"Cowboy Mike's Own Original Red-Hot Ricochet Barbecue Sauce"

Discussion in 'Sauces, Rubs & Marinades' started by i is a moose, Jan 4, 2012.

  1. Disclaimer: I am not Cowboy Mike, just another nerd.

    It's hard to walk down the aisle of any grocery these days and not encounter entire rows dedicated to bottles of often uninspired slop and chemical soup proclaiming to be the cure-all of barbecued meat's ills (as if there were any). The presence is overpowering in the suburbs and mega-marts where factory foods are the ruling class, and imagination never really makes it past the bottling process. Sauce, which should be handled as a fun frosting on an amazing cake, often assumes the title role of "barbecue" when the end-results are A: less than desired, or B.: not really barbecue. I'm sorry, but lightly spiced ketchup on a hot dog does not good 'Q make, and don't expect Kraft to cover up a lackluster hunk of meat. Because of this function, suddenly sauce is a culinary thought-terminating cliche, it's become a prisoner within blandly predictable bottle in the back of the fridge that fills its own void.

    It is these reasons that I have snobbishly relegated barbecue sauce to a dismal perch in my mind, and today, I'm embarking on a journey to settle the score. 

    I have to admit as much as I proclaim myself to be a purist, and tell my friends that I have little room in my life for barbecue sauce, in the shadows I revel in the idea of finding the 'one sauce to rule them all', and spend countless hours pondering just how in the world I could concoct this white whale in a jar. I say concoct, because, frankly, unless I make this, it will ever chafe me that I have chosen to stand on someone's shoulders, the burden of this mad goal must me mine alone to bear.

    This clip from the episode of MST3K I began watching the other night burst in upon my musings as a divine summons: 

    While it was all a ridiculous gag with puppets and a 'decidedly un-bold' sauce (the horror!), it spoke to my inner conflict over the matter, and summoned me to a crusade for a truly unique sauce that will always produce a "wow" effect, and share it with the world.

    This thread will primarily act as my lab report on the matter of development, and hopefully, inspire enough folks in the World Wide Web's heart of all things Barbecue to start their own sauce project, and share the results. The revolution will be blogged.

    When I think of a perfect sauce, my first thought is: complexity. Too many of the sauces out there are a one-trick pony that hit hard, fade fast, and offer little ammo for contemplation. Personally, something sweet-tart with a worthwhile amount of heat, and (most importantly) layers of flavors, so each mouthful is somewhat different.

    My second thought is texture. To me, thick sauces are fun, because they really work like a nice frosting for the amazing meat 'cake' if you will, however, this is my personal opinion. If I make a sauce, I want it to be a slather, but I have nothing against thinner sauces if they fit the application.

    Finally, I think of these insidious bottles of modified ketchup that is the conception of corporate food to mislead us into perceiving as the real deal, besides, isn't Ketchup the junk you put on that nasty macaroni and cheese that spawns in a blue box? While I cannot argue the role of ketchup in making many sauces I'd much rather see it relegated to supporting cast, in short, I'm telling it to get off the stage, and go fiddle with the block-and-tackle.

    Finally, there needs to be a 'huh' factor. Something, some flavor that surprises the unsuspecting. An unexpected flavor that sneaks in from afar and makes itself known through subtlety.

    Of course, enough talk, it's time to make a plan....
  2. Plan of attack.

    The best things in life have many layers to unravel, mysteries, onions, gag presents, lo mai gai, mummies, and I don't see any reason why this should not be the same for a sauce. So the unifying concept is many sources of sweet, many sources of tart, many sources of savory, many sources of heat, and enough flavors that they crawl out of the woodwork. Some elements will serve single roles, and some will hold many, and each proposed idea was carefully selected to ensure the best possible results of the whole.

    For the sweet:

    Molasses, Brown Sugar, apple syrup*, apples, Dr. Pepper, onion,


    Worcestershire, mustard powder, molasses, real wood smoke, onion, celery bell pepper, garlic whiskey

    Tart: Apple cider vinegar, apples, tomato products, Worcestershire, crystal hot sauce, fruit preserves

    Texture: Apples, tomato products, molasses, brown sugar, apple syrup, siracha, fruit preserves, mustard powder.

    Heat: Cayenne, mustard powder, black pepper, chili powder, Moose's Southwestern Rub, Crystal hot sauce, siracha.

    Herbs: sage, thyme, rosemary, bay leaves

    "Huh": Hoisin sauce, fruit preserves.

    There's alot going on here, but it seems that each selected item kind of covers its own base, so instead of introducing a legion or redundant flavors, it's really a large symphony of things that will interact within the whole. Some of these things are a no-brainer, but other take a little splainin'.

    Apples and Fruit preserves have been chosen because they will add flavors that would be uncommon, or at least unique to the sauce. Many sauces are pretty resolutely focused on the common areas, but seems to overlook that good fruit flavors have a home alongside meat, as well, why else would Currant Jelly be served alongside pot roast? However, I have an ulterior motive in inviting these to the party, and that is pectin. The magic behind jellies and jams, a fruit-borne compound that acts in conjunction with acid and sugar to thicken fruit juices into jam, will no doubt lend an interesting, unctuous supporting texture to the sauce without introducing starches and thickeners.

    Hoisin sauce is often called "Chinese barbecue sauce" and with good reason, it's a sweet-salty sauce that really tastes analogous to our own concept of barbecue sauce, but has an inherent complexity from near-otherworldly flavors, like oyster and plum sauces, not to mention the mythical "Chinese Five Spice" that dogs at its heels. It seems entirely out of place, and with good reason: sometimes a little dissonance in the harmony can be the spice of life.

    Dr. Pepper is a unique soft drink because it doesn't taste wholly sweet, and strays from many of the acidic compounds found in colas, it also has found its way into many contemporary barbecues, and, to me, seems to fit the bill, because it has the potential to sweeten without overwhelming the final product.

    The trinity is in there. Ever since I discovered the basic platform of Cajun Cookery, I've felt it's been perfectly at home in just about everything. It's flavors are subtle, and will melt away into the background, but still reinforce the overall flavor of the final product with a rich backdrop. I think it's inclusion goes without saying.

    Soon to come: the madness begins...
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2012

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