Apricot Barbeque Sauce

This is a barbeque sauce unlike any other you’ve ever had.  This is love.  This is genuine flavor.

When you think of ‘soy bbq sauce’, what you’re probably really thinking of is apricot bbq sauce.  The flavors are a true blend of east-meets-west, lending itself perfectly to the wonderful palette of Chinese and southeast Asian spices.  Cinnamon, orange, sweet rice wine, apricot, soy sauce, miso.. they all come together in harmony in a bold sweet and sour grilling sauce.  And that’s really what bbq sauce is: sweet and sour.  The flavor of soy, accentuated by the natural flavor or umami, is carefully brought out through other ingredients.  There is no one dominant ingredient; everything works together.  As you’re cooking the sauce you’ll smell cinnamon, orange, maple, the slight nuance of vinegar, and a lovely combination of Asian ingredients.

Of course apricots have a long heritage in south Asian cuisine.  Once, again, think along the lines of the great and ancient spice routes that crossed from Asian through the middle east and Persian and ended in Europe.  So many of our modern ‘national’ dishes originated along these routes.  Apricots were introduced to Asian from Persian and middle eastern empires, cinnamon from southeast Asia, and many of the other spices were picked up along the way.  Apricots became so important in Chinese culture that they became a symbol of intelligence and medicine. But it’s their flavor that interests us most.  Other than sweet, apricots are also very tangy, which yields tremendous natural flavor, which, as any pastry expert will tell you, is where flavor is derived. They are unique in flavor, but lie somewhere between a plum, pear and apple.  All great ingredients, all versatile ingredients.

Apricots therefore lend themselves very well to sweet, savory and sour dishes.  Like bbq sauce.  Add some additional sweetness, a little sour, a few elements from the great spice routes and a few staple Asian ingredients and viola!  Apricot bbq sauce.  Simply perfect.  Simply delicious.

Apricot Barbeque Sauce

Prep time:  10 minutes
Cook time:  30 minutes
Yield:  3 cups

Ingredients:

1 small yellow onion, julienne cut
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
4 roma tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 cup apricot preserve
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 tbsp. maple sugar
1/2 apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. light brown miso paste
1 cinnamon stick
zest (not fine chop!) of one orange
1 cup water
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
dash of sriracha
2 tbsp. mirin

Method:

In a medium sized heavy bottom non-reactive sauce pot, begin sweating the onion in the oil.  Add the tomatoes, cinnamon stick and orange zest.  Cook until the tomatoes begin to loosen from their skin.  Add the maple sugar, apricot preserve and syrup.  Cook, stirring frequently, until bubbling.  Deglaze with the vinegar.  Add all the other ingredients except the water.  Cook until it begins to lightly thicken.  Add the water, bring to a low simmer, and simmer until slightly reduced.  Turn off the heat, remove the cinnamon stick and most of the zest.  Blend well.  Return to the pot and simmer over low heat until it’s thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

The sauce is now ready.  Best with chicken seasoned with five spice and grilled over a hot wood grill.

Enjoy.

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Smoked Tomato Sauce, Southwest Flavors

Tomatoes, sweet and sour, and smoke flavor.  Those would be the fundamental flavors of what?  BBQ sauce, of course.  Convert these flavors into a righteous tomato sauce, and you will be sitting on gold.  I mean GOLD.  I love this sauce.  It’s easy to make, is so versatile and pushes so much flavor into anything you make with it.  Right now, I have a small container in my fridge.  I use it by itself, for finishing sauces, for marinades, and for added ‘kick’ in whatever it is I’m making.  It works best with southwest cuisine, but really compliments everything.

If you like this sauce, and as long as even slightly enjoy southwest cuisine, you will; you may find, as I have, that this sauce becomes a culinary staple.  Something to keep in your arsenal of pantry weapons at all times.  It’s that good.  And easy.

Smoked Tomato Sauce

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cooking time:  20 minutes
Yield:  2 cups

Ingredients:

4 ripe roma tomatoes, stems removed
1/2 bunch cilantro
1/2 chipotle pepper (NOT in sauce)
1 dried ancho pepper
1/2 yellow onion, rough chop
1/2 cup sugar
1 clove garlic
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup vegetable stock
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp liquid smoke
1/2 tsp whole cumin
1/2 tsp whole coriander
2ea allspice
1 tsp vegetable oil

Method:

In a medium sized sauce pot, begin heating the oil.  Add the tomatoes and sear until the skin becomes dark and blistered.  Make sure to turn occasionally.  Add the onion, garlic and dried peppers and continue to cook until the onions are slightly caramelized.  Season with salt. Add the sugar and 1 tbsp water.  Continue to cook until the sugar is thick and bubbling.  Add the vinegar, cilantro, smoke and dried spices.  Stir to thoroughly combine.  Add the stock (or water) and bring to a simmer.  Turn the heat to medium and reduce by about 1/3.  Remove from the stove and transfer to a bar blender.  Blend until very smooth.  Reseason with salt.

The sauce is now ready.

Use by itself (especially with roast or grilled chicken), as a marinade, as a finishing sauce or as a component of other dishes, like black bean stews or pork carnitas.

Enjoy.

Apple Cider Sauce

I have been getting a lot of requests recently for sauces.  They aren’t so much as requests, but more like pleas for help.  Help me!  Flavor balance, thickening, getting it right… how do I do it?  My answer, in my humble opinion, is that it’s complicated.  Unfortunately there is no formula for sauces.  Each sauce is specific, unique, and requires its own discipline.

Sauces are difficult, complicated, and require a tremendous amount of skill and experience.  Please remember, sauces are technique driven!  They take practice and patience.  In the beginning, it’s easier to make reductions than making truly composed sauces.  For example, reduce 1/2 gallon of orange juice to a syrup, add honey, rosemary, swirl in a couple of pieces of butter you have a very simple orange/rosemary sauce, perfect for fish or light chicken sautes.

So, to simplify things, the best route for making a sauce is to have a plan.  A battle plan.  Determine what your end result should be, and make a plan to get there.  And keep it simple.  A simple reduction.  Simple ingredients.  A few basic flavors that classically work.  Being that it’s fall now, I am going to go through a simple apple cider sauce, that seems to work with a lot of dishes.  It’s only a couple of reductions, easy ingredients, and hard to get wrong.  This sauce really works best with roast chicken or roast pork, but will also fit with beef or other red meats.

Apple Cider and Cinnamon Sauce

Prep time:  2 minutes
Cook time:  about 45 minutes
Yield:  1/2 cup finished sauce

Ingredients:

1/2 gallon local unfiltered apple cider
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 cinnamon sticks
2 tbsp heavy cream
1 tbsp whole unsalted butter, cold
1 cup homemade chicken stock

Method:

In a medium sized non-reactive sauce pot, begin reducing the cider with the cinnamon sticks.  Reduce until almost thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.  Remove the cinnamon sticks and add the vinegar.  Return to a boil and add the chicken stock.  Again, reduce until slightly thick. Add the heavy cream and reduce until just thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.  Remove from the heat and swirl in the butter.  This finishes the sauce and gives it a little more richness.

The sauce is now ready.  Best served with roast pork or chicken.

Enjoy.