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Barbecue: The seasonal outdoor delight

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Updated: June 29, 2012 8:07AM



I t doesn’t take a lot to bring you out of that winter cooking rut. In fact, if you stepped outside on the first day in spring when the weather tipped the mercury at 50-degrees, you probably could detect the long-familiar aroma of smoke and charcoal that seemed to usher in barbecue season’s ceremonious return.

That’s real cabin fever.

But for the rest of us, it’s Memorial Day — the unofficial first day of barbecue season — that gives us the proper reign to whip up those seasonal outdoor delights. Burgers and dogs, shish kabobs and chicken thighs, ribs and briskets. Everything we’ve wanted to munch on for the past six dreary months. It’s time to dust off the grill tops, search for recipes to show off our grilling prowess, and of course, find that perfect accompaniment for the meats: barbecue sauce.

Arguing over the best recipe for BBQ sauce can get as heated as a political discussion. So just settle it right now. There isn’t just one recipe that’s considered the best. If you’re being sensible, you’d have to contend a medalist in every sauce category. There’s the dry rub of Memphis, the yellow mustardy type of North Carolina, the black Kentucky sauce drunk with bourbon, Texas-style and Kansas City-style. The latter is the one we most often reach for — the thick, sweet sauce we can put on the meat before its grilled and slop on some even after. A good Kansas City sauce will burst with flavor, but it won’t burn your palate with added heat. You’ll drench your ribs, your brisket, or your chicken in it, and then pour it all over your potato salad, coleslaw and mac ’n’ cheese. You’ll douse your burgers, bottle it up for later, and even sneak it into a restaurant when you need a really tasty French fry dip.

This recipe will make your Memorial Day picnic guests do all of that and they won’t argue about its best-in-class status. Sweet with molasses and brown sugar and just a hint of hot sauce, it has the classic Kansas City kick. It’s thick, like a classic KC sauce should be, making it perfect for basting or serving. And if the rain has the grill out of order, add a little bit of liquid smoke to the sauce to break your flavor out of its cabin fever.

KANSAS CITY-STYLE BARBECUE SAUCE

3/4 cup cider vinegar

1/2 cup ketchup

1/4 cup molasses

1 tablespoon honey

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

1 garlic clove, minced

1/4 cup chili sauce

2 tablespoons chopped, sauteed onion

2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon hot sauce

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

Dash of ground red pepper

1 teaspoon liquid smoke (optional)

Stir together all ingredients (except liquid smoke) in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and let simmer, stirring occasionally, about 40 minutes. Add liquid smoke, if using.

Let cool and then pour into two containers — one for basting and one for serving.

Adapted from “Thick-and-Robust Barbecue Sauce,” Southern Living, November 2003



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