Monday, May 31, 2010

Homemade BBQ Sauce

When I go to the grocery store, I try to be conscious of the ingredients that are in the food I'm buying, particularly the all-invasive High Fructose Corn Syrup. I'll freely admit the bias and all that I've read about it - but the fact that it is in everything is what really irks me. Salad Dressing, Spaghetti Sauce, really? The BA clan does like barbecue on occasion: chicken breasts, ribs, etc. and I try to buy a BBQ sauce that does not have HFCS in the ingredients. It usually takes some doing and I always say that I'm going to start making my own. Here's a recipe that uses coffee. Yeah, bring it on, baby! Leslie Buck would be proud. Who was Mr. Buck you ask? He created this (click on his name for the Time Magazine obituary):

So in honor of Memorial Day and the unofficial start of the Summer (the BA clan is likely at the pool!), try this sauce next time.

Leftover Coffee Barbecue Sauce
The Washington Post, May 12, 2010

Coffee adds unmistakable body and flavor to this no-cook sauce.

MAKE AHEAD: The sauce can refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Makes 4 1/2 cups
  • 2 large dried ancho chili peppers
  • 2 cups hot coffee
  • 1 chipotle pepper from a can of chipotle en adobo, such as La Morena brand
  • 3 medium cloves garlic
  • 2 cups ketchup (there's that HFCS, again)
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • Juice from about 2 lemons (1/4 cup)
Char the ancho peppers on a gas stove by holding one pepper at a time with long tongs over a low open flame, or on an electric stove by placing the pepper directly on the burner. With either method, cook for 1 minute, turning frequently, until the pepper has puffed, softened and charred slightly. Repeat with the remaining pepper. Discard the stem and seeds and cut each pepper into 3 or 4 pieces.

Transfer to a blender; add the hot coffee. Remove the center knob from the lid and place a dish towel over the opening to prevent hot liquid from escaping. Puree, starting on low speed and increasing the speed to high. Add the chipotle pepper, garlic, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice; puree until smooth. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to to 2 weeks.

Recipe Source:
From Real Entertaining columnist David Hagedorn.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Salted Caramel Sauce

Some of you may be shocked by this - but if you know me well enough, it's not a surprise - I love ice cream. I love most sweet things. I also enjoy salty things. Give me a bag of chips and I'll leave you alone for a while (when I spotted this on kottke, I was a little disappointed - full disclosure, I have been caught salting Frito's - in Frito-Lay's decision to change the kind of salt they use on their chip products).

Anyway, here's a recipe from the Amateur Gourmet for a Salted Caramel Sauce, which he proclaims good for dipping apples in as well as pouring over ice cream (though I still enjoy NJM's fudge sauce for that).

Salted Caramel Sauce
Summary from Adam Roberts on his blog post (linked above)
Here's a one-pot dessert sauce that, with a tub of good vanilla ice cream (I like Häagen-Dazs), will transform your entire weekend. It's salty, it's sticky, it's sweet and it takes just a few minutes.

The only thing that might give you pause is that making caramel can be a little scary. Essentially, you're melting sugar and cooking it until it takes on a deep, complex flavor - it'll turn a dark golden color - that is at its absolute best just before it burns. But you don't want it to burn because burnt caramel, like burnt garlic, cannot be rescued. Therefore, you have to cook it carefully. [emphasis added - Brave Astronaut]

Also, not to scare you, but you can really burn yourself. So be very cautious. Imagine the hottest substance you can imagine and then imagine if that substance were sticky. That's what you have when you're cooking caramel so don't do this around small children or those with uncontrollable spasms or small children with uncontrollable spasms. It won't be a pretty picture. [emphasis added - Brave Astronaut]

That said, if you attack this with confidence, it'll come together in a jiffy. And just in case I didn't sell you on the sauce enough, anyone who likes things salty and sweet will be quickly won over. And it lasts a really long time in the fridge (we had this for dessert on ice cream on many many nights).

Salted Caramel Sauce
by Zoe Nathan from Food & Wine Magazine

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons gray sea salt, crushed (<--I really used this, because I had it, and I won't say it made the difference, but it's possible that it did.)
In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, water and corn syrup and bring to a boil.

Using a wet pastry brush, wash down any crystals on the side of the pan. Boil over high heat until a deep amber caramel forms, about 6 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and carefully whisk in the cream, butter and salt. Let the caramel cool to room temperature.

Covered in the fridge, it'll last two weeks. If it gets too thick, add a spoonful of very hot water (from the tap) and whisk until smooth.

