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Even after 48 years, our Chefs can still come up with a barbecue sauce winner.

Even after 48 years, our Chefs can still come up with a barbecue sauce winner

Someone once asked Arthur Bryant, the Kansas City barbecue master, for the secret to his sauce. His forthright answer: "The secret is, nobody else knows how to make it."

Professionals are often like that with their barbecue sauces, but not Chefs of the West. They are eager to let fellow chefs in on their secrets. In fact, barbecue sauces almost tie chowders and chilies as the most frequently submitted recipes since this column began, in 1940.

Some sauce entries have as bizarre a mixture of ingredients as the celebrated "eye of newt, toe of frog, wool of bat, and tongue of dog" cooked up by the witches in Macbeth. (Perhaps they were preparing for a barbecue when Macbeth encountered them on the heath.)

Sour mash bourbon is the unusual element in David Cohen's basting sauce. Since heat will evaporate the alcohol, why add bourbon? We like to think of it as the Spirit of the Corn bringing a blessing to the wedding of the other ingredients.

Bourbon Barbecue Baste

3 tablespoons butter or margarine

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons minced onion

2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce

1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste

1/2 cup bourbon whiskey

1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 tablespoon Worcestershire

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1/4 teaspoon each dry basil leaves, dry oregano leaves, and dry sage leaves

6 to 8 drops liquid hot pepper seasoning

Pork spareribs, beef ribs, or broiler-fryer chicken halves

Melt 1 tablespoon butter with oil in a 3- to 4-quart pan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and stir often until onion is limp, about 10 minutes. Mix in tomato sauce, tomato paste, bourbon, sugar, Worcestershire, soy, basil, oregano, sage, and hot pepper seasoning. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes to blend flavors. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter.

Makes about 2 cups sauce, enough for 5 pounds spareribs, 8 pounds beef ribs, or 9 to 10 pounds chicken. Use generously to baste meats as they bake in the oven or cook on a grill. Covered and refrigerated, baste keeps for up to 2 weeks.

Per tablespoon sauce: 28 cal.; .35 g protein; 3 g carbo.; 2 g fat; 3 mg chol.; 134 mg sodium.

David Cohen South Pasadena, Calif.

What good can come of a union between the delicate shrimp and the assertive cauliflower? Surprisingly, one result is a soup of great refinement; the effect is that of an exceptionally thick and creamy chowder with the flavor of shrimp.

Cauliflower is a presence in the soup, but purged of any cabbagy flavor. It has been cooked just to tenderness in chicken broth (it's overcooking that brings out an uncharming aroma in this vegetable), then pureed. Serve the soup to guests, and ask them to guess the ingredients.

Cauliflower-Shrimp Soup

1 head cauliflower, about 2 pounds

1 3/4 cups or 1 can (14 1/2 oz.) regular-strength chicken broth

3 small leeks (about 3/4 lb. total)

1/4 cup (1/8 lb.) butter or margarine

1 medium-size onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced or pressed

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups half-and-half (light cream)

3 cups milk

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill or 2 teaspoons dry dill weed

1 pound tiny cooked shelled shrimp Salt and pepper

Discard cauliflower leaves and cut or break head into flowerets; rinse and drain.

In a 5- to 6-quart pan, combine cauliflowerets and broth; bring to a boil over high heat, then cover and simmer until cauliflower is very tender when pierced, 12 to 15 minutes. With a slotted spoon, ladle cauliflower into a blender or food processor and whirl until smoothly pureed; add a little broth, as required. Add remaining broth to the puree. Wipe pan clean and set it aside.

Trim ends and tops off leeks, leaving about 1 1/2 inches of the dark green leaves. Peel off and discard coarse outer layer of each leek. Cut leeks in half lengthwise. Hold each half under cold running water, separating layers to rinse out dirt. Drain, then chop leeks.

