Monday, June 27, 2011

Down-Home American BBQ: Two Amazing Sauces and a Side!


My dad makes the meanest shish kebabs in the world. I swear! In a shish kebab throwdown, he would take home every grand prize, and then some. He is a master of the art, and I can safely say that no one makes shish kebabs as good as he does (regardless of the variety). When it comes to American barbecue, my brother-in-law Scott is our resident master. He has been honing his special secret rub for years. It's a love that requires TLC to get it just right.

Sauces on the rib from top to bottom: Dr. Pepper BBQ Sauce and Jack Daniels BBQ Sauce

On Father's Day, he invited us over for some incredible hickory-smoked country-style ribs with 2 of his wonderful homemade barbecue sauces. He also grilled up some sweet potato fries (and doused them in a Heavenly maple brown sugar glaze), corn on the cob, and Brazilian coconut shrimp skewers! He offered some of these delectable recipes for my readers. Say "Thank you, Scott" :) And just in time for the 4th of July!!

Jack Daniels BBQ Sauce (left) and Dr. Pepper BBQ Sauce (right)

Here are some notes on the sauces! The Jack Daniels sauce is along the lines of a Memphis-style sauce. Although it is a little thick for a "traditional" Memphis sauce, it has a vinegar base, which puts it in that family. It's very acidic and spicy, and was the overall favorite at the dinner table. Traditionally, Memphis-style BBQ is served without a sauce basted onto it, with the exception of pulled pork. They favor dry-rubbed meat only. Some will serve sauce on the side, however. The predominantly acidic flavor profile of this sauce will compliment any meat except for fish. That means pork, beef, and chicken are all fair game!


The Dr. Pepper sauce is a traditional Kansas City sauce. It's a thick, sweet and spicy tomato-based BBQ sauce with a complex flavor. It compliments pork and beef beautifully. The sauce tastes better if you apply it with a mop or brush the last 10 minutes of cooking, and then add even more sauce afterwards. From a presentation standpoint, the ribs look even more amazing when glistening with a beautiful lacquer of sauce, plus that little extra smoke deepens the flavor. Note that both sauce recipes can easily be scaled down for smaller quantities if needed.

Check out that gorgeous pink smoke ring around the edges of the meat!

Jack Daniels BBQ Sauce
Makes 1 scant quart

1 cup Jack Daniels
1 cup ketchup
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2 T. Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 T. hot sauce (preferably chipotle)
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1/4 tsp. liquid smoke (preferably hickory)

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes, then puree in a blender. Cool completely, then store in an airtight container and refrigerate. Sauce will keep for up to 3 weeks.

Dr. Pepper BBQ Sauce
Makes 1 scant quart

4 T. unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
12 oz. Dr. Pepper
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
3 T. tomato paste
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. white pepper
1 tsp. salt

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat and sauté the onions and garlic for about 10 minutes until just golden brown. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking for 20 to 30 minutes. Allow the mixture to cool for 10 minutes, then puree in a blender. Cool completely, then store in an airtight container and refrigerate. Sauce should keep for up to 2 weeks.

Sweet Potato Fries with Maple Brown Sugar Glaze
Serves 4

2 to 3 large sweet potatoes
3 T. unsalted butter
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 1/2 T. Dijon mustard
Extra-virgin olive oil, for oiling grates
1/2 cup diced scallions

Preheat a gas grill to medium-high or if using a charcoal grill, use approximately 10 to 15 charcoal briquettes.

Peel the sweet potatoes, and cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices. Cut 1/4-inch matchsticks from each slice to make fries.

Make the glaze by melting the butter in a microwave for 30 to 45 seconds (covered with a paper towel to avoid splatter) and whisk in the syrup, brown sugar and mustard.

Oil the grill grates with extra-virgin olive oil and lay the potato slices cross-wise, cooking for 8 to 10 minutes per side (looking for a nice char mark before flipping)*. While the potatoes are cooking, brush the glaze on the slices. When the potatoes are tender and nicely charred, remove from the grill and garnish with the scallions.

*Alternatively for speed of grilling, briefly blanch sliced sweet potatoes in boiling water until par-tender, shock in ice water, pat dry, and then grill as specified, basting with sauce, but for less total time. The blanching can be done ahead of time.

*Note* The sauce would also be amazing on roasted sweet potato fries, or other roasted root vegetables, or on ham.

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