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June 4, 2014

Bourbon brings out shrimp's brininess

Simply put, bourbon belongs in barbecue sauce.

Bourbon, by definition (at least in the U.S.), 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 1/4 cup, or perhaps 1/2 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)

Servings: 6

21/2 cups water

Kosher salt

12 ounces Israeli (large pearl) couscous

1 medium English cucumber, diced

1/2 small red onion, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1 tablespoon olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon

2 pounds extra-jumbo raw shrimp, peeled

1/2 cup maple-bourbon barbecue sauce (see recipe below)

4 ounces crumbled feta cheese

In a medium saucepan over medium-high, bring the water to a boil. Add the couscous and 1 teaspoon of salt, stir, then cover and reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the couscous is plumped and tender and all of the water is absorbed. When the couscous is done, transfer to a medium bowl. Set in the refrigerator to cool for about 15 minutes.

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