barbecue sauce


If there is one thing my family knows, it is barbecue.  And they are picky about it.  Not picky in the sense I am picky, but picky in the sense of they know what’s good and they know what’s not and they are very particular about it because they know how it can be done well.  On family vacations my parents would always have to find the local barbecue place, and they were unreserved in their judgments once we got in the car after our meal.  I remember whole conversations of comparing certain barbecue joints to certain other ones and detailed discussions about what exactly was different about their pork or their sauce.

Growing up, there was a barbecue place out in the country we would drive to regularly (my brother and I loved it because it had a pig statue bigger than us that we got to climb all over), and then at some point it got a new owner and my parents said it wasn’t as good and now we haven’t been there in years.  Now, however, there is a place closer to our house that we always depend on, long drive-through line and all.

And with the family’s obsession with barbecue, my dad has also become quite the barbecuer.  Now, my dad has always been great at grilling things (and making great marinades for steaks and delicious hamburgers), but in recent years he has also gotten into smoking (which I realize for the un-barbecue initiated sounds like a confusing thing to say).  But he has now smoked just about every standard thing you can: ribs, chicken, pork butts, and even our Thanksgiving turkey.  And I have to say he has made some of the best smoked chicken and ribs that I have ever had.

This past weekend we went with my parents to the Whistlestop Festival in downtown Huntsville, which is basically a big tailgate/barbecue festival/cook-off.  We meandered through tents and my dad stopped to look at everyone’s smokers.  We had some barbecue and talked with friends.  And I’m pretty sure my dad has a hankering to enter the contest next year (and, since I’ve had his food before, I think his odds would be pretty good).

The most interesting part of the evening was when we talked to some of the professional contestants.  As in, they enter barbecue contests for a living.  They travel the country in RVs and stop at a new festival every weekend for just about the entire year.  I told my mom that such a lifestyle would perfectly combine her desire to road trip to all the states in an RV when they retire and my dad’s desire to barbecue.  I think she is afraid I was putting ideas into my dad’s head.  I’m pretty sure that she does not want to enter forty barbecue contests in a year.

So, here is my little tribute to barbecue in the form of Ina Garten’s barbecue sauce.  Despite its laundry list of ingredients, this is an easy sauce to make.  And it’s a little bit of everything: a little bit spicy, a little bit sweet, a little bit tangy.  We had it over chicken cooked low and slow in the oven.  And even though the sauce is really too strong flavor-wise for me to eat directly, it adds wonderful flavor to whatever you put it on (even if you’re like me and scrape off all the excess sauce before eating the chicken).  Gerrit has been spreading it on sandwiches all week and even eating it by the spoonful occasionally.

And my family all thought it was delicious, and considering how particular they are about barbecue, I’d say that means it’s pretty good.

Ina Garten’s Barbecue Sauce
from Ina Garten

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes

Makes 6 cups

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 large yellow onion, minced (about 1 1/2 cups)
3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
1 cup (10 oz.) tomato paste
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup honey
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 cup Dijon mustard
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes

1. In a large saucepan (that can hold at least 6 cups) heat the vegetable oil over medium-low heat.  Add the onion and garlic and cook for about 10 to 15 minutes, until the onions are soft and translucent (but not brown).
2.  Add the tomato paste, cider vinegar, honey, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, chili powder, cumin, and red pepper flakes.  Stir to combine.  Simmer over medium-low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator.  (The sauce can also be frozen for a later use).

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