Archive for the ‘Sauces and Sides’ Category

Click to enlarge (aka: to examine just how blurry this picture really is).

My 11 year old daughter provided the charcoal sketch of the Whiskey Jack. My talented wife designed the label. And I took the terrible picture.

I tried about ten times to keep my hand steady, but when you drink as much coffee as I do, you still end up with blurry pictures. Anyway, recipe done. Label done. Bottles ordered. Let me know if you want some sauce!


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In the Pacific Northwest, the Gray Jay is often called a Whiskey Jack. They’re rugged, fearless birds, that will steal your lunch right out of your hands. Not kidding. So, I believe we’ll be calling this Whiskey Jack Sauce. I hope you like the name.

Here’s the recipe at last. Next challenge, learning how to bottle the sauce, not the botulism.

By the way, those who know me also know I’m not much of a drinker. I’m good for about half a beer. And you better make that a light beer. So, I’m no expert when it comes to spirits.

But I did learn today that some people don’t consider Jack Daniels to be bourbon, technically speaking, because it’s made in Tennessee. I’m told connoisseurs claim real bourbon can only be from Kentucky — something about the water. Well, I’ve been to Kentucky. Many times. Beautiful country. But I have to say, the water tastes pretty much like the water in Ohio. And Missouri. And Washington.  So, I’m not buying it. However, next time I make the sauce, I do plan on trying to cook with an official Kentucky bourbon. Let me know if you have any suggestions on which one.

 The recipe

Makes roughly 12 to 14 ounces of sauce:

In advance: Boil down 1 cup of apple cider vinegar to 1/2 cup, and set aside.

Melt over low heat:

  • 1/3 cup of unsalted butter
  • 1/4 Teaspoon of onion powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of cayenne pepper (people who like a very spicy sauce will want to add more. For those unsure, don’t worry, you can always add more later.)

Then Add…

  • 1 cup Jack Daniels whiskey
  • 1 Tbs of vegetable oil

Bring to a boil over medium heat, then boil down, stirring for 6 minutes

Remove from heat, let rest for 5 minutes.  Then add

  • ½ cup ketchup
  • ½ cup Apple Cider Vinegar (boiled down from 1 cup)
  • 1/3 cup molasses  (or a little extra for a sweeter sauce)
  • 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • Not quite ¼ teaspoon of Hickory style liquid smoke
  • A pinch of smoked salt (e.g. http://chefshop.com/Alderwood-Smoked-Sea-Salt-P6636.aspx )
  • Now is a good time to add more cayenne if you’d like the sauce extra spicy.

Reheat to a simmer. Boil down for a thicker consistency, but note, this is a thinner sauce.

Notes: Tastes strongly of whiskey, so save some ketchup for the kids. Also, the sauce is thin. There are ways to artificially thicken the sauce, but that didn’t appeal to me. I assume you can boil it down some more after adding all the ingredients.

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I had to eat an unfortunate number of pork ribs in order to taste all these sauces.

Hang the banner on the battleship. It took two weekends and sixteen different recipes, but we’re declaring it ‘mission accomplished’ here at Blue State BBQ labs.

As I was saying in my last post, the goal was to invent a drunken barbecue sauce with a little kick. Something boozy and a bit spicy, so we’d have a good alternative to my very favorite sauce.

So, to get there, last week I made seven very different bourbon based sauces. I confess, the most fun part was naming them. There was “Whiskey Bomb,” “Sugar Brown,” and “Molass-kicker.”  If names were enough, we would have had seven winners. 

But alas, we went with a family taste test instead. We tried all seven sauces on pulled pork, and we all agreed that one represented the right direction. That is, with the exception of my 11 year old daughter, who tried one of the bourbon-y sauces, spit it out and ran to the bathroom to wash her tongue. I suppose it’s somewhat comforting to know that she hasn’t yet developed a taste for whiskey.

This weekend, I took the one recipe that we liked from last week, and made nine additional variations on it. No clever names this time, just 1 through 9. Thanks to few slabs of slow cooked ribs, and a bbq appreciating guest to help keep us honest, we feasted, then unanimously agreed on the best of the bunch.  The champion is still unnamed. For now we’re just calling it delicious.

A few of the ingredients I used to concoct something my daughters would despise.

The recipe includes Jack Daniels, apple cider vinegar, molasses, liquid smoke, Worcestershire sauce, cayenne pepper and a handful of other ingredients, all of which I will share on my next post. (First, I need to build a recipe with actual measurements as opposed to my “one unit” of this, and “half a unit” of that).

Stay tuned.

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May·on·naise is of French origin. So maybe someone can explain why Baja Sauce comes from this place?

We had some killer salmon tacos last night.  I don’t mean that literally, of course, unless we happen to be speaking from the salmon’s point of view.

I wanted to share two incredibly simple extras that make good fish tacos fantastic:  baja sauce and roasted corn.

For the fish, just follow this recipe for alder plank grilled salmon.  That recipe still, consistently, produces the best salmon I’ve ever made.

