BBQ Sauce

My sense of smell is somewhat lacking. I can’t nose out the undertones in a glass of wine, I don’t always notice right away when the cat box needs to be cleaned, and my coworkers often give me this look when I’m talking cheese. Scent is a big deal in the cheese-business. We smell unopened wheels to determine their condition, know the difference between good stinky and bad stinky, and accurately describe smells such as barnyard, mushroom, and mineral. So my lack of sense in scent inhibits me at work from time-to-time.

I also worry that it drastically affects my palate. When you’re stuffed up and sick nothing tastes right, so what if my lack of olfactory control means that the things I like to taste don’t really taste the way I think? I get myself all worked up about it, try to break down, flavor-by-flavor, what Old Bay tastes like, or what the smell of my Grandmother’s house actually was. Then I realize that it doesn’t really matter. What I smell or taste is unique to me, and no one is going to smell or taste it exactly the same way. So even if I can’t smell what everyone around me does, I’m still smelling something; the way some people say they can smell when it’s about to snow. It’s just a hint of scent, but it’s there.

I’ve spent a lot of time reading this blog (which is genius) in an attempt to determine if anyone else worries about the strength of their nose but no one seems to be talking about it. I’m sure there are people out there who can’t smell at all, never could, and I imagine them purchasing highly trained German Shepherds to assist them in sniffing out gas leaks and burnt toast. Then there are people who have anosmia, a lack of olfaction usually related to respiratory illness. Sometimes they can’t smell a specific scent, which seems nice if that scent was, say, hot garbage but would be heartbreaking if it was fresh-ground coffee, or Spring blossoms, or the hair of someone they love.

Despite my olfactory limitations, there are still scents that I adore and crave. A new tube of lipstick, the dusty scent of my cat’s belly, artificial watermelon flavor, lily of the valley, onions cooking in butter. No matter where I am, or how much I’ve eaten that day, the smell of onions sweating and caramelizing always makes me salivate. The effect that bacon frying has on most people, its ability to jolt one out of bed in the morning, well that’s how I am with onions.

Which is why by the time I finished cooking this BBQ Sauce (and subsequent pulled chicken cooked in said sauce) I was ravenous despite having eaten quite heartily all day. It was the onions. I caramelized them for what seemed like hours, using their melty-sweet goodness as a base for both my sauce and slow-cooked chicken. So forgive me for not sharing my pulled chicken recipe with you. The sun had gone down when I pulled it out of the oven, and then I ate it all. I promise, however, that it will be made (and shared) again. This sauce is too good not to make again. And again.

Sweet and Tangy BBQ Sauce
Makes about 2 cups

1 small red onion, minced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons cumin
16 oz tomato puree
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons sugar in raw
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons hot sauce

In a small, heavy-bottomed sauce pan set over medium-low heat, melt butter. When butter starts to foam, add onions. Continue cooking, stirring often, until onions are soft and caramelized. This could take up to thirty minutes. When onions are caramelized, add in garlic and cook until translucent. Add in tomato paste and cumin, stirring to coat. Add in the rest of the ingredients and stir. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat slightly. Continue cooking until sauce is reduced to your desired thickness. I reduced mine by about 1/3. Salt to taste. Sauce will keep in an airtight container, refrigerated, for about a week.