This is the last weekend to grocery shop before Thanksgiving. Oh, the dread. Our neighborhood grocery store--the one where we do our shopping for the basics--is quaint and funky with it's folksy hanging plants and wood paneled interior. All of the staff recognizes you, and remembers your propensity for Maille mustard in lieu of Grey Poupon. I love that. Weekly grocery shopping is more akin to dropping in on friends than domestic drudgery.
Yet, this degree of cozy familiarity declines precipitously as soon as the plastic snowmen, blue and white Stars of David and the bay laurel pine wreaths make their appearance.
DH calls it the season of the Silver Christmas Bells of Doom.
Once the holiday decorations are hung, all hell breaks out. Once friendly green patrons are now the carnivorous fiends ripping raw turkeys from the cart of their neighbors. Woman have been seen hording canned green beans--the same women, who last week squeeled in glee as she told you that you just had to try the fresh organic green beans just in from that small farm outside of Winters. She'd offer you a few from her bag: we were sisters in produce!
One of my grocery comrades had even helped me learn the exotic ways of barbecue in order to please my then newly married husband. I stood gaping like a goldfish before the shelf with all of the bottles of the many and diverse types of barbecue sauce. A lovely pair of plump, pink pork chops were sitting in my cart begging to be sauced. But what would be the base? If I were really, really a good cook, I suppose I'd wheel the cart to the aisle with canned tomato sauce. Yeah, right. Gee, why start there? Why not go to the produce section and start fresh with vine-ripened tomatoes? I could even go further and use the tomatoes grown on our balcony (I can kill ivy--home gardening is not an option)....How far do I go just for a platter of barbecue-sauced pork chops? Sensing I was flummoxed by the wall of choices before me, a kindly grandfatherly gentleman picked a bottle from the top shelf and handed it to me..."Here, this is the best." Who knew barbecue sauce could be such a multi-marketed item? Forget the fact that upon close inspection, each bottle contains a permutation of the same exact ingredients. The genius lies in the fact that, although secret might be in the sauce, the truth is in the permutation.
Well, we don't actually barbecue per se. But using barbecue sauce must constitute some element of barbecue-ness? Right? DH would tell me tales of Texas barbecue. One day, I figured, I'd venture into that culinary world and buy a bottle of sauce. Living in a tight urban space precludes cooking on an open flame. While the smell of burnt charcoal and kerosene would just tickle my DH's Texas-bred heart, I am tickled pink that he is happy with my oven baked faux barbecue meat dishes. Still, whenever he walks past the grills for sale at the local hardware store--those silver or black monsters the size of a Hybred car--with daunting names like the New 40" Brahma Bull Grill--Tools Included!! with that 'we could afford this' look--I remind him of the wooden roof to our balcony or the huge DRY overhanging oak tree that brushes up against our bedroom window. In reality, I'm thinking of the next day's headlines: "Housewife Bursts into Flames Pork Rib in Hand. Husband says he was shocked to come home to a pile of ashes, but was quite pleased by how juicy the ribs were."
The thought of me tossing raw meat onto an open flame goes right up there with snakes on the living room floor as ripe fodder for nightmares. I was not born to barbecue. But I will quite willingly add sauce to a piece of meat or chicken, bake it and call it barbecue. Never mind the smallish detail that cooking meat in sauce does not Texas Barbecue make. Instead, they use that rub-thing which, to me always sounds slightly erotic. I giggle like a pre-adolescent when Bobby Flay directs you to "Rub your thighs with paprika." I usually strive for semantic accuracy, but in this case, a shadowy, if not sweet and juicy semblance will have to do.
The bottle handed to me was Sweet Baby Ray's Honey Barbecue Sauce...the bottle read: "The Sauce is Boss." The grandfatherly gentleman explained, "This is as good as homemade." Good enough for me. I looked at the spot on the shelf where this brand was kept and it was empty. This was the last bottle. This was a good sign.
To this day, it's the only bottle barbecue sauce I use. It's sweet but not as sweet as ketchup as most barbecue sauces are. Nor is it heavy with that fake liquid smoke flavor, which I find to be just too weird.
I thank that grandfatherly gentleman every time I run into him while shopping. He beams with pride for introducing me to such a gastronomic treat. He always asks if my husband is still pleased with it. I share my recipe where I add different elements, canned apricots, or frozen cherries or fresh ginger to the sauce. Smiling broadly, he tells me I am such a good wife.
That is, unless its the season of the Silver Christmas Bells of Doom. He's that guy ramming his cart in front of the lady with the baby carrier perched in the seat of her cart, nearly tipping the infant and the large plastic snowman to score the last bag of tiny marshmallows.
My Faux Barbecue Pork Chops1 18 oz bottle of Sweet Baby Ray's Honey Barbecue Sauce (or any other good bottled barbecue sauce--but trust me, SBR's sauce is Boss)
2 or 3 good sized loin chops
1/4 cup of Balsamic Vinegar
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce
1 Tbl red pepper flakes
1 Tbl olive oil
- Salt and pepper the raw chops...sprinkle pretty heavily with garlic powder
- In an oven-proof frying pan -- the kind that DH is going to buy me ANY DAY NOW--saute the onion in the olive oil until they're transluscent
- Add the pork chops and lightly brown both sides
- Mix the Balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce, red pepper and 1/2 the bottle of barbecue sauce in a bowl or large cup
- Cover the pork chops with the mixture, add a little water or chicken broth if there is not enough liquid to cover the chops. JUST enough to cover, not more--you're not making barbecue soup!
- Bake at 400 for 30 mins or until bubbly.