Friday, May 21, 2010

It's Prom Night and Cheverly Day Tomorrow

Tonight here in our lovely little town is the social event of the Spring, known as ChvProm. We were offered tickets and I persuaded Mrs. BA to have the night out - but I am there going stag as we couldn't get a babysitter and Mrs. BA stayed home for movie night with the boys. We hadn't bought tickets and the event was sold out, but I scored a ticket at local pol, Victor Ramirez's table - so I'm in. Although, I was never really a prom kind of guy anyway, as these stories will illustrate, now that I'm older, I like it.

When I was in 9th grade, I bought tickets to the 9th grade formal, with the anticipation that was going to go to the dance. However, that didn't happen, and I wound up burning the tickets in some weird display with my friends. It gets worse. In high school, I was asked to the senior prom by a girl in my class. I went so far as almost buying tickets, when the girl came to me and told me that her ex-boyfriend had asked her to the prom and she was going with him.

I did have one good prom experience - another senior prom, this time in Huntsville, Alabama. A girl that I had met and seen on a few occasions (she was from there, I lived in NY - it was a girl scout connection - some day I might let you in on how I was in many ways one of the luckiest guys around - I mean, whose mother brings 20-30 girls through your house every summer?) invited me to her senior prom and a good time was had by all. A secondary story here is that I went to this prom in a full leg cast - another good story, which I might need to tell as it is 25 years ago this year).

I also noted with interest this history of the Prom from Time Magazine.

ChvProm is the event that kicks off the festivities for tomorrow, which is Cheverly Day in our little town. I will be involved in a number of activities including the annual East vs. West softball game (two years ago, I went 3 for 4 with 2 RBIs). From there, we will most likely adjourn to the St. Ambrose Mens Club Beer Garden, where as a member in good standing, I will likely be filling pitchers for a shift.

Cheverly Day will conclude with a fireworks display that is very impressive. I think it has everything to do with the fact that you get to sit up close, where if the wind is blowing the right way, it is not unusual to have debris flutter down on you. Good times, really.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Comfort Food

Yesterday, Mrs. BA went off to pick up LBA from my MIL, where he had spent the weekend at her house. She took SoBA with her and I spent the day at the movies with a friend. We went to the AFI Silver Theater to see ZULU! as part of a Michael Caine film appreciation. It's one of those boy movies that one should see and always take the opportunity to see on the big screen if you can.

I was going to be on my own for dinner and if I had not had dinner out with the Major, I would have been on my own for dinner and I would have made my Mom's beefaroni for dinner as I don't have it too often. Cheverly Chef Scott posted a recipe on his blog to commemorate his fifth anniversary of blogging at Eat With Me. It might give my Mom's beefaroni a run for its money.

Tater Tot Casserole
  1. Brown ground beef and 1 medium, diced, onion.
  2. When cooked, drain off excess fat.
  3. Season with salt, pepper and other spices you like. Add 3 TB of butter.
  4. Add 3 TB of flour. Stir and cook for one minute.
  5. Add one cup of broth (beef, chicken or combo of both). Stir and simmer.
  6. Add 1-2 cups of frozen green beans or other veg (carrots, corn, etc.)
  7. Dump into a baking dish, top with frozen potato tots.
  8. Bake at 400 for 25 minutes. Dump on some shredded cheese, if you like. Bake for an additional 5 minutes.
  9. Serve piping hot.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Look Out for the Library Police

LBA is off for the weekend at Nana's house, leaving Mrs. BA and I with only one child to take care of. SoBA is a handful, as is evidenced by this recent incident. He has taken to wanting his window down in the car on the way to and from school. The other morning, he wanted his window open and then proceeded to take his shoes and socks off, another thing he is wont to do. Now he does have the tendency to throw things out the window on occasion (we've lost a car, a sippy cup, and a snack container). We get to school and go to put his shoes and socks back on his feet and cannot find one of his socks. So, we ask him, "SoBA, where's your other sock?" The reply was quick and authoritative - "OUTSIDE!" He had tossed his sock out the window somewhere along Constitution Avenue on the ride in.

Tomorrow I will watch SoBA while Mrs. BA gets a well deserved day to herself to do her own thing (I have been out more than my fair share of late). I'm entertaining ideas as to what to do tomorrow. There is the Joint Services Open House (also known as the Andrews Air Show), but I don't think that's in the cards. The weather is supposed to be nice, so maybe we will head to the National Zoo in the morning (the animals tend to me more active in the morning).

There is also a chance that we will head to our local library to see what's going on there. Another popular declarative statement of SoBA is "READ BOOKS!" (everything is said with authority when you are SoBA). Maybe we will have some reading time at the public library, now if I can just find a way to keep him quiet.

In the news over the past few weeks were a few library-related stories worth noting here. First, it would seem that the Father of Our Country may not have told a lie, but he also did not return his library books. George Washington, according to CNN and many other news outlets, checked out two books from the New York Society Library, which was one of the first subscription libraries in the country, and appears to have never returned them. The fine? It has been calculated at approximately $4577.

