Saturday, August 1, 2009

Ask Andy: BBQ Sauce

My friend Andy and I liked to experiment with food when we were growing up. Our foray into outdoor cooking occurred sometime around the 7th or 8th grade, with "The 1st [and ONLY] Annual Hot Foods Festival." Despite the rain, the event was a success, with four boys choking down fiery food and sweating profusely. Most of the food was successful, except for the Tabasco cookies. The chemical structure of the dough broke down, leaving behind wafer-thin crispy discs.

As adults, Andy and I continued our experimentation whenever we were in the same town... At my first job out of college, I discovered that a coworker grew Scotch Bonnet Habenero Peppers (this discovery was both intriguing and alarming because "What kind of person would plant THOSE?!"). I wrapped them up safely for a trip to New Hampshire where I handed them with Andy. We spent several hours making a wicked BBQ sauce out of only molasses, onion, and Habenero pepper. I damaged my stomach a little, but man (!) it was wonderful stuff.

A few years ago Andy attended culinary school, where he acquired some serious knowledge, but his most valuable skill in the kitchen is patience. He has spent years testing and experimenting with sauces and rubs. He once told me about how he spent an entire weekend roasting turkey bones, then boiling them into a stock with a bunch of veggies (and cognac I think), then reduced and reduced the stock down so much that the liquid could be frozen 12 tiny ice cubes. "Instant Flavor Cubes" he called them.

We still pick each other's brains about food whenever we see each other. The other night, he passed through New York, and we talked about some of our old BBQ sauces. I asked him what makes a perfect BBQ sauce. He listed, "Caramelized Onion, a can of Tomato Paste, Molasses, and Bourbon should do you just right." And, of course, lots of time and patience...

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