Thursday, November 30, 2006

5 Takes Memphis

All in all, the Travel Channel show 5 Takes: USA is pretty lame. Nothing seems very spontaneous, and the corporate sponsorships are over the top. The travelers, or TJs as they're called, are a bunch of doofuses. In fact, I think one of them is a bit touched in the head.

With that said, their recent visit to Memphis left our fair city looking like quite the place to be. As soon as the episode was over, I turned to E and said, "I wanna go there." Of course they made the requisite visits to Beale Street and Graceland, but they did some unexpectedly hip stuff too like visit Goner Records and take an American Dream Safari with our friend Tad.

What really crossed the t's with me was their avoidance of any barbecue joints. Instead, they went to a backyard BBQ in South Bluffs. The event came across as really staged, but I appreciated the unique effort.

We Memphians tend to be an apathetic and downright negative bunch when it comes to this town, but it was fun to see things through the eyes of a bunch of fer'ners. Apparently, there are some cool things happening in these parts. At least, that's what the Travel Channel would have us believe.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Interweb Smoker

Make is one of my favorite blogpages. I'm not much of a tinkerer, but I like to pretend that I am. Visiting Make every day to see what the real geeks are building provides much vicarious satisfaction and sparks some great daydreaming about crazy projects big and small that I'll never actually start.

Today was no exception when I learned that I'll soon be able to smoke meat using the mighty power of the Interweb. My own smoker is already halfway built… in my mind.

Wireless BBQ

In keeping with the theme of my last post, here are some items that no cell phone user should be without.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

BBQ Sauce Bar

If vinegar bars are a hit in Japan, then why won't my idea for a BBQ/hot sauce bar work right here at home?

Jim Deerman's Bar-B-Q

On the way back from a ridiculously bountiful Thanksgiving in Georgia, E and I stopped for lunch on Highway 78. Knowing that after the past few days any meal would be a let down, we settled on trying some Alabama BBQ. Jim Deerman's looked like a good place, and I ordered a pork plate while E got a chicken sandwich.

This review will be quick. The pork? No smoke, no sweet, tasted boiled. The sauce? Spoiled ketchup. The beans? A can of baked beans with some onions and pork thrown in. The onion rings? I almost chipped a tooth. The slaw? What slaw? I didn't taste E's sandwich, but it came without slaw of course. It did have an unrequested slice of pickle. I guess we were still too close to Atlanta. Her greens and potato salad were fine if you like canned greens and grocery store potato salad.

If this is Alabama BBQ (and I hope it isn't representative), no thanks.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Friday Night Videos

Old skool for the class of '88.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Pecan, pumpkin & cocoa-nut.

Giving Thanks

It seems that Thanksgiving is a slow time for a barbecue blogger. We Memphians may love our BBQ, but there isn't much to say about it this week. Instead, talk has shifted to which of our favorite establishments are offering smoked turkeys – many of them are. For our family, the focus is on traditional, delicious, homemade ravioli – making it and eating it. All in all, it's a wonderful time for family, friends and food, but I won't be doing much writing. What will I be doing? Baking pies.

More Better

I neglected to provide a review of my last batch of The Sauce. Here are a few quick notes:

I saw some real improvements in the overall flavor. Less sugar and more vinegar was definitely the right way to go. I think I found the right combination of brown sugar, honey and molasses.

Switching from tomato sauce to crushed tomatoes was a good experiment, but it didn't work for me. I didn't like the chunky texture that they added. I'm going back to sauce.

The same problems still linger – too thin, too hot, needs smoke.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Thursday, November 16, 2006

A Sandwich is a Sandwich

During an e-mail debate concerning whether or not a Manwich is actually a sandwich (sparked by the recent burrito ruling by Worcester Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Locke), DW discovered this amazing 8500 calorie "Manwich." Its glory must be shared.

Any idea what a BBQ burger is? Cause this crazy UK sandwich contains four.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Back to Bidness

You'll notice quite a few changes to The Sauce recipe I'm trying out today. First, I'm cutting back on the paprika and chili to reduce the heat (for now), and I'm adding cumin for a sorta, kinda smoky flavor. For what I think will add some depth, I'm switching from tomato sauce to crushed tomatoes but will still reduce them significantly first.

I liked the addition of honey to the last batch, and so that stays. To it, I'm adding molasses, but cutting back on the brown sugar. Sweet is good. Too sweet is horrific. These sweeteners now belong to a category I'm calling "finishers." The Sauce cooks for a long time, and I don't want the sugars to burn. I'll add them near the end of cooking – maybe 15 minutes. Also, I'm adding some vinegar – more sour to balance the sweet.

Dry Ingredients
3/4 tsp Smoked Paprika
1/4 tsp Chipotle Chili Powder
1/2 tsp Cumin
1/2 tsp Onion Powder
1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp Dry Mustard
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Pepper

Wet Ingredients
3 cups Beef Stock
28 oz Crushed Tomatoes
1/2 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1/4 cup Red Wine Vinegar
1/2 cup Worcestershire Sauce

1/4 cup Brown Sugar
1 tbsp Honey
2 tbsp Molasses

Simmer tomatoes about 45 minutes to thicken. Combine the wet ingredients and bring to a boil. Combine the dry ingredients. Add to the wet and simmer 1 hour. Add the finishers approximately 15 minutes before the end of cooking.

Add 2 spoonfuls of corn starch slurry at the very end to thicken, if needed.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


I'm not sure I'm down with the name, but I think "Mustaches for Kids" is a great idea for a charity. The Chicagoist has number 3 on their pros list absolutely right – it's a great place to store extra BBQ sauce after lunch.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Bowl O' BBQ Sandwich

Click (Daily) had a birthday party. The Saucier drank a wee bit too much at said party. I'll have to rely on RJA's account of the festivities, but I'm pretty sure I had a good time. Barbecue from Tops was on hand, and I do know that after a few beers (somewhere in the high teens) I ate this sandwich:

That was not the last time I would see it.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Another Confession

For all of my barbecue snobbery, I love the McRib. I love it! I always have, and I always will. I can rationalize this love by saying that the sandwich in no way resembles BBQ or ribs or even food for that matter. It defies categories.

The McRib is a seasonal delicacy. Much of its mystique arises from a seemingly random reemergence and quick disappearance from the McDonald's menu – a true enigma. I recently noticed a sign outside a nearby franchise proclaiming its return.

Viva McRib!


My disdain for the current crