 15 minutes more, stirring often until a deep rich color is reached and low slow bubbles are formed (you may place an offset cover over the simmering sauce to keep the mess down). Taste and add additional salt and pepper if desired.
Makes one quart of sauce which can be refrigerated up to two weeks or frozen up to three months.
Note: Marinate chicken in some of this sauce overnight and then bake it 3/4 of the way in a 375-degree oven to prevent scorching. Before serving, mop it with tons more BBQ sauce and finish it on the grill.
Melissa Murphy is the chef/owner of Sweet Melissa Patisserie [175 Seventh Ave., between First and Second streets in Park Slope, (718) 788-2700; 276 Court St., between Butler and Douglass streets in Cobble Hill, (718) 855-3410].