But then, I wrap the fish in flour tortillas and top them with an onion, cilantro, lime salsa and these two items. What’s great is that both toppings are incredibly easy, but make your tacos or burritos seem out of the ordinary, and significantly more guest worthy:

Baja Sauce:

  • 1 cup mayo
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • zest of at least one lime
  • juice of at least one lime


Roasted Corn:

  • Cook the corn as you normally do (I put ears of corn in cold water, bring to a boil, count to 100 then take them out)
  • Slice the corn off, and put the kernels in a frying pan
  • Add 1 Tbs of vegetable oil
  • Add salt, pepper and ground cumin
  • Fry until corn starts to turn brown

Serve with beer.  But you knew that, didn’t you?

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Ranch dressing is really easy to make.

I don’t know why people feel the need to dip barbecue chicken wings into ranch sauce.  I’m not anti ranch sauce. I like it on a cucumber, I like it on a carrot, and I especially like it as a flavor of Doritos. But chicken wings?

(Avoiding a “what the cluck” joke. Unsuccessfully, I guess).

I think it’s all just part of humanity’s ongoing lack of respect for the chicken.  You wouldn’t dip a turkey in ranch sauce. You wouldn’t dip a duck in ranch sauce. But somehow, the poor, under-appreciated chicken, no matter how well barbecued, gets dipped.  Blech.  Shame on you ALL!

That said … we’re all about customer service here at the Blue State BBQ.  And so I figure, if you’re going to ruin your wings with ranch dressing, it might as well be good ranch dressing.

I went hunting for ranch dressing recipes, and noticed two basic categories. Those with buttermilk, and those without.  Basically, recipes with buttermilk tend to have equal parts buttermilk, mayonnaise and sour cream (mixed with the appropriate spices), and those without buttermilk have a 2:1 ratio of mayo to sour cream.

Today we had a family taste test, and it was unanimous – the ranch dressing without the buttermilk tasted better.  But I still recommend keeping the ranch with the veggie platter and away from your barbecue, even if you do know how to make ranch dressing on your own.

(FYI: I cut this recipe in half and had plenty for the whole family … but then again, I don’t eat wings with ranch sauce)

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • (Optional: 1/4 teaspoon onion powder)
  • (Optional: a pinch of finely chopped dill)

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Identifying Chow Chow

A food rule I had growing up: It’s ok not to like something, but it’s not ok not to try something.  So, with this in mind, I bought a jar of Chow Chow.

I was at my butcher, waiting in line, and saw homemade jars of the stuff sitting on the shelves. I had no idea what it was other than it looked like yellowish green sauerkraut.

“I’ve never had it,” I confessed.  And the butcher tells me that Chow Chow is big in the South, it’s sweet and spicy, and it’s delicious. I would later learn that this particular recipe was his mother’s. Granted, I was probably going to buy it anyway, but when this wise-looking elderly woman who looked like she personally gave birth to the South started giving me an insisting nod (with a little bit of  the crazy eye), well, that sealed it. I had to try it.

“Big in the South,” is definitely not an automatic for me.  Chicory coffee is big in the south too, and how anyone drinks that stuff is a mystery to me. Nauseating.  Plus, I absolutely love sauerkraut, and I didn’t want Chow Chow to just be a less good version of that.

So, we had some friends over for some apricot chicken wings, corn bread and potato salad, and brought the Chow Chow out.  “Could be terrible,” I warned. 

But it wasn’t.  We unanimously loved  Chow Chow.   (BTW: The Chow Chow we ate looked significantly less slimy than the Chow Chow in the picture I’ve included here.)

It is indeed a little like a kraut, but it’s notably sweeter, has some kick to it, and is definitely mushier. It has more of a sauce-like quality than sauerkraut.  It would be fantastic on a bratwurst.  I almost want to make some brats just to use the Chow Chow on it.

We also unanimously agreed that Chow Chow is a terrible name for something edible, unless you are a dog or cat.

What I don’t know, having never tried any other Chow Chow in my life, is whether if Bob’s wife’s Chow Chow was good, bad or average.  Seemed pretty great, but what do I know?  I guess I’ll just have to try some more.

Also, obviously, I’ve never made any Chow Chow myself, so I can’t endorse any cooking tips at this point.  I’ll see what I can do. Meanwhile, here’s a  little more info on Chow Chow



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A case of awesome.

A summer supply of my favorite barbecue sauce just arrived.   

In case you’re wondering, a case of 12 (21 oz) bottles goes for $27.  A case of 6 half gallon jugs goes for $41.50.  A case of 4 gallon jugs goes for $53.

I always buy the 21oz bottles for a silly reason. Even though the Show-Me folks insist — and I mean, with bold AND underlined sentences — that Show-Me Liquid Smoke doesn’t need to be refrigerated, I refrigerate it anyway.  In our house, we call that erring on the side of caution.

Anyway, the 21 oz bottles fit nicely in the refrigerator door, whereas the bigger jugs don’t.

(The Show-Me folks: 573-442-5309)

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