Seven Sauces That Taste Better Homemade – Mark Bittman

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7 Sauces That Taste Better Homemade

Two weeks ago I provided nine nonbeef burger recipes. Consider these recipes an addendum: homemade alternatives to the bottled and jarred condiments that are lined up like summer’s foot soldiers on our refrigerator doors.

Why spend time making your own condiments? A legitimate question, even for cooks who embrace the D.I.Y. mentality that yields things like homemade salad dressings, salsas and hummus, all of which could be considered “condiments” in their own right. But when it comes to ketchup and its brethren — relish, barbecue sauce and the like — most of us cave and revert to the store-bought versions.

Resist that impulse. The reasons are the same as they are for countless other foods that you can readily grab at the store: controlling and customizing flavor and avoiding worthless (or harmful) artificial ingredients. Those are enough for me.

My ketchup, for example, is a respite from the commercial brands laden with high-fructose corn syrup. I know that neither you nor I will ever rely exclusively on homemade ketchup, but it’s a super option.

In addition to classic burger and dog accompaniments, I’ve included condiments that will find their way onto things other than meat in a bun, like corn-and-tomato relish — a quintessential summer sauce to spoon over simply grilled fish, chicken or meat — and teriyaki sauce.

None of these can languish in your fridge for months on end, which is what happens when you don’t load things up with preservatives. The recipes here all yield quantities that you’ll use over the course of a few grilling sessions, or at one big party. The exception is chimichurri, the addictive Argentine herb sauce that you’ll want to use right away. But that’s O.K.: You can’t buy anything nearly as good at the store.

KETCHUP

In a large pot over medium heat, sauté 1 chopped onion and 1 chopped red bell pepper in 2 tablespoons neutral oil until soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon chopped garlic and 1 tablespoon tomato paste, and stir until the paste darkens a bit, 2 or 3 minutes. Add one 28-ounce can whole tomatoes (roughly chopped, with their juice), ⅓ cup brown sugar, ¼ cup cider vinegar, ½ teaspoon ground mustard, ⅛ teaspoon each ground allspice, ground cloves, cayenne and cinnamon, a bay leaf, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about an hour. Let cool for a few minutes, then purée in a blender until completely smooth. (For supersmooth ketchup, pass it through a fine-mesh strainer.) Taste, adjust the seasoning and store in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

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CHIMICHURRI

In a food processor, combine 1½ cups fresh parsley leaves, ½ cup cilantro leaves, 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, 3 garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon red-chile flakes, 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar, 3 tablespoons neutral oil, salt and pepper. Process until combined, then stir in 3 tablespoons olive oil by hand. Taste, adjust the seasoning and use immediately.

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BARBECUE SAUCE

In a small saucepan, combine 2 cups ketchup (the homemade version would be good), 2 teaspoons cumin, 2 teaspoons paprika, 1 tablespoon chili powder, ½ cup dry red wine, ¼ cup cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 chopped onion and 1 tablespoon minced garlic. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then lower the heat so the mixture bubbles gently but steadily. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens and the flavors meld, 10 to 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. For a smooth sauce, purée in the blender. Store in the fridge for up to a week.

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SWEET-AND-HOT-PEPPER RELISH

In a food processor, combine ¼ pound hot red or green chiles (like Fresnos, cherry peppers, serranos or a combination), 1 roughly chopped onion and 1 garlic clove. Pulse until finely chopped. Add 1½ pounds roughly chopped bell peppers (some combination of red, orange and yellow), and pulse until chopped into roughly ⅛-inch pieces. Put ½ cup red-wine vinegar, 1 cup water, ¼ cup sugar and a big pinch of salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then add the pepper mixture and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are soft and almost all the liquid has evaporated, 20 to 25 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning, cool and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

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CORN-AND-TOMATO RELISH

Husk 2 ears of corn, and strip the kernels off the cobs. Put 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. When it’s hot, add the corn, and cook until lightly browned. Lower the heat to medium, and add 1 large chopped tomato, a pinch of red-chile flakes, salt and pepper. Cook for another 30 seconds, then turn off the heat. Store in the fridge for up to a day or two, and serve at room temperature, with some chopped fresh basil stirred in at the last minute.

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TERIYAKI SAUCE

Combine ½ cup soy sauce and ½ cup mirin (or ¼ cup honey mixed with ¼ cup water) in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook until the mixture bubbles; turn off the heat, and stir in 1 tablespoon minced ginger, 1 teaspoon minced garlic and ¼ cup finely chopped scallions. Store in the fridge for up to 2 days.

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MAYONNAISE

Put 1 egg yolk and 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard in a food processor or blender, and turn the machine on. While it’s running, start adding 1 cup of neutral oil in a very slow, steady stream. Once an emulsion forms, you can start adding the oil a little faster, until it’s all incorporated. Season with salt and pepper, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice or sherry vinegar if you like. Store in the fridge for up to a week.

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