… which I haven’t done for a while. And I should more often, I suppose. Right now, cooking is giving me a wonderful creative outlet that affords me immediate gratification. I get to eat what I cook, and I’m getting pretty darned good at it.
On a recent episode of “Good Eats” … Alton was using molasses as the topic for the show. It’s one of those things I buy around Christmas time for a couple of cookie recipes that I like … and sometimes when I’m making a big, hearty, dark loaf of bread there’s nothing better than molasses as a sweetener. But mostly, it sits in the pantry and makes a dark brown ring on the shelf because a little has dripped over the lip of the jar when you’re pouring it … and it winds up stuck to the shelf.
So, I watched Mr. Brown make a marinade out of molasses and coffee as the principal ingredients. Plus the usual. Kosher salt, garlic, etc. It looked easy. I tried it. Oh … My …. God. I marinated a pork roast in it, and it was to die for. This has become my new favorite thing. I go through phases like this, where I’ll get a notion in my head and cook with it every which way I can. Right now, it’s molasses.
Last night, I wanted to do chicken thighs on the grill. I bought them boneless and skinless, and whipped up the marinade. Apple cider vinegar, molasses, smoked paprika, chopped fresh garlic, and some stuff called “Completa”, which is on the ethnic food aisle at Publix and is mostly salt, and pepper, garlic powder, and dried parsley. Chicken in a zip-top bag, along with the stuff, and into the fridge for a two to four hours.
Now, once the chicken is on the grill with indirect heat, it’s time to play.
I put the marinade in a sauce pan, added more vinegar, and half a can of tomato paste and some dried mustard. I know, there was raw chicken in the marinade, but I’m going to boil and reduce the sauce, so cross-contamination is not an issue. I’ll eventually wind up making this from scratch and having it on hand, because it made the best barbecue sauce I think I’ve ever eaten … and I made it myself.
Before I moved the chicken, which had attained an amazing color from the marinade and cooking, over to the direct heat … I took my sauce off the kitchen stove and moved it to the side burner on my grill. Yes, I have a charcoal grill, but I bought one of those little 15 dollar single burner camp stoves to put on one of the side trays and Voila … instant outdoor kitchen. As I cooked the chicken over direct heat, I sauced it a couple of times and then just let the temp come up to 170. More sauce on the side … and ladies and gentleman (if I may paraphrase another Food Network mainstay … Guy Fieri) it was a one-way ticket to flavor town.
All that to say that sauces are fun. I used to be afraid of them. Really. But simple sauces can really enhance the flavor of your food. Unfortunately, if you’re not careful, they can really up the calorie count as well. I’ve made simple butter sauces, this killer barbecue sauce, roasted red pepper sauce, red wine reductions … all it takes is a little confidence. One of my favorite things to do after cooking a roast low and slow in the oven is to take all of the supporting cast … carrots, tomatoes, onions, garlic, wine what ever you’ve thrown in the pot with the roast … along with the juice that is the result of cooking … and take the stick blender to it. Just puree it up into a nice, thick, rich sauce that so wonderfully compliments the meat because it’s all cooked together. All it took was the confidence to say “this might be pretty good …”
So tonight, my theme is “don’t be afraid to sauce”. Any good cookbook will have some basic sauce recipes, and once you’re comfortable with the basics, you can just play.
But be careful … your waistline might pay the price.