I’m up again in the middle of the night. Must have been the garlic. Don’t get me wrong I have nothing against the fragrant bulb. As a matter of fact, I use garlic in most savory dishes I prepare. Sometimes, however, garlic will cause me to reach for the pink bottle under the sink if I overindulge.
Sunday night we had company. As often happens once the dinner dishes are cleared, we settled into a post dinner conversation. Cooking came up. Being somewhat of a foodie it often does. I told the story of the first time I used garlic in a recipe. I was nineteen. I remember this because that was the year I got married, also for the first time. Prior to the wedding, gifts began arriving at a steady pace. With no internet available, perspective brides and grooms registered at a store for items they liked or friends and relatives sent traditional gifts like sterling silver serving dishes or linens. Sometimes you got unpleasant surprises such as velvet paintings of bullfighters or gaudy sculptures usually ending up in future garage sales or in the donation bin. More practical gifts were thrown in as well. As memory recalls, I received three ironing boards and two irons. I must have looked like an unmade bed, for someone was definitely sending me a message. Fortunately there was a store in town, a bridal exchange of sorts, where brides with an over abundance of one thing or another could swap an unwanted gift out for something else they’d rather have. I spent a good deal of time there after the ceremony.
Once the dust had settled on our marriage license and the honeymoon was behind us, I surveyed the spoils. Pots and pans, dishes, silverware, and cooking utensils were admired and stored in the kitchen. At some point it occurred to me that someone was supposed to be utilizing these items. For the life of me I couldn’t imagine who. My repertoire at that point, as far as kitchen skills, was limited to cold cereal and toast. For the first few months we survived on love, then we got hungry. Tired of grabbing a burger or opening a box of pizza, it became obvious one of us was going to have to learn our way around the kitchen. Not long after I made the decision this was to be me, I learned I was expecting my daughter. Whoa. A mother and a cook? Looking back at nineteen I was simply too naive to be scared. Thus, armed with a wedding gift from my father-in-law, The Joy of Cooking, and an open mind I began my journey into the world of culinary delights. That cookbook still sits downstairs with the inscription clearly readable. It’s splattered and road worn but I defer to it often.
In spite of the fact for the first three months of my pregnancy the very thought of food had me sprinting for the bathroom, my cooking skills showed some improvement. Eggs were added to my menu selections, both scrambled and fried, and hamburgers and hot dogs also made the list. With the help of Chef Boyardee’s sauce, I managed to put spaghetti on the table one night, and my mother came over several weekends and introduced me to cooking with potatoes and how to manage rice. After a fire scare with unwatched boiling potatoes, life was good.
Friends, around the same tender age, invited us to dinner. Also newlyweds (everyone got married young back in the day), she had learned to cook at her mother’s side and had a decided edge on me when it came to putting something on the table. Being well brought up, I knew our invitation would have to be reciprocal so I scanned recipes deciding what to make when it was my turn at bat. I decided on chili. How hard could it be? According to the recipe it involved beans, sauce, and meat. Easy peasey.
Standing in the market, I surveyed my list. I did all right in the aisles, but when it came to the vegetable section I was a complete novice. Had I been the last person on earth left with only an eggplant, artichoke or a fennel bulb I would have starved to death. A clove of garlic was listed among the ingredients for chili. Not sure what a clove of garlic looked like, I was forced to ask for direction. A gentleman wearing a store apron pointed to a pile of what appeared to me to be small white pumpkins. Told this was garlic, I picked one up and tossed it in the cart.
According to the recipe, the meat was browned along with the garlic and onion. Simple enough. Circling the bulb of garlic, I found no instructions on how to proceed. Fast forward to now I would have searched for a video no problem, but back then one sort of flew by the seat of their pants. Peeling the garlic I was surprised to find sections inside. Hmmmmmm. Interesting. So, I peeled all the sections, like an orange basically. Chopping was mentioned, so I chopped them all up and tossed them in. Yes, the entire bulb of garlic. Later my husband was to tell me he could smell garlic when half way down the block. Who knew? I’m amazed it didn’t blaze a hole through the bottom of the pan. Simmering for the hour called for the aroma literally permeated the entire apartment. Months later I could still detect the lingering smell of garlic in my throw pillows.
Seated at the dinner table I dished up the deadly brew to my guests and my husband. My husband should have been awarded a purple heart for culinary bravery. Gingerly he forked up a biteful and inserted it his mouth. Looking at his face, it became quickly obvious something was amiss. For twenty minutes he drank water and when able to speak asked me what I’d put in the chili. Explaining I’d followed the recipe, it took my guest to straighten out the mystery. Ah well, without trial and error how would we learn? Pizza was ordered and we made the best of it. I did note, however, the next time I mentioned getting together for a meal it was suggested we go out. Fine.
During my time in the south I came to understand that for many living there grilling is an art form rather than a pastime. My husband at the time had been born in Texas and could produce dishes on the grill that drew people from all around with the enticing aroma alone. He used to tell me if was good already it could only be improved with bourbon. This sauce is wonderful on about everything.
Kentucky Bourbon Barbecue Sauce
2 cups catsup
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup Kentucky bourbon
6 drops Liquid Smoke
5 Tbsp. granulated sugar
5 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 Tbsp. onion powder
1/2 Tbsp. garlic powder
1/2 Tbsp. ground mustard
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
Whisk all ingredients together in medium saucepan. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook uncovered for 1 hour, stirring frequently.
For the babyback ribs, massage your favorite rub into the meat. Wrap tightly with foil. Bake at 250 degrees for two hours. Remove from oven, open foil, and slather fatty side of ribs with sauce. Increase heat to 350 degrees. Continue cooking with foil open for 1 hr., basting with sauce every 15 mins. Serve with a side of sauce.