A second story, which appeared in the Washington Post, discussed what the President [Obama] was reading, and more to the point, what presidents read, and what they tell people they are reading.

Finally, I know a number of librarians. In fact, I used to be married to one. But these passive-aggressive library signs are outstanding. Don't be mean to the librarian. The Library Police work for them. And they know where you live.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Monday's Recipe on Wednesday

I hope that all of you aren't too hungry. I know that you all wait with bated breath for the Monday recipe, which wasn't available (that is, I didn't get to it). Luckily today's Washington Post Food Section had a number of good recipes in it, so I'm ready and stocked for the next few weeks.

Last night, dinner came together in a hurry (again). I had some time to run home and decide what to make before heading off to get the Brave Astronaut family from the Metro. The boys have decided they like fish sticks (something I didn't get a lot during my own childhood), so they had those and Mrs. BA and I had salmon fillets, which defrosted quickly and then got grilled on the BBQ with some honey and spices.

In today's Post was a recipe for Balsamic-Glazed Fish Fillets, which might make it into the rotation.

Balsamic-Glazed Fish Fillets
The Washington Post, May 12, 2010

Here's a recipe that works equally well when made using a grill pan indoors or an outdoor grill. I've had fish that's balsamic-glazed or honey-glazed or mustard-glazed, but this recipe combines all three - with garlic and lemon juice - to great effect. No salt is needed.

The fish stays moist and easy to handle because it is cooked in 1-pound pieces instead of individual fillets. If you cook this on an outdoor grill, preheat to medium-high (400 degrees) and place the fillets over direct heat.

A slotted, flexible metal fish spatula with rounded edges is invaluable for handling large or small fillets. I recommend a LamsonSharp, which is pricier than other spatulas but long-lasting and worth the cost.

Any leftover fish would be great the next day, flaked over a green salad.

Serve with mashed skin-on fingerlings; the small potatoes take no more than 20 minutes to cook.

4 to 5 servings
  • 2 medium cloves garlic
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon canola or olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons grainy Dijon-style mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Two 1-pound pieces skin-on salmon or halibut fillets, preferably center-cut and about 1 inch thick, pin bones removed
Mince the garlic to yield about 2 teaspoons. Squeeze the lemon half to yield 1 tablespoon of juice.

Combine the oil and garlic in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook for 2 minutes, until the garlic has softened.

Add the mustard, honey, lemon juice, vinegar and pepper. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, to form a slightly thickened sauce. Transfer to a wide, shallow dish and cool for 5 minutes, then place the fillets skin side up in the dish; let them sit for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, use nonstick cooking oil spray to grease a ridged grill pan. Heat over medium-high heat.

Place the fillets skin side down in the pan; use the sauce in the dish to evenly coat the top of the fish, making sure plenty of the garlic is there. Discard any remaining sauce.

Cook the fish without turning for about 10 minutes or until it is opaque and fairly firm to the touch. (Use the tip of a thin, sharp knife to make a slit in the center of the fish to check doneness, if necessary.) The skin will be quite crisp and dark.

Use a fish spatula to transfer to the fillets to a cutting board, divide them into equal portions and transfer to individual plates. Serve immediately.
Recipe Source:

Adapted from "All Fired Up! 250 Fresh and Flavorful Grilling Recipes," by Margaret Howard (Firefly, 2010).

Friday, May 7, 2010

Anniversary Date Night

On Tuesday, I celebrated eight years of marriage to the most wonderful woman in the world. She is the most understanding, kind, and lovable woman. She's pretty good looking, too.

She is the mother of my children, she is the woman that I long to spend more time with, and will work to continue to make happy for the rest of my life.

To that end, tonight is date night. I planned a secret rendezvous with her, getting the babysitter in place, asking some friends to join us, and then finally letting her in on the secret. The babysitter initially described it as my "Officer and a Gentleman" moment.

So when you read this (if you read this on Friday evening), my wife, who I love very much, will be enjoying a night out, having some dinner together and then heading to a local bar, which has installed some skeeball games for grownups to release their inner child. Mrs. BA has a bit of a skeeball addiction.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Monday's Election Day Recipe

It's Election Day here in Cheverly. Shortly, we will have a new mayor. The weather has also turned warm here in the DC suburbs. To honor all of that - here is a recipe brought to you by a local Cheverly resident.

Homemade cantaloupe ice!
  • 2 c. cantaloupe
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 c. water
(you could also add herbs, like lavender, basil or thyme...)

Combine everything in the blender and whip until very smooth. Chill for about an hour.

Make the ice following directions for your ice cream maker.

Get the updates on the mayoral race by following me on twitter!

The Final Results:
  • Michael Callahan - 670 votes
  • Thomas Foley - 104 votes
  • Micah Watson - 414 votes
The new mayor of Cheverly will be Michael Callahan.