We are very lucky here in Florida, as we get to enjoy Summer-like weather all year, but like the rest of the country, we’ll still use Memorial Day as an excuse to break out the grill and barbecue. I hope that everyone reading this post will also take time this weekend to remember the brave soldiers that gave their lives so that we can enjoy a peaceful holiday with our friends and families.
Barbecue is one of the most interesting “segments” of the culinary world that I can think of. It seems that every culture around the world has their own version of it, whether it is cooking in a Tandoori oven in India, or making jerked pork or chicken in Jamaica.
Even here in The United States of America, we think of barbecue in many different ways. In Texas, barbecue is beef brisket that has been rubbed with spices and cooked long and slow, and don’t even mention barbecue sauce in The Lone Star State! In the Carolinas, barbecue is Pork Butt that tends to be served with a very vinegary sauce, often with mustard as the base. In Kansas City, meat is slowly smoked, and coated with the more traditional tomato-molasses based sauce that Americans tend to be more familiar with. In Memphis, pork and chicken are used in barbecue, and either served “dry,” meaning that they are only seasoned with a dry rub of spices, or “wet,” meaning that they are cooked and served with sauce. No matter what your preference, I think that we can all agree that they are all outstanding, and a very important part of culinary Americana.
As a Chef, working in upscale restaurants, I’ve always found it fun to take pedestrian comfort flavors like barbecue, and integrate them into menus in a sophisticated way. For instance, Gochujang Braised Buffalo Short Ribs, Asian Crispy Slaw and Tobacco Onions…a riff on barbecued ribs with cole slaw & onion rings.
I love sauces, because they allow the chef the deliver a punches of flavor, and really make a signature mark on a dish. The following are five very different barbecue sauces, including a Carolina style mustard-based sauce.
Tamarind-Ginger Barbecue Sauce
This is one of my go-to barbecue sauce recipes. It works really well here in Florida for use on everything from fish to rich red meat. The acid in the sauce comes from the flesh around the tamarind seed. I like to describe the taste as something similar to a dried apricot. It has fresh ginger notes, as well as a brightness from the citrus juice.
Gochujang Barbecue Sauce
Gochujang is a wonderful red chili paste from Korea. You can read more about it here. Mixed with the other ingredients, it has a very Asian flavor profile. I originally developed this recipe to be served with pork meatballs as an hors d’oeuvres, but I’ve also used it as a glaze for cedar-planked salmon.
Mango-Mustard Barbecue Sauce
This is the mustard-based Carolina-style sauce that I promised. It has the acidity to stand up to very rich meat like pork butt, beef ribs, or chicken thighs. Mango is an ingredient that I added to pay homage to my Florida culinary roots. The sweetness of the mango really works in concert with the acidity of the mustard and the apple-cider vinegar.
Honey-Sriracha Barbecue Sauce
Sriracha is one of those flavors that everyone seems to be in love with these days, and what better to tame the heat than adding some honey (I used a local honey to make this). I like hot foods, and this recipe is fairly spicy, so you might want to add a little Sriracha at a time when you make this the first time. Of course, I know that there are a lot of you that will add even more, and that’s great too!
Roasted Pineapple-Chipotle Barbecue Sauce
I can still remember the first time I was introduced to chipotle peppers, and I’ve been in love with them ever since. They are a wonderful vehicle to add both heat and light smoke to a dish. One of my favorite flavor profiles is fruity-sweet, smokey heat and you get this with the addition of the roasted pineapple. By roasting the pineapple it not only concentrates the flavors by removing moisture, but it also starts to caramelize the sugars in the pineapple lending a far more developed layer of flavor to the sauce.