Bourbon, maple syrup team up for killer barbecue

Simply put, bourbon belongs in barbecue sauce.
Bourbon, by definition (at least in the United States), is distilled from a grain mixture that must be at least 51 percent corn. And corn is naturally sweet. So of course bourbon makes a wonderful base for a sweet-and-tangy barbecue sauce. It lends deep richness and combines wonderfully with so many of the sweet and bold flavors we associate with a great barbecue sauce.
So that was my inspiration for this recipe — to create an amazing bourbon-based barbecue sauce. But as I researched recipes, I was disappointed to find that so few bourbon barbecue sauces play up the bourbon. Most add just ¼ cup, or perhaps ½ cup at most. I wanted more bourbon flavor, so I went with 1 cup.
For sweetness, I used equal parts maple syrup and brown sugar, both of which have the same rich caramel notes for which bourbon is known. Add some soy sauce for saltiness, some cider vinegar for acid and a bit of Frank’s Red Hot sauce for bite, and we’re off to a great sauce.
This sauce would be delicious on any grilled meat, particularly chicken or ribs. But I decided to slather it on shrimp. The briny notes of the shrimp just bring out the delicious sweetness of the sauce.
MAPLE-BOURBON
BARBECUE GRILLED SHRIMP WITH COUSCOUS
Start to finish: 30 minutes
(15 minutes active)
2½ cups water
Kosher salt
12 ounces Israeli (large pearl) couscous
1 medium English cucumber, diced
½ small red onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
2 pounds extra-jumbo raw shrimp, peeled
½ cup maple-bourbon barbecue sauce (see recipe below)
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
In a medium saucepan over medium-high, bring water to a boil. Add couscous and 1 teaspoon of salt, stir, then cover and reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until couscous is plumped and tender and all of the water is absorbed. When couscous is done, transfer to a medium bowl. Set in the refrigerator to cool for about 15 minutes.
Once couscous has cooled, add cucumber, onion, garlic and cilantro. Toss well, then drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice. Toss, season with salt, if needed, then divide between 6 serving plates.
Coat grill grates with oil or cooking spray, then heat grill to medium-high.
Thread shrimp onto bamboo skewers, about 6 to 7 shrimp per skewer. Use a pastry brush to lightly baste shrimp with half of the barbecue sauce. Grill shrimp for 3 minutes per side, or until just pink and firm. Set skewers of shrimp over each serving of couscous. Sprinkle each serving with feta cheese.
Servings: 6
Nutrition information per serving: 570 calories; 80 calories from fat (14 percent of total calories); 9 g fat (3.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 245 mg cholesterol; 69 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 18 g sugar; 41 g protein; 1150 mg sodium.

MAPLE-BOURBON
BARBECUE SAUCE
Start to finish: 30 minutes
6-ounce can tomato paste
1 cup bourbon
½ cup cider vinegar
½ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup maple syrup
¼ cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp. molasses
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp. Frank’s Red Hot sauce
2 tsp. smoked paprika
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. mustard powder
In a medium saucepan over medium-high, whisk together all ingredients. Bring to a simmer, then lower heat to just maintain a gentle simmer. Cook until thickened and reduced by about half, about 20 minutes. Cool and refrigerate, covered, for up to 2 weeks.
Makes 1½ cups

By J.M. HIRSCH AP Food Editor

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