In the pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add leeks, onion, and garlic and stir often until vegetables are limp, about 10 minutes. Stir in flour and cook until bubbly, then smoothly stir or whisk in cream and milk. Add dill and stir until boiling. Add cauliflower mixture and shrimp and heat through, 1 to 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes about 3 quarts, 6 to 8 servings.

Per serving: 288 cal.; 19 g protein; 16 g carbo.; 17 g fat; 161 mg chol.; 278 mg sodium.

?? Avery, Idaho

Cream cheese harmonizes beautifully with any number of flavors, so naturally it has appeared on the cocktail table in the company of all sorts of salsas, chutneys, jellies, and other concoctions. At Howard Brown's house, you will find it awash in jalapeno jelly, that cool-looking green stuff whose sweetness does not quite mask its fire. On one occasion, Mr. Brown found some of this spread left over in the refrigerator. Because there was no other cheese in the house (and because it can be a long time between parties), he employed cream cheese with it for the Sunday omelet in place of the usual jack or cheddar.

The result was both a cheese and a jelly omelet, which Brown has named Omelet Picante-Dulce--hot and sweet omelet.

Omelet Picante-Dulce

8 large eggs

4 tablespoons water Salt and pepper

4 tablespoons (1/8 lb.) butter on margarine

1 small package (3 oz.) cream cheese, at room temperature and cut into chunks

4 tablespoons jalapeno jelly

To make each omelet, break 2 eggs into a small bowl and add 1 tablespoon of water; beat with a fork just enough to mix yolks and whites. Add salt and pepper to taste, or add to finished omelet.

Place a 7- to 8-inch omelet pan (or frying pan with curved sides) over medium-high heat; when hot, add 1 tablespoon of the butter and tilt pan to quickly coat bottom and sides with melting butter. Pour egg mixture into pan. When eggs are slightly opaque on pan bottom, push or lift the cooked portions with a spatula to allow liquid egg to flow underneath; repeat until omelet is set but top still looks moist and creamy. Shake pan occasionally to keep omelet from sticking.

Quickly distribute about a quarter of the cheese over half the omelet; top cheese with 2 teaspoons jelly. With the spatula, fold plain half of omelet over filling and slide onto a warm plate. Top with 1 more teaspoon jelly. Repeat to make remaining 3 omelets; serve as made or keep warm until all are cooked. Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 385 cal.; 14 g protein; 15 g carbo.; 30 g fat; 602 mg chol.; 321 mg sodium.

?? Billings, Mont.

Ahi (yellowfin tuna) is a big fish that yields big steaks. When raw, the meat is red as beef, and soft--even flabby. When touched by heat, it firms up rapidly and colors to buff or tan. The currently fashionable way to deal with it is to char the steaks over barbecue coals and serve rare.

If you prefer to cook your fish all the way, you may find ahi dry. Wayne Gordon has devised a way to keep the meat moist when well done. He flavors the steaks with bacon and briefly braises them with soy and white wine. The resulting dish was good enough to win grand prize in the Maui Seafood Spree Week recipe contest sponsored by the University of Hawaii.

Ahi Steak a la Gordon

8 slices bacon

4 ahi (yellowfin tuna) fillets, each about 1 inch thick and 3 1/2 inches across (about 2 lb. total)

4 teaspoons butter or margarine

2 tablespoons soy sauce*

1/2 cup dry white wine

In a 10- to 12-inch frying pan over medium heat, cook bacon until crisp. Lift out, drain, and set aside. Discard all but 1 tablespoon of the drippings. Place pan over high heat; when hot, add fillets and brown on all sides. Evenly dot tops of fish with butter, then pour soy and wine over fish. Cover and cook over medium heat until fish is opaque in center (cut to test), 7 to 10 minutes. Lift out fish and put on a platter; keep warm. Boil wine mixture on high heat, uncovered, until reduced to about 3 tablespoons. Pour sauce over fish, and top each fillet with 2 slices bacon. Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 463 cal.; 57 g protein; 1 g carbo.; 24 g fat; 110 mg chol.; 862 mg sodium* (see p. 210).

?? Lahaina, Hawaii
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Date:May 1, 1988
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