Sunday, March 14, 2010

Homemade Barbeque Sauce

In anticipation of better weather (and in protest of our current not-winter-anymore-but-not-quite-spring-either weather), I've started grilling outdoors.  We have a nice covered porch which makes it easy to use the grill even if it's raining.  Barbequed chicken is pretty easy to make outdoors because it doesn't require much babysitting.  The chicken is brushed with sauce and is placed on the grill.  After a few minutes, it is flipped once, brushed with more sauce, but is otherwise left alone while it cooks.  Pretty simple.

Homemade barbeque sauce is really easy to make. Onions are browned in butter (olive oil can be substituted for a somewhat healthier sauce…but the butter tastes better), then everything else is added and simmered over medium heat. There’s not much to it.

One thing that's great about this sauce: you can make it ahead and freeze it. You can also make it in larger quantities.

Homemade Barbeque Sauce (for chicken)
Makes about 3 cups of sauce

1 small onion, finely chopped (a mini food processor works well!)
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice (2 large lemons yielded the proper amount of juice)
1/2 cup dry red wine (I used a Malbec on this particular occasion, but I usually make it with Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz)
Several shakes (to taste) of Tabasco or similar hot sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup spicy mustard
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ancho chili powder (another type will also suffice if you don’t have ancho)
1 cup water

Place the chopped onions and the butter in a medium skillet. Spread out the onions so they cover the bottom of the pan. Turn the heat to medium-low and allow the onions to brown slowly. The moisture will begin to cook out of the pan and the onions will begin to brown at the edges. Avoid stirring the pan until this starts to happen. The pan looks like this when it’s time to stir (see the browned edges?):

Stir the onions and allow them to continue to brown slightly longer, so they are evenly browned. Transfer the browned onions to a medium saucepan and add the remaining ingredients.

Simmer the sauce over medium heat, stirring often, to reduce the sauce by approximately one third.

I usually serve this sauce with grilled chicken. I pour a small amount of the sauce over the chicken pieces as a marinade. The remaining sauce is saved to mop the chicken as it is grilling. (Remember, should any of the reserved basting sauce come into contact with raw meat, be sure to return the sauce to a boil before using it to baste cooked chicken!)

The chicken in these pictures is served with my Bacon and Spinach Couscous. It’s really yummy – give it a try.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Bacon and Spinach Couscous

I’ve been in search of a new couscous recipe. I love my cranberry and spinach couscous recipe, but I make it so often that I’d like to try something different for a change of pace.

This couscous recipe is full of flavor and is easy to make. It’s especially easy if you have a mini food-processor (you can use it to cut up the onion and garlic). The couscous is flavored by bacon, has a touch of sweetness due to applesauce, and is embellished with a bit of cheddar cheese. The combination of flavors results in a pretty tasty side dish.

As with my other favorite couscous recipe, this recipe also uses Israeli couscous, a.k.a. pearl couscous. It is larger in size than regular couscous and the resulting texture and taste is completely different. If you think you don’t like couscous and the only kind you’ve tried is the standard small-size couscous, you should give this type of couscous a try. Here’s what the two types of couscous look like – you can see that there’s quite a difference in size between the two.

Bacon and Spinach Couscous
Serves 3-4 as a side dish

4 thickly-sliced strips of bacon
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 ounces mushrooms, roughly chopped (I splurged and used morels because they were available at the grocery store, but you can use baby portabellas with good results)
1 cup Israeli (pearl) couscous
1 tbsp grainy Dijon mustard
1/4 cup unflavored applesauce
1-1/2 cups chicken stock
3 ounces baby spinach, roughly chopped
3/4 cup shredded white cheddar cheese

You’ll need a deep, wide sauté pan that has a lid. If your frying pan has a lid, that should work.

First, dice the bacon. Place it in your deep sauté pan and cook it over medium heat until the fat has started to render but the bacon is still not crisp. Caution: don’t let the bacon crisp up just yet! Give it a stir every now and then.

While the bacon is cooking, chop the onion and garlic. I like to put them together into a mini food processor because it’s easy!

As I've indicated above, we don’t want to let the bacon crisp up just yet. Once the bacon has released fat into the pan (but before it turns crisp), carefully pour or spoon out as much fat as you can. You can discard it or save it for another purpose. Add the chopped onion and garlic to the pan. Continue to cook over medium heat several minutes until the onions begin to brown – the bacon will start to brown too, and that’s fine. Just give it a stir periodically to keep it from sticking and burning.

While the onion mixture is cooking, chop your mushrooms; stir them into the pan.

Pour in the couscous and stir to combine. Continue to cook over medium heat while you complete the next step…

In a small bowl (I like to use a 2-cup liquid measure), stir together the mustard, applesauce, and chicken stock. Pour the mixture into the pan – stir it to combine the ingredients. Bring it to a simmer over medium heat.

Once the liquid begins to simmer, cover it with the lid. Reduce the heat to low and cook it for 10 minutes, or until the couscous has absorbed the liquid.

While the couscous cooks, roughly chop the spinach and set it aside. Grate the cheese and set it aside.

Once the couscous has completed its cooking time, remove the lid. Stir in the spinach (you may need to stir it in two additions – it seems like a lot of spinach, but it will wilt down to practically nothing). Sprinkle the cheese over the couscous; stir it in to combine it and melt it.

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