Something Saucy for Your BBQ

I can’t take credit for this recipe entirely, it started with inspiration from  But since I’ve added, changed proportions, and substituted more than half the original ingredients I guess I can safely call it my own recipe. It’s sweet, tangy, salty, smoky with a little kick at the end.  The recipe calls for a healthy 1/2 cup of bourbon so save the MM or JD for sipping; the cheap stuff works great in this recipe.

We use this sauce for the usual things, like saucing our ribs. We also use it when we’re smoking ribs. I dilute some of the sauce with cider vinegar and some water to make a mop sauce to keep them moist during the smoking. A package of cocktail weenies soaking in this sauce makes a super simple and crowd pleasing party nibble.

The instructions are simple – put everything below in a pot, stir it frequently as you bring it to a gentle boil, then let simmer for about 15 minutes to thicken and come together.  The recipe makes about 3 cups of sauce, I usually put half in a sterilized sealer jar for later. By putting the hot sauce in a hot sterile jar, as it cools it seals nicely and will keep on the shelf for a couple months or in the fridge for much longer.

2 cups ketchup
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup bourbon
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 tbs sriracha chili sauce
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder

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The Best Meringue I Ever Invented

I must confess – this is the first and only meringue cookie I’ve ever invented but they turned out so yummy that I’m thinking I might have to experiment some more! I researched a lot of recipes before deciding to venture out on my own.  I decided to go with more of an Italian meringue method. It’s a little more work to get set up but you don’t have to worry about over-beating the whites and having them fall and it’s less likely to weep because the egg whites essentially get cooked by the hot syrup. You’re supposed to use a candy thermometer for the sugar syrup, but I’ve had great success with meringues for my lemon meringue pie using just timing which I find simpler than taking the temperature of boiling sugar. Coming up with the 6 egg whites needed wasn’t a problem because I’ve been making panettone again this year and each batch of dough calls for 3 eggs and 6 egg yolks.  For more on the panettone, see my blog on the subject.  This recipe is a perfect fit into my holiday baking!

They aren’t very pretty, I probably should have taken the time to find my pastry bag and tips and piped them properly instead of just squishing them out of the clipped end of a Ziplock bag.  Maybe since they’re ugly they won’t get eaten so fast – that isn’t working for me – I gobbled 3 just setting up the picture!

DSC_1089Mysterious Meringues

6 egg whites (room temperature)
10 1/2 oz (300g) superfine sugar
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp Chinese five spice powder


Place sugar in a small saucepan. Add 1/2 cup of water and bring to a boil.  Keep at a gentle boil for 4 minutes then remove from heat.

Place egg whites in bowl of stand mixer with whisk attachment.  Turn on med-low until they start to get white and foamy.  Add cream of tartar and salt and beat at medium speed until soft peaks start to form.  Then turn mixer to medium-high and carefully pour in the sugar syrup a little at a time with the mixer running.  (I transferred the sugar syrup to a glass measuring cup so I could pour it in very slowly, avoiding the whisk, and having boiling sugar fly around.) Keep beating on high for 6-8 minutes until the white start to cool down and they are stiff and glossy.

Remove bowl from mixer and fold in vanilla and five spice powder.  Transfer meringue to a pastry bag and pipe in 1 1/2 inch drops or drop by using two teaspoons onto parchment lined baking sheets (I filled 4 sheets – it makes a lot of cookies).

Bake at 200° for 2 hours and then let cool on the sheets.

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Nonna’s Pizza Dough

Yes, I’m about to divulge a family secret… my Nonna’s pizza dough recipe. 

This recipe is very special in that it required some persistence to acquire. Nonna didn’t use recipes.  When asked how to make something, her instructions invariably included such things as “it tells you when it’s done” and “add some water until it feels right”. For a novice in the kitchen, these instructions are baffling. Nonna used a teacup, a certain bowl, a regular teaspoon and her experience to make her dough.  I can’t remember the occasion but I was determined to write down her pizza recipe so I chased her around the kitchen with measuring cups and spoons trying to document her proportions.

Nonna’s Pizza Dough

1 1/2 cups (or so) of warm milk
4 teaspoons of yeast (or 2 packets)
1 teaspoon of sugar

Stir sugar and yeast into warm milk and let stand until the yeast melts

In a large bowl mix together:
5 cups of flour
1 tbs of salt
1 egg
1/2 cup of oil or shortning

Add yeast mixture and mix with your hands.  Depending on how dry your flour is you’ll need to mix in a bit of warm water.  It’s usually a couple tablespoons worth. The dough will be very sticky. Don’t worry if the dough is ugly; trust me it will be fine. Cover the dough and let it stand in a warm place until it doubles in size.  This will likely take a couple hours.

Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and work it into a nice ball.  My Nonna would make her pizzas on large sheet pans. She would make a simple tomato sauce and top the pizzas with very thin slices of salami and sliced mushrooms.

This recipe is enough to make 2 cookie sheet pizzas.

I like to make pizzas on a pizza stone so I cut the dough into 2 or 3 parts depending on my mood and roll out the dough with a sprinkling of flour to keep it from sticking to the board.

I cook my pizza in a very hot oven (500 degrees) for 10 -12 minutes. Keep an eye on it, when the bottom of the dough is golden brown and the cheese is melty it’s done. Let it rest for a couple minutes before slicing – if you can wait that long.  This is the one I made last Friday night. It has 3 cheeses, olive, salami, mushroom and green pepper and was very yummy.

Every time I pull out the raggedy paper to make dough I think about my Nonna; of days when her hands were strong and her memory sharp and for a brief moment I can hear her voice explaining what it should feel like and how it tells you when it’s done.

Buon Appetito.

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Rapini is yummy!

