homemade bbq sauce

i find myself in a generally better mood when i’m not trying to finish cooking five dishes the day of a dinner party, so a couple nights ago i got a head start on prepping for my barbecue this weekend. the stars of the menu are pulled-pork sandwiches, something i’ve been wanting to make for a while since i’m a fan of eating them. i did my homework, researched some recipes, read through reviews… and one from emeril lagasse seemed to be a safe bet.

there were three main steps to preparing the sandwich filling: roast the pork, shred the meat, then toss it around in some homemade barbecue sauce. quite a few reviewers mentioned how the flavor of the sauce improved after some time in the fridge, so on a wednesday night i found myself watching old episodes of friends while chopping a whole lot of onions.

after they got a good and buttery sauté in the pan, a generous amount of spices went in, too.

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plus, like, twelve thousand cloves of garlic. divided by a thousand.

then tomato paste, cider vinegar, and some water before things really started blurbling.

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pretty soon, the aroma of the sauce hung in the air and my little house was smelling awfully sour. indeed, there were some recipe commenters who worried over the vinegar content in the recipe, but for this first time out, i decided to follow it faithfully; i’ll just keep my bag of brown sugar close by for emergency adjustments. i haven’t tasted the sauce yet – the tupperware’s currently resting quietly in the fridge – but i’ll be roasting the pork later today, so we’ll see then how well the two get along.

to be continued…

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the other night

my friday evening at target…

scenario 1: man approaches me

“excuse me, do you know where i can find maxi pads?”
“…  yeah, i think they’re over in that aisle.”
“haha, boy, this brings up bad memories of my mom asking me to pick these up for h– ”
“yeah, i’m pretty sure they’re in that aisle.”

scenario 2: man rolls his cart by while i am picking out some crackers

“no, don’t get those. they’ll make you fat.”

scenario 3: man walks by me while i am holding a dish rack

“that is a dish rack.”

why, yes, strange sir, it is. i go back to my car now and eat with my friends at señor fish, ok bye bye.

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quiet night

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i had one of those days. despite going about normal business, like showing up to work and buying a carton of milk, i spent most of the day inside my head, tunneling through thoughts. it was a solitary day. it was fitting, then, that at the end of it i came home to a silent apartment, bags of groceries in hand, recipe in mind, and – after some diligent chopping – made myself a simple dinner.

sometimes, when you’re young and a little bit lost, it’s best to just come home to yourself.

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the name of the recipe doesn’t quite give the right impression. but i suppose chicken-and-cherry-and-walnut-and-shallot-and-tarragon-salad sandwich would be a mouthful, and you don’t need a mouthful before you make a recipe. in any case, it was a lovely meal for a quiet night, with a glass of wine and some soft songs on the side.

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Chicken and Cherry Sandwiches
adapted ever so slightly from Self magazine
Serves 4

½ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups cooked chicken, chopped (about 1 lb. of chicken breast, seasoned lightly with salt, and pan-fried)
2 celery stalks, chopped
1/3 cup chopped dried cherries
1/3 cup chopped walnuts, toasted (in a pan over medium-low heat until fragrant)
¼ cup chopped shallots
8 slices toasted whole-grain bread (I used dill rye)

Combine mayonnaise, tarragon, lemon juice and pepper in a bowl. Toss chicken, celery, cherries, walnuts and shallots in another bowl. Stir in mayonnaise dressing. Divide chicken salad among 4 slices of bread; top with remaining bread.

it comes with a salad

it’s the first day of my vacation. in between making peppermint bark, watching elf, and wearing three layers of clothing, i made this meal.

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meet the sausage-stuffed potato. it is unpretentious and comforting, which is my favorite kind of thing on a gray winter day. it pairs well with a generously pilled blanket and a snuggle on the couch, i think. i believe i’ll add it to the mental list i have of perfect winter meals, which currently includes wendy’s chili and the classic grilled cheese + hot tomato soup combo. what’s even better about this dish is that the recipe practically forces you to eat a side of greens, which – you realize after some initial reluctance – conveniently cuts the heartiness of the rest of the meal perfectly. among a few other lovely things (such as onion softened in a frying pan and a pretty red smidge of tomato paste) there is a dijon sauce that gets mixed into the sausage, and a few spoonfuls of it get set aside to be whisked into a bright and peppy salad dressing. so, you know, might as well fling it on a fistful of lettuce and eat it.

after putting the potato in for a quick broil to get those lovely browned bits (i’ve got a thing for lovely browned bits), i stuck my face above the steaming plate and followed this order: meaty, crumbly sausage, a touch of creamy sauce, fluffy potato, forkful of leafy greens. repeat.

it was good.

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home for dinner

tonight, five of us decided to have one last get-together after our classes had ended, and one of the women offered to have the dinner at her house. it was a simple affair – a light salad, sparkling water, parmesan chicken, pasta tossed with fresh vegetables – but it felt so very luxurious to sit down before it. when i first walked in the front door, she was shaking vinaigrette together in a tupperware container, then spooning out petite portions of the salad onto little white plates to be set at each place at the table. i knew then that the salad would taste wonderful. maybe part of the charm was the candlelight, too; i am always a sucker for candlelight. everything bathes in that low gentle glow, and the bustle of the day quiets down accordingly.

it was also, i realized, the comfort – and utter relief – of being cooked for. i always manage to be surprised at what a tender thing that can be. weaving my way through every day as a 20-something, drinking in every moment and hoping it will lead the way to where i’m really supposed to be, i carry my independence around like a suitcase. it is a constant companion, teaching me how to pay my bills on time and get my car serviced regularly and eat at least two meals a day… and often i forget what it’s like to set my bags down. but sometimes, all it takes to feel like i’m headed home again is to be offered a meal in someone else’s.

we ended the night with brownies, deep and dark and topped with raspberries, and with gratitude for a bit of peace in the middle of the city.