Archive for the ‘Sauces’ Category

Hey! That’s My Barbecue Sauce!

Even better than seeing your name in the phone book for the first time.

Even better than seeing your name in the phone book for the first time.

Barbecue has always been a labor of love for me. A hobby with gut-busting benefits. It never occurred to me that something I created would end up on a menu somewhere.

But tonight, I got a wonderful surprise when I took a look at St. Cloud’s new menu.  After some emails and a few taste tests both private and public over the past few weeks, St. Clouds has officially added Whiskey Jack – my brand of barbecue sauce – to their line-up.

I can’t say enough good things about St. Clouds Restaurant. The food, the cocktails, the staff, the location, the ownership, the complimentary ice cream sundaes for the kids – it’s the perfect neighborhood restaurant, and my family has eaten there more times than I can count.

I’m blown away that an establishment that I love so much would even consider dumping my sauce on top of their ribs.  Thank you St. Clouds!

And as for all my local friends, if you go, let me know what you think!



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Whiskey Jack ribs at St. Clouds restaurant.

Whiskey Jack ribs at St. Clouds restaurant.

I’ve written about St. Clouds before — our awesome neighborhood restaurant.

Well, the good folks at St. Clouds humored me, and gave my barbecue sauce a test.  Here’s how it looked on their ribs, which are served on top of a big pile of greens.

This is the first time my sauce left my own kitchen, and it was pretty intense having actual chefs and professional restaurant people giving it the once over.  While it’s possible the team at St. Clouds was just being nice, they did seem to really like it.

I got at least one “that’s awesome sauce,” so here’s to hoping it wasn’t just a case of the customer always being right.

Thanks St. Clouds!

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After 20 years of loyalty to my favorite barbecue sauce, I’ve decided to invent make my own for two reasons. First, for a little variety. And second, because I secretly just want to make up an amusing name and design a label.

Going into it, I gave myself only a couple of guidelines.

I want something with a bit of heat, because my usual sauce is sweet and smoky. And because Ms. BlueState BBQ likes her the little brown jug (insert hiccup sound here), I promised my recipe will include some bourbon.

People who know me know I’m a man of data, so that’s where I started.  I collected 25 5-star recipes for barbecue sauce, weighting the list a bit with those that had bourbon in the ingredients, and then dissected the recipes so I could get a better understanding of what’s inside great sauces.  This exercise revealed more than 40 ingredients a sauce designer might choose from.

Here are a few of my observations:

1)      Most recipes are mostly ketchup. I knew that my particular favorite sauce was ketchup based. But I had no idea that SO MANY sauces start with ketchup, and lots of it.

2)      Cider vinegar, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce and fresh onion are the next most common ingredients.  But, it’s not automatic. Pairings matter — for example, molasses appears to match up better with Bourbon than brown sugar. And texture matters — onions tend to be included in sauces that have other crunchable items in them, which I have to say, doesn’t appeal to me in the slightest.

3)      Surprising, and surprisingly common, were butter, garlic and liquid smoke seasoning.  Many recipes start with melting butter, and softening up some garlic, onions or both.

4)      Then there’s a fairly long list of customary, but apparently not must-have ingredients, such as dry mustard, honey, cayenne pepper, salt, tabasco and chili powder.

5)      Finally, there were some head-scratchers like thyme, coriander and oregano.  But hey, to each their own.

So, my plan is to hit the lab asap.  The only problem is, I don’t have any bourbon and it’s Easter Sunday.  Darn it, Easter Bunny, why didn’t you bring me any? Or maybe you just drank it all.

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When you start a BBQ blog, you start to learn just how much of an idiot you can be.  Learning new stuff has a tendency to do that.

And today, I decided to learn how to make my favorite Korean food, Kalbi short ribs.  But, while researching Kalbi , I discovered this little nugget:  Kalbi literally means “rib.” 

Uh oh.  I thought Kalbi was an adjective. As in, Kalbi (style) ribs.

If Kalbi indeed means ribs, then over the past 6 years or so, I’ve been saying “Rib ribs” when describing my favorite Korean dish.   Rib ribs, please.  I love these rib ribs.  Hey, you’ve got to order the rib ribs. The rib ribs here are the best.

Oh, the shame.  So now that my confessional is over, on to the rest of the experience.

The Good News: A Great Kalbi Marinade:

I took a long look at five different Kalbi recipes, and all had the same four base ingredients: Soy sauce, sugar, garlic and sesame (either seeds or oil). But after that, there was some variation. Most called for chopped onions, two suggested the use of ginger, two added rice vinegar, and there were several other ingredients in the mix.

I started with the base, and then made four variations. This recipe, the one that features Mirin (sweet cooking wine) is the one I thought tasted the best.

For 5 lbs English Style short ribs

  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 2 generous teaspoons of minced garlic
  • 2 Tbs sesame oil
  • ¼ cup chopped onion
  • ¼ cup water
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ cup Mirin

Marinate the ribs in this mixture for at least 4 hours. But I let mine soak overnight.

In case you’re wondering about the taste test, here were my thoughts. Ginger tasted great with the base — but for some other recipe, not Kalbi.  It just wasn’t the flavor I was looking for. Meanwhile, all variations with Mirin were better than all variations with Rice Wine Vinegar. RWV gave the marinade a weird aftertaste. Pepper, meanwhile, improved everything I tried.

The Bad News:  Dismal Short Ribs

Great flavor just isn't enough to overcome the shortcomings of beef ribs.

The flavor of these ribs was amazing.  But the ribs themselves were really disappointing, and sorry beef rib fans, I can’t say I’m surprised.

Beef ribs repeatedly disappoint me. I didn’t like them much as a kid, I have tried to make them numerous times, and today was easily my best effort, and they still weren’t all that great.  Frankly, at this point, I’m not sure why people bother with beef ribs.

I purchased 5 pounds of English Style short ribs from the best butcher in town.  After they marinated for 12 hours or so, I put them on a nice low and slow cook. The grill started at 225, but dropped to 200. 

After 3 hours, the ribs weren’t tender in the slightest, so I wrapped them in foil with a few spoonfuls of marinade.  After 90 minutes in foil, they did come out significantly more tender, but still chewy.

Once out of the foil, I went for a taste test every 15 or 20 minutes.  This was partly for the sake of science, but also I was hungry.  Approaching hour 6, I’d say there was very little progress, and in fact, the ribs started to hint of getting overcooked.

So, I declared them done, just not all that fun to eat. Chewy, sinewy and dry in comparison to pork ribs, just like all the beef ribs I’ve ever had.  I’d much rather get the thinly sliced Kalbi at my favorite Korean restaurant, and grill it fast and hot at the table. 

I’ve posted the marinade though, in case someone else out there is a big beef rib fan. The flavor was excellent.

Meanwhile, if someone thinks they have a beef rib recipe for the grill that really works, I’m willing to give it another go.  Maybe.

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