Experimental barbecue sauce ~ Ham Pie Sandwiches

26 February 2007

Experimental barbecue sauce

We had a slab of tofu sitting around waiting for someone to use it. So tofu is hard to cook well, even hard to cook edibly. I also don't especially like tofu. However, it was there, and demanded to be eaten NOW or else it would rot among the cheese and yogurt. Because leftover tofu belongs in the spot with cheese and yogurt, apparently.

Ok. We'd had dry-fried Indonesian tofu the day before, so we couldn't have it again. We'd failed spectacularly the last time we tried to make sesame tofu. Stirfry isn't that interesting, and tofu never gets a good texture in a stirfry anyway.

I hit on seared marinated tofu. The marinade? Barbecue sauce. So you might assume that we had a bottle of a good sauce lying around, or at least some A1. No. I wanted to make the barbecue sauce myself.

This is not so hard, or so unheard-of. What happens at (or probably before) barbecue cookoffs? The contestants clearly can't use premade sauce--that'd be really generic, and besides, what if the judge recognized it? Impossible! So everyone makes their own secret sauce, swathes their pork belly in a quart of it, and hopes for the best. I can do that, even if there is no pork belly within a mile of my refrigerator, ever. I looked up some sample recipes, made a list of necessary ingredients, and started experimenting. My results were sweet and caramelized, almost raisiny--next time we're certainly going to have to add more hot spices--and quite good on the tofu.

Barbecue sauce

1/4 yellow onion
cooking oil
some mustard powder, black pepper, red pepper flakes
about 3/4 cup ketchup
2 spoonfuls molasses
1/2 spoon white vinegar
couple good glugs of vermouth
1 spoonful spicy brown mustard
maybe a cup of water
pinch salt
a little lemon juice

Mince your onion within an inch of its life. Throw it in a pan--not too wide, like mine, but a little saucepan--with a glug of cooking oil of your choice. Add some mustard powder, black pepper, and red pepper flakes, and cook everything on low until the onion is sweet and melty. This will take a while. Go do something else while it's cooking. However, remember to check on it as well--I burned the hell out of my first pan. It was awesome. Spicing: I used only a couple shakes of each spice, but in the future, I'd definitely use more. The mustard was not such an issue, since I added some actually mixed mustard later, but red pepper flakes? I want LOTS of those.

When your onion is sufficiently soft, add all your other ingredients but vermouth and stir to mix. I didn't measure at all here, which was possibly a mistake. Ketchup should predominate the mix, closely followed by water. The rest are all spicing components and should be added according to taste. The problem there is: who knows what your tastes are if you've never made barbecue sauce before? The solution: add spicing components slowly, and taste your results continually. I would also say smell your results continually, but I don't want anyone to end up with a sinusful of vinegar fumes like I did. Do the chemlab thing and waft.

Let things cook on low, with the pan lid on, for a good half-hour at least. You may want to stir occasionally, check on the texture, and let some steam escape. Eventually your mixture will mellow to a raisiny (again) brown-red color, and thicken to a nice saucy consistency. If you have a stick blender, you may want to puree those onions into the rest of the sauce. I don't have one, so I just took things off and let them cool.

So we come to the tofu part.

Seared marinated tofu

slab tofu
barbecue sauce
a little more vermouth
uh, pan and spatula

for presentation:
wheat bread
green onion

Cut the tofu into 1/2 inch thick cutlets and press it, if you haven't done so already. Trim it into 1-person servings and marinate in the cooled sauce for at least an hour. I left mine overnight, as we were getting up to the two in the morning area and I really wanted a quesadilla right then anyway. When you're done marinating, heat a wide saute pan on medium-high. Slap the tofu into the heated pan and sear for a few minutes on each side. Throw in a glug of vermouth and let it steam away.

In the meantime, toast some wheat bread, one piece for each serving of tofu. Chop up the greens of a green onion or two. I love those greens. When everything is done, slide a slab of tofu onto each slice of bread and top with copious onion. Eat with a fork, or top with more toasty bread and eat like a hot sandwich if you are so inclined.

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