Daddy’s Little Grill {barbecue sauce}

My mom gets a lot of credit on this blog for being the reason that I enjoy cooking so much – and that credit is well-placed. I was cooking in the kitchen as soon as I could see over the counter and whether or not this was a good idea, I was wielding a knife around the time I knew what wielding meant. But mom wasn’t the only cook in our house – my Dad is a heck of a cook too. And whether or not as a child I attributed my ability to draw and doodle to my dad and my ability to cook to my mom, I now realize that as you might think, I’m a product of both of them equally.

Growing up, Dad’s main responsibility was manning the grill. I’m still not adept at outside-cookery and I think that’s part of the reason that Dad doesn’t get more nods on the blog. But when I was thinking about what to make in honor of his birthday today (happy birthday, Pa!) one thing immediately came to mind – barbecue sauce.

I have a couple of very distinct food memories with my dad. The first was when I was in the 6th grade or so, mom left town and Dad and I had the house to ourselves for the weekend. Dad decided that we were going to make one of his favorite meals as a kid growing up: pan-fried hamburgers and canned French-style green beans. I remember shopping for our dinner ingredients together and also deciding that we should buy a can of Spam to see what all the fuss was about. Well, the hamburgers and green beans were delicious and to this day I think the can of Spam may be hidden at the back of our pantry on Pembridge Place waiting for us to get the courage to open it up and eat it. That’s saying a lot for two people who loved nothing more than sitting on a hot boat in the middle of the Gulf trawling for mackerel and eating Vienna sausages.

The second food memory is the inspiration for this post: Dad’s barbecue sauce. As the grill master, there were a few times when Dad was in the kitchen and one of those was on a Saturday afternoon while he got his sauce together for ribs or grilled chicken. The sauce recipe comes from the Joy of Cooking and if memory serves me right, it’s verbatim with the exception of the paprika. Without fail, whenever he and I would make this, he would say the following: “nothing smells better than onions sautéing.” He’s right.

Take a look at the state of this cookbook. It’s so old and used that we don’t even have the cover anymore.

DSC_0623I’m pretty sure that this edition was printed sometime in the 1960’s. I have a newer copy too, but when it comes to making this sauce, I have to go to the original. You’ll see why. First of all, the red ribbon is, and has been for as long as I can remember, trained on the barbecue sauce page.

DSC_0630And when you open it up, there are two things to notice: how many fantastic spots and stains are on the page, and my mom’s handwriting (and misspelling of recipe) in faded blue pen.

DSC_0632That is family and memories in physical form. It’s so comforting to me to think about when those splatters were made and where we were. That my dad’s fingerprints and saucy drippings and mom’s handwriting are all over this page and I get to open this cookbook whenever I want and have both of them in the kitchen with me is, to me, what makes cooking such a magical thing.

I suppose I should get down to it. Here is what you’ll need to make a really delicious, tangy, slightly sweet and vinegary barbecue sauce.

DSC_0642Your ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon bacon fat or olive oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoon vinegar (I use apple cider vinegar)
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 12-ounce jar Del Monte Chili Sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard

Grab a small sauce pot and heat your fat on the stove over medium heat. Add the onions and saute for about 10 minutes or until they begin to brown. From there, it’s measure and dump. Add the rest of your ingredients to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and let the sauce simmer for about 20 minutes or until it’s the consistency that you prefer.

DSC_0663We decided to put this to use on some chicken leg quarters and it was delicious. Like I said, it’s great on ribs too or pork or anything that you feel like dredging through a tangy sauce.

DSC_0740I still love stealing the moments when Dad is out by the grill by himself and I get to walk outside and give him a hug and see what’s cooking. We’ll stand out there for a while, talking, like we’ve done for 30 years, and I’ll get to take the platter inside to wash or help hold the doors to let him bring in dinner in one hand and his drink in the other. I love you, Dad!