You would think that by the time you reach your mid-20’s, you'd know the definition of certain words. I’m not talking about esoteric words; I’m talking about familiar ones, like barbecue. Yet, when Jeff and I moved from Rhode Island to North Carolina, we quickly discovered that some words have distinctly different meanings in different places.
Shortly after we moved to Chapel Hill, we were asked by one of our new friends, Mary-Ellen, if we had ever been to a barbecue before. Well, sure we had. What did they think? That people in New England lived in a permafrost where it was never warm enough to cook outside? Yet, she kept carrying on about this being our first barbecue in North Carolina. We were mystified; in Rhode Island, the only thing people get that worked up over is lobster.
When we arrived there wasn’t even a grill; however, there was what appeared to be a large steel oil drum cut in half with thick white smoke pouring from it. This was no barbecue. We had been duped! Jeff, turned to me and whispered, “I don't think we're having hamburgers, Sue.” Before I could answer, Mary-Ellen grabbed us by the arms and escorted us to the main attraction: a large butchered animal, that appeared to be straight out of Jeff's gross anatomy class, splayed out over the flames. No kidding.
Jeff said, “Well, that looks like a pig, Mary-Ellen.” To which she replied (more to her guests), “See, these Yankees know a thing or two about barbecue after all.”
We learned that in North Carolina, “barbecue" refers more to the method of cooking the pork than it does to the sauce you put on it, and definitely not to grilled hotdogs and hamburgers. North Carolinians love their barbecue so much that they even have two types—Eastern and Western, or Lexington-style. I won’t attempt to explain all the specifics since they have an entire lexicon for barbecue. We heard most of it that day at Mary-Ellen's, which after about two hours, made me a little bleary-eyed. ‘Course that could have been the acrid smoke from the barbecue pit.
For me, the best part of any barbecue is the sauce. The main difference in the sauces is that Lexington-style has a tomato base, such as ketchup or tomato paste, whereas Eastern doesn’t. In fact, I learned three important things about barbecue sauce:
1. Never buy bottled sauce.
2. If you do, lie and say it was homemade.
3. Say that there is a “secret” ingredient in it, then tell no one, even upon threat of bodily injury.
So it was that living in North Carolina convinced me to abandon my bottled barbecue sauce in favor of homemade. Though I do not purport to be any type of barbecue sauce expert, I’m a Lexington-style gal; I love ketchup in my sauce. But I wouldn't tell that to a staunch Eastern barbecue devotee, such as Dennis Rogers, who claims: "People who would put ketchup in the sauce they feed to innocent children are capable of most anything."
After I start with some ketchup and vinegar, the ingredients vary—sometimes chipotles for a smoky flavor, sometimes grilled peppers and onions for a slightly sweet-slightly charred flavor.
The following recipe, however, is my go-to barbecue sauce. Every time I eat it, it never fails to excite my tastebuds. Its’ pure salty-sweet-tangy deliciousness. (That’s Food Blogga barbecue lexicon.) So, I’m submitting it to Andrew of Spittoon Extra who has chosen sauces (great theme, Andrew!) for this month’s Waiter, There’s Something in My…event.
Food Blogga's Never Fail BBQ Sauce
Print recipe only here.
1 cup Heinz ketchup (I simply won’t use any other brand. Sorry.)
¼ cup dark brown sugar
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 heaping Tbsp brown spicy mustard
3 Tbsp SECRET INGREDIENT** (see below)
7-8 good shakes of Tabasco sauce
This barbecue sauce is excellent on grilled meats, sandwiches, crispy eggs, and, my favorite, pizza. With fresh corn on the cob, sweet Vidalia onions, and creamy smoked Gouda, this is a swoon-worthy summertime pizza that I return to again and again.
BBQ Pizza with Fresh Summer Corn and Sweet Onions
Print recipe only here.
1 pound pizza dough
1 tsp canola oil
1 sweet onion, such as a Vidalia, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
2 tsp sugar
1 ear of corn on the cob (about 1 cup)
½ cup never-fail bbq sauce
1 cup shredded smoked Gouda cheese (or sharp cheddar, if you prefer)
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley, optional garnish
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add sliced onions and sugar; stir occasionally, until the onions caramelize and turn a deep golden brown, about 10-12 minutes. Add the corn, and cook an additional 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat.
Preheat oven (see temps below). Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface. Transfer to a sheet of parchment paper (if using a stone) or to a parchment lined baking sheet. Spread barbecue sauce evenly over the dough; top with ½ shredded cheese. Arrange the onion and corn mixture on top. Top with remaining ½ shredded cheese.
For a pizza stone, bake at 500 degree for about 10 minutes, or until both the top and bottom of the crust is brown and the cheese is melted.
For a baking sheet, bake at 450 for about 20 minutes, or until both the top and bottom of the crust is brown and the cheese is melted.
Let cool slightly before slicing. Garnish with fresh cilantro or parsley if desired, and serve with a side of barbecue sauce for dipping. (Oh, Jeff just reminded me—and a cold beer).
**OK, I give. My secret ingredient is soy sauce. So, PLEASE, no threats of bodily harm. Would you share YOUR SECRET INGREDIENT with us?
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