BBBBBBBBQ: Maple bourbon barbecue sauce

New York is not, I frequently have to remind myself, merely a collection of myriad noises and annoyances (and machetes, but that’s another story); it is also kind of a dreamland–a city with an undeniable personality, where there is always something amazing happening (example: David Byrne is playing an outdoor concert at the bandshell three blocks from my house RIGHT NOW), where anything could happen at any time, and frequently does. It is also, however, a land where outdoor space is at such a premium that there are certain areas where people will totally cut you to get at one of the Parks and Rec grills in the park.

Maple bourbon barbecue chicken

I will not say which areas, but I will say that I have contemplated becoming one of those people.

Ah, yes, the urbanite’s lament: where will I sun? Where will I grow plants? Where will I grill slabs of meat? I find the last question particularly troubling, as there are few things I like to eat more than, oh, anything that has been cooked over an open fire. I feel this loss in my life more keenly at some times than others; when the missing hits, I do my best to bring the barbecue indoors. Sometimes, that means nothing more complicated than baking up some chicken swimming in barbecue sauce. Sometimes, that means being late for Mermaid practice because I’m making the barbecue sauce from scratch.

Maple bourbon barbecue sauce

Homemade barbecue sauce is one of my favorite things, not least because it’s guaranteed to get an ooh and an aah from any dinner guests, and it makes the house smell absolutely amazing. It’s also far less complicated than you’d think, even when you use crushed tomatoes instead of ketchup as the base, as I did here. The tricky part is, in my opinion, getting the right balance between the sweet, the tangy, and the spicy. I’m not entirely convinced I got it right on the first try; the maple and the bourbon flavors were not pronounced enough for my taste, nor did the vinegar have quite enough presence. However, as we all know, my tastes run towards the acidic, so I left the ratios as is in the recipe below–tinker to your personal tastes, but I think this version will appeal to most palates, particularly those that are not as bourbon-freaky as mine.

Maple bourbon barbecue sauce
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living, June 2009

1/3 cup canola oil
3 small onions, diced (3 cups)
6 garlic cloves, minced (3 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons ancho chili powder powder
1/2 teaspoon whole coriander seeds, toasted and ground
1/4 teaspoon whole cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
1/3 cup packed dark-brown sugar
4 cups crushed tomatoes (about 1 1/3  28-ounce cans)
3/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2c bourbon
1/4c maple syrup
2 cups water, plus more if needed

  1. Heat oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add onions and garlic, and saute until translucent and tender, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, the chili powder, coriander, cumin, molasses, and sugar. Stir and simmer for 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and cider vinegar, and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until mixture is thick and dark, 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Add more water if needed to loosen up the mixture; reduce heat to low if sauce is simmering too quickly.
  3. Puree sauce using a blender or immersion blender. Add remaining 4 teaspoons salt, remaining teaspoon pepper, the white vinegar, bourbon, maple syrup, and Worcestershire sauce, and puree some more. With blender running, carefully add water in a slow, steady stream. Blend until mixture is smooth and emulsified, adding more water if needed. Let cool.
  4. Slather on anything that will sit still long enough.
In barbecue, sauce

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