01 May 2012

In the month of May

And so, we begin again.

When it comes to food, this family is the embodiment of Goldilocks and the Three Bears: Me: Is it healthy? The spouse: Do I want it? The son: I want it to have meat. The daughter: Just make pasta.

To add to the fun, I don't have a lot of time to cook elaborate meals on weeknights, so I'm always up for something delicious and easy. I found a great idea to cook tri-tip in barbecue sauce in the crockpot. Brilliance, I thought. I'll try it! I thought. But I needed to find a recipe for a tangy and spicy sauce. Preferably one without ketchup (sorry! I wasn't kidding about the picky). Ketchup frequently contains all sorts of weird stuff. It's also often cloyingly sweet, and sweet was precisely what I was trying to avoid.

Like most sauces, I think of barbecue sauce as something highly personal. Because there's really sweet stuff and sort of smoky stuff and very spicy stuff. I don't like the sweet stuff and I sure haven't found a bottled type that I like, even if they didn't all seem to have some sort of suspect ingredient (or 12). The son likes it sweeter, the spouse doesn't want indigestion, the daughter wants it hot.

So, off I went hunting for a homemade barbecue sauce. And every single one included ketchup.

I'm not for a minute going to pretend that I know anything in particular about barbecue. I know there's KC and Texas and whatever, mops and dry rubs and sauces, but their varied and appropriate use? No. Do I mind that I don't know? Not really. I do make pretty good ribs (that recipe is around here somewhere), even though I don't really like them. It's one of those things that I do for everyone else in the family. And yeah, if we go to a barbecue place, I'll probably be eating a salad (it might have smoked meat on it, I admit). But I do know what I want a sauce to taste like.

So, after reading recipes for a couple of hours, I hit on a combination of things that I thought would be pretty good and would generally appeal to the family. This morning, I made the sauce, and the spouse and daughter loved it (the son clings to his bottled sauce, and that's fine). The spouse said it reminded him of the sauce that we got at a barbecue restaurant in Studio City that has long since closed (I can't remember the name; we always called it The Pig Joint because the owner had it decked out with pig paraphernalia).

Tomorrow, I make tri-tip in the crockpot with my own barbecue sauce.

Homemade No Ketchup Barbecue Sauce

1 Tbl olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 c. brown sugar
2 Tbs. molasses
1/2 c apple cider vinegar
1/8 c white wine vinegar
2 tsp liquid smoke
2 Tbl Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbl spice mix (recipe follows)
1/8 tsp cayenne
1/4-1/2 tsp Tabasco sauce
1 28 oz can organic chopped tomatoes
1 6 oz can organic tomato paste

Heat olive oil in a 3-qt saucepan. Saute onion on medium-low heat until soft, 7-10 minutes. Add garlic and saute an additional 2-3 minutes. Whisk together brown sugar, molasses, vinegars, liquid smoke, Worcestershire sauce, spice mix, cayenne and Tabasco sauce and add to the pan, stirring to incorporate. Stir in chopped tomatoes and tomato paste, mixing well. Bring to a boil, then simmer uncovered over low heat for up to 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until the sauce cooks down to the desired consistency. Test for seasoning. Let cool and put in blender. Blend until smooth. Makes approximately 4 cups of sauce.

Spice Mix

1 Tbl seasoned salt
1 Tbl Hungarian paprika
1 Tbl smoked paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1-1/2 tsp chili powder
3/4 tsp rubbed sage
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp ground chipotle chili
Pinch ground made
Pinch of ground cloves

Whisk together. This will make a little more than you need for the sauce, so there is extra if you want to add extra kick to the sauce.

Where credit is due:

The Spohrs are Multiplying for the crockpot tri-tip idea.

Cooking for Engineers for method and thoughts on sauce ingredients and proportions.

The Yummy Life for ingredient ideas and basic proportions for the spice mix. I also referred to her variations on barbecue sauces.

Go forth and experiment.

Go listen to some good music: "Month of May" from the album The Suburbs by Arcade Fire. And another thing: Sometimes I hear from people who believe that because I don't like something--and say so!--I am somehow casting aspersion on their choices. This couldn't be further from the truth. If you like ketchup in your sauce, please use it! Like I said, this is all about personal preferences.

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