Hoisin BBQ Sauce


My mother became intrigued with international cuisines after her move to the USA from France in 1954. It might have begun when she purchased the set of cookbooks from Time-Life, called Foods of the World. After that, she set herself on a mission of culinary discovery.

I so wish there had been the concept of food photography in my youth, and digital photography would have been a plus, because I’d love to share photos of my mother’s creations. I remember a Russian salmon en croute, called coulibiac, that my mother turned into a fish, precisely carving the fins and scales out of pastry. It didn’t hurt that she was an artist and sculptor.

My mother also became a huge fan of Indian and Ethiopian cuisines. We probably had the best smelling house when those dishes were on the menu. Then, there was her Chinese phase, with my favorite meal being hot pot!

To learn about global cuisines, my mother followed lots of recipes, which I think is the best way to learn cooking techniques. But it also teaches about ingredients and seasonings, and what go well together.

That’s exactly how this sauce came about.

It’s simple, and probably not a unique combination for many home cooks, but for me, this sauce was over-the-top-good and I loved it. My mother’s “recipe” is based on hoisin sauce, using ketchup as a “carrier oil,” plus fresh ginger and garlic. Simple but sublime.

Hoisin Barbecue Sauce

1 cup ketchup
2/3 cup hoisin sauce
6 cloves garlic, minced
2” piece ginger, minced
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
6 pounds baby-back ribs, at room temperature

Combine The first six ingredients and stir until well combined.

Set your slow cooker to HIGH, and spray the inside with Pam.

Cut the rib slabs into halves, then slather them with 3/4 of the sauce; refrigerate the remaining sauce for use after the ribs are cooked.

Place the ribs in the slow cooker for one hour, then reduce the heat to LOW and cook for 5 more hours.

Turn on the broiler and get the sauce out of the refrigerator. Get the ribs out of the slow cooker and lay them in one layer on a rack placed in a roasting pan, meaty side up.

Brush the remaining sauce on the ribs. Broil the ribs for a few minutes until there’s some serious caramelization.

Serve immediately; they’re also good at room temperature.

Cut the ribs into smaller pieces, if desired, although the meat is very delicate.

I served these ribs with plain white rice. Besides tasting the hoisin component, the ginger and garlic really stand out.

The sauce is equally good with chicken, pork, and even salmon.

The rib meat is so tender. Truly this technique is one of the best ways to prepare ribs inside, whether you’re using a marinade or a rub.

As a note, the hoisin in this marinade/sauce can be substituted with Gochujang to create a Korean-inspired version. It’s equally good!

Surprise Chicken


Here’s the surprise… I roasted a whole chicken in a slow cooker! With no liquid. Surprise!

The editor of Cook’s Illustrated magazine is named Christopher Kimball, and he was recently on the Today Show showing what kinds of unexpected things can be prepared using a slow cooker. He was promoting a new book entitled, Slow Cooker Revolution, authored by the test kitchen staff at Cook’s Illustrated. But I was really intrigued. Especially with the idea of “roasting” a whole chicken in a slow cooker.


For one thing, it’s less messy than roasting, and as much as a roasted chicken is my number one comfort food, I don’t typically eat the skin, which is the best part of a roasted chicken.

The other “typical” preparation for a whole chicken is to poach it, which is fabulous, of course, because you end up not only with poached chicken but also stock.

But I just had to try out the slow cooker recipe. I finally found the link to the episode on the Today Show, if you’d care to watch it.

I’ve been a fan of Christopher Kimball as well as Cook’s Illustrated, which he founded in 1980, for a very long time. I somehow lucked into discovering the magazine right when the publication began, and still have the first issue. This was also when I first learned who Christopher Kimball was.

Before I read each new issue from cover to cover, I always began by reading his letter from the editor. The letters always had a lovely nostalgic feel to them, that took you back to the 1950’s, to a general store, or to a farm. These letters always moved me so much that I actually wrote a letter to Christopher Kimball, something I’ve never done before or since. He just always made me want to move to Vermont and bake pies, and wish for simpler times.

One day I was called by someone working for Multnomah Books, asking if they could use a quote from my letter on the book cover of Christopher Kimball’s upcoming book, entitled Dear Charlie. Of course I said yes because I was so honored. I was sent a copy of the book, and there I am in print. It’s a lovely book, by the way. Written in that same tone as the letters in the magazine, the book is a compilation of letters he had written over the years to his children. And that’s when I discovered that he actually lives in Vermont!


There was some kind of hiccup over the years regarding the magazine, but Cook’s Illustrated is back in full swing. I love the illustrations, and how products are objectively tested and rated. No advertisements whatsoever. Grab a copy if you’ve never read it before.

So here is the slow cooker recipe from Christopher Kimball.

Roasted Chicken

Olive oil
Garlic, minced
Chili powder*
Garam masala

1 whole chicken, at room temperature

Mix these ingredients together to make a paste. I used approximately 1/4 cup olive oil, 6 cloves of garlic, 2 teaspoons of chili powder, 2 teaspoons of garam masala, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
(Alternatively, put all the ingredients for the spice paste in a mini blender until smooth. I opted otherwise. It doesn’t change the flavor.)

Force the spice paste under the chicken on the breast side, then cover the skin on the same side with the paste.
Place the chicken breast-side down in the slow cooker. Turn it on to LOW.
Roast/cook the chicken, covered, for 4-5 hours. I cooked mine for 4 1/2 hours.

Let the chicken cool a bit, then remove it to a cutting board. I poured all of the remaining liquid into a fat strainer.

I then allowed most all of the broth part of the liquid to pour into a small pot.

I reduced the liquid for about 15 minutes, then I added a little bit of the chicken fat.

I then added a little bit of Wondra, which is just white flour but very fine-grained, while whisking, until a gravy formed. (not pictured – sorry!)

I plated a chicken breast with the skin removed, revealing the wonderful garlicky paste underneath. Then I added some steamed broccoflower (I prefer the term cauliccoli) and some leftover roasted carrots. And then I topped off the chicken with some gravy.

As you can see, the chicken was very tender, which was to be expected, being that it roasted in steam.

What was surprising to me was the fabulous flavor profile of the garam masala combined with chili powder – not two spice mixtures I ever would have combined on my own.


* Remember chili powder is not the same as chile powder, which is essentially ground chile peppers. Chili powder is typically a mixture of paprika, oregano, cayenne, salt, and pepper. If you don’t own chili powder, which is sold for the purpose of making chili, you can use the individual herbs and spices.
Here is my quote on the back cover of the book.

verdict: Overall, this was really an exciting venture. I have more respect for my slow cooker now, especially since I’ve only used it for chile verde and pulled pork, for the most part. This chicken really doesn’t compare to a roast chicken, mostly because of the lack of the crispy skin, but it did a nice job of cooking a whole chicken, and even provided a wonderful spicy gravy.