For dinner tonight, we’re having meatball subs. My father’s instructions were as follows: “As long as one of the pots has the Carolina sauce in it, I’m happy.” He really, really likes Sticky Fingers’ mustard-based BBQ sauce.
I, on the other hand, am nauseated by the smell of mustard, and am not a fan of more traditional BBQ sauces. So what’s a girl to do?
Clearly, make her own sauce.
I knew I wanted garlic. It’s a very strong, sharp flavor when raw, but once cooked, it sweetens and mellows. Two tablespoons of minced garlic went into the bowl.
I had browned the meatballs in the oven earlier, but the weren’t quite browned evenly. In went a little bit of dark brown sugar for caramelization and to counter the garlic a little bit.
Then I opened up my spice cabinet. I don’t know all of the spices by the name on their labels, but I can certainly tell them apart by smell. For example, I thought cumin would be a sweet counternote to the garlic’s sharpness. Then I sniffed the bottle and my eyes began to burn. So no cumin.
I believe I ended up putting in sage, cilantro, a bit of thyme, and perhaps a teaspoon of honey chipotle BBQ sauce just to bind it together and make it a sauce rather than merely spiced garlic. I spooned it into the second pot, added a little bit of water so it wouldn’t burn, put the heat on medium-low, and let it cook for a little while.
All told, it was rather subtle for what I was trying to do. For a meatball sub, you need a cleaver, not a fillet knife. Subtlety is wonderful in its own right, but on a meatball sub, you need something with stronger flavor than the bread. Clearly three tablespoons of garlic was not quite enough. It would most likely be lovely on noodles tossed with sauteed garlic and a little bit of melted butter, but I can’t accept it for a sub. There just isn’t enough of a kick.
UPDATE next day: Letting them chill overnight in the refrigerator actually enhances the flavor, which I hadn’t anticipated; usually, chilling overnight mellows the flavor of something. But oh dead God these things are PERFECT for subs the next day. Color me surprised!