I was pleasantly surprised to find a big bag of rapini at Costco so I couldn’t resist. Tonight its rapini sauteed with pancetta and garlic for a yummy side to perk up some leftover roast chicken. I could have thrown in some pasta and parmeggiano and made a nice primo. Hmmm – there’s still half a bag – maybe tomorrow!

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The Best Grilled Cheese in the WHOLE World

Yes, this is a lofty claim.  “The best in the world” in any category is something worth talking about. As for the aforementioned grilled cheese, this isn’t a self proclaimed title – it was bestowed by my niece and nephews over a pool side lunch in Arizona. The little darlings gobbled up sandwiches as fast as I could make them.  I attributed some of the recipe’s great reviews to their healthy appetites having spent the morning swimming, running, jumping and playing hard.  With a meal invented that day with whatever I had on hand, I was honoured with the praise “Aunt Jacqui, these are the best grilled cheese sandwiches in the whole world”.

So what’s the secret? Leftovers. Leftover marinated grilled flank steak to be precise! Now every time we have flank steak I’m pretty sure I’ll be making my special grilled cheese sammys in the days following.

The recipe:

  • Slice leftover flank steam very thin (across the grain and almost shaved).
  • Slice old cheddar (white or yellow) into thin slices (or any cheese you like)

  • Put layer of cheese and layer of meat between two slices of soft crusted bread (kids’ bread or a soft sliced whole wheat – again whatever you like)



  • Press down on bread to slightly squish (don’t know why – it just seems to brown more evenly in the next steps)
  • Butter outside of sammy and put in a pre-heated non-stick skillet (med-high heat)



  • When first side is golden, turn over and brown other side

  • Slice on the diagonal and serve (ok – doesn’t matter how you slice it…. just be prepared to make more because they’re going to disappear)

Now that you know the secrets…. you too can make the BEST grilled cheese in the WHOLE world!

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Making Osso Buco Tonight

My kind of slow cooked dish is Osso Buco. Long before this peasant dish appeared on restaurant menus, my Nonna made us osso buco. I can remember being quite happy to get the marrow from my sister’s cast off bone (being younger she went through a bones are yucky stage). Our osso buco was almost always made with beef (veal far to precious for a family of 8). I actually prefer the firmer texture of beef (not that veal isn’t yummy, nor do I have any qualms about eating baby animals).

Tonight it’s the perfect meal as I have a late afternoon conference call and while I’m working I will enjoy the comforting aroma and imagine my Nonna in the kitchen.

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Panettone – I made it!

What is the go to hostess gift around our house?  Panettone.  We almost always have a few on standby should we get invited to an open house, or have someone drop in unexpectedly bearing gifts.  Each year I secretly hope that there will be extra that don’t get given away as it is a great treat to crack into one with coffee for breakfast.  I’ve often wondered what  gives panettone that distinctive flavour.  This may partially explain why I was so excited to receive my December 2012 issue of La Cucina Italiana that had a recipe for panettone.  I won’t re-type the whole recipe as it is rather lengthy but here’s the link (Panettone recipe).

This is not something to attempt if you are not patient, require instant gratification from your baking, can’t follow instructions, or you don’t have much time.  You need to start the process more than a week in advance of the actual baking day to allow for the starter to “ripen”.  The starter is flour and water that sits at room temperature until it starts to ferment. I’m not sure of the biochemistry but it did result in some odd smells.  The instructions were to feed the starter after three days, after two days then every day up until baking day.  I actually created a little calendar to help me with the steps (Monday make starter, Thursday feed starter etc…). The next component was the poolish.  Poolish is actually the French term for a pre-ferment; a mixture of flour, water and yeast that creates a sponge.   The Italian term is biga which is what I think I actually made because it is a wetter sponge that can be kept longer. Whatever we call it, I made the pre-ferment the night before, let it sit on the counter for 11 hours then put it in the fridge until I was ready to start making the dough.

Tuesday was the big day. Time to make the dough! The recipe has a lot of components so I actually did a complete mis-en-place and made sure all my ingredients were at room temperature (except the butter that was cut in pieces and flattened into thin sheets between layers of plastic wrap and refrigerated). There is only one ingredient that I would consider “exotic” and that is the lemon flavoured olive oil.  Fortunately my Christmas gift last year was adopting an olive tree for the year and my shipment of flavoured olive oils arrived from Nudo a couple weeks ago and included a fantastic lemon one. I took that as a sign I was destined to attempt the panettone.  As far as specialty equipment, I had everything except for the paper panettone molds that I ordered online.dry + wet resting

fruit - smells so good

The fruit mixture took the most time to assemble due to the time required to grate the peel from 3 lemons and 3 oranges.  It was relatively simple to assemble the dough once all the ingredients were laid out.

The hard work was done by my trusty KitchenAid. I put the dry ingredients into the bowl of the mixer. Then I introduced the wet ingredients  (including the smelly starter, poolish, lots of eggs and some milk)  into the dry then left the dough to rest in the bowl for 20 minutes. Next the butter is introduced a little at a time with the mixer running. Lastly, the fruit is folded in by hand.

I decided to follow the instructions for allowing for the most flavour to develop since part of the mystery for me is what makes a panettone taste like it does. The dough sat on the counter for 30 minutes and then I put it in the fridge for 18 hours.

ready for the oven

The dough smelled very “panettone-ish” which was very encouraging but it took quite a bit longer than the recipe suggested for the loaves to proof – I’m not sure if that’s because the fridge was very cold or if it is normal.  The recipe said 1-2 hours (longer if refrigerated); so perhaps they meant 5 hours when they said longer?

I couldn’t be happier with the finished product! They are now wrapped up for transport home to my parents house for Christmas.  I can’t wait to surprise my Mom with my homemade panettone – so SHHHHH it’s a secret until Christmas!

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