29 May 2017

Food Lab 39: Burnt Sugar

Because Mad Kitchen Scientist and The Executive Committee have been providing long-term shelter for a homeless Big Green Egg, we've gotten pretty good at making real smoked barbecue. What we haven't done - at least not until this weekend - is played around with sauces.

According to the rather informative Wikipedia article on the topic, there are several major types:

  • A basic vinegar sauce (East versus West Carolina coming down to: does it include any tomato products or not) - recipe from Garden & Gun's The Southerner's Cookbook
  • Memphis/Kansas City - tomato products, sugar, vinegar, spices - recipe from same
  • Texas - still uses tomato products, but thinner, with meat drippings and/or smoked flavors (plus, in our case, bourbon) - recipe from the Reata Cookbook 
  • South Carolina - the famous mustard-based sauce - recipe also from The Southerner's Cookbook

We skipped the Florida sauce, which is similar to Memphis, only with tropical fruit added, and the Alabama sauce, because mayo does NOT belong in barbecue sauce.

Mad Kitchen Scientist procured the squeals (pork shoulder and ribs), and Chef Spouse and I procured the squawks (chicken and duck).

The pork shoulder went into the Egg and the ribs went into a low, slow oven early in the morning.

When Chef Spouse and I arrived, after making us a round of juleps, he spatchcocked the birds while The Executive Committee and I started on the sauces.

Here's the thing about barbecue sauces: aside from the Texas version, which had to simmer for two hours pre-bourbon and one more hour after, they make up in no time. The vinegar sauces you just mix. The Memphis style sauce cooked for about 20 minutes, and the South Carolina mustard sauce only cooked for 10. In short, there is NO reason to buy that bottled shit from the grocery store.

The shoulder came off the Egg after several hours to finish in the oven.

Meanwhile, Mad Kitchen Scientist upped the heat in the Egg and on went the birds. We did make a tactical error: the duck should've gone on before the chicken. Although it was up to temperature on the instant read thermometer at about the same time as the chicken (remembering, of course, that duck doesn't need to get as high), it hadn't really had enough time to break down its tougher connective tissue or render as much of its delicious fat as it needed. (So they kept the legs and we brought home the breasts, which we sliced up and quickly seared in a hot pan to top an entree salad for dinner the following night, which worked great, and the smoke flavor was outstanding.)

Finally, the ribs came out of the oven, we painted them by thirds with the Texas, Memphis, and South Carolina sauces, and they finished on the Egg, too.

The vinegar sauces really are just vinegar, salt and pepper, a little ketchup (or not), and hot red pepper flakes. They're intended as dipping sauces, but we all felt that they might make better marinades - and that they'd also benefit from the addition of some fish sauce, which of course, basically turns them into nuoc mam.

South Carolina mustard sauce:

1 tsp vegetable oil
1 generous TBSP grated white onion with liquid
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. French's yellow mustard
1/2 c cider vinegar
1/4 c honey
2 TBSP brown sugar
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp celery seed
1 tsp hot sauce

Heat the oil to medium in a medium saucepan. Saute the onion and garlic briefly, add all the other ingredients, raise the heat until bubbles starts breaking the surface, stirring frequently, simmer for 10 minutes.

Memphis sauce

1 1/2 c ketchup
1/2 c Sriracha
1/3 c cider vinegar
1 TBSP tomato paste
1 TBSP Ancho chili powder
1 tsp dry yellow mustard
3 garlic cloves pounded to a paste (use your mortar and pestle)
2 generous TBSP grated white onion with liquid
2 TBSP brown sugar
1 TBSP smoked paprika

Combine everything in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil, stirring frequently, simmer for 20 minutes.

Texas sauce

1 1/2 c ketchup
1/3 c tomato sauce
3/4 c Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 TBSP allspice (too much - probably cut to about 2 tsp)
1 TBSP dry yellow mustard
1/2 tsp cayenne (next time, I'd probably go more like 1 tsp)
1/3 c white wine vinegar (I'd probably replace with cider)
1/4 c lemon juice
1 1/2 TBSP garlic powder
3/4 c  brown sugar
1/4 c white sugar
2 c water
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 TBPS black pepper

Combine everything in a large saucepan, simmer two hours.

Bourbon variant

After the initial two hour cook, add 1 c. bourbon and another 1/2 c. brown sugar, simmer for another hour.

With regards to the thicker sauces, all of us had low expectations of the mustard sauce, but it turned out to be my favorite. My second favorite was the Memphis style, mostly because we replaced the Heinz chili sauce the recipe called for (which is really not very spicy) with Sriracha. Now we're talking! The Texas sauce was good, but we all felt the recipe used too much allspice and the version we used DIDN'T call for drippings, so we didn't use them, and I think it would've been better with.

Of course we needed something to eat all this delicious smoked meat on, so I suggested homemade potato rolls. I used to make potato bread all the time, but I've moved more to French bread and rustic loaves that use sourdough, have long rise times, and form their own gluten structure so don't require being cooked in pans. Potato bread - or rolls - basically consists of brioche to which you've added cooked potato. It really is delicious, to the point that Mad Kitchen Scientist thinks he may replace his traditional holiday milk rolls with something like this.

We did have some veg too - in addition to the home-pickled cabbage (red and white variants) shown above, Chef Spouse has lately been obsessed with crispy (aka deep fried) kale. He keeps trying to do it on the stove top at home, and I keep pointing out that that is highly dangerous because of the amount of water in kale, and that it really needs to be done in the deep fryer. Two problems there, though: one is going through the hassle of getting out and setting up the deep fryer, the other is that you're going to have to change the oil after. We were about due to change the oil, though, so we brought the deep fryer along. I was right, of course, and one of the key things to note is to load the basket with kale, get it into the fryer but not down into the oil, PUT THE LID ON, and then lower the basket. Much safer.

We also started something that won't show up for another month or so (not homemade sausage again, and no fair guessing), so you'll have to check back later to find out how that turned out.

1 comment:

Mad Kitchen Scientist said...

The Texas-allspice nexus may make more sense if the sauce was to be put on beef (as Texans would) rather than squeaks and squawks. Possibly an aggregious oversight in our laboratory methodology.