Q: Living in Minnesota during the winter is great for outdoor sports, but terrible for outdoor barbecue. Can I recreate something close to that outdoor barbecue experience in my oven when it's too cold to cook outside? Also, my barbecue sauce is OK, but I'm looking for something a little more lively. Could you share some of your recipes? Thanks.
- Tom C.
A: It's not that I don't like a little snow as much as the next guy, but for your sake, I hope you don't live in Minnesota exclusively in the winter.
I mean, that would be kind of poor planning. Most people winter down south, Tom.
I know that Minnesota is absolutely gorgeous in the summer - all 47 days of it. The last time I was in Minneapolis/St. Paul a few years back, it was the end of April and there was still a foot of snow on the ground. But enough about fishing.
Barbecue's origins are unclear. The most plausible theory comes from the West Indies, where the term barbaoa means meat slow-cooked over hot coals. Another possibility is the Haitian/French term, barbe a queue, which literally means "from head to tail."
One thing we can be certain about is that the term did not stem from Minnesota's January motto, "Brr, Brr, Brr," which literally translates: "I'm freezing my you-know-what off."
Despite the freezing temperatures in your neck of the woods, there is no reason you can't enjoy good, homemade barbecue right out of the oven.
No particular rule of thumb exists about indoor barbecue techniques. (I'm going out on a limb and assume you know it doesn't involve building a fire on your kitchen floor.) The key is to experiment and create your own method.
Some of my favorite barbecue items are ribs and chicken. If you are going to cook these indoors, first use heavy foil to line a baking pan that will fit in your oven. You'll thank me later when you see how easy the cleanup is.
Turn your oven on to broil while you season the ribs and chicken pieces with your favorite barbecue spices.
Start with the ribs, because they take longer to cook. Lightly brown them on both sides under the broiler. When the ribs are brown on one side, add the chicken and cook until both items are browned on both sides. The broiler allows the meats to achieve the browning they would get over a fire.
Now turn off the broiler and set the oven baking temperature to 300 degrees. Bake the meat for about 30 to 45 minutes, then add a little water to the pan (1/3 to 1/2 cup). The water will create some steam, which will render the meat juicy and tender.
After about another 45 minutes, coat the ribs and chicken with barbecue sauce and continue to bake until the meat is nice and tender, practically falling off the bone.
Since you won't get that smoky flavor that comes from cooking over a fire, you might want to add a little Liquid Smoke to your sauce.
Try some other meats and get creative with your seasonings; then enjoy your barbecue as you watch the snow fall. Let me know how you like the recipes, and maybe I'll see you at the ice festival in July. *
Chef Jim Coleman, corporate chef at Normandy Farm and Blue Bell Country Club, is the author of three cookbooks and is the host of two nationally syndicated cooking shows – "A Chef's Table" on WHYY (91-FM) at noon Saturdays and "Flavors of America," on Channel 12 at 1 p.m. Saturdays and CN8 Monday through Friday, 4:30 p.m.
TOM'S WARM WINTER BOURBON BBQ SAUCE
large onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups ketchup
cup red wine vinegar
cup Worcestershire sauce
1 cup brown sugar, packed
teaspoon crushed red pepper
tablespoon kosher salt, or to taste
cup tomato puree
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce, or to taste
Bourbon, to taste
Combine onion, garlic and olive oil in a large saucepan. Sauté until onion and garlic are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add all remaining ingredients, bring to boil, then turn down mixture to a medium simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes. stirring constantly.
Run through strainer if you want a smooth sauce. Makes about 4 cups.
TOM'S SPECIAL OVEN SAUCE
2 cups chopped onion
1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup sweet pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon kosher salt
cup dried parsley
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons vinegar
2 cups ketchup
1 tablespoon Louisiana hot sauce
Place all ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Simmer, covered, over very low heat for 1 hour.
TOM'S IT'S COLD UP HERE BBQ SAUCE
cup brown sugar
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 cups tomato sauce
teaspoon each: black, white and red pepper
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Dash hot pepper sauce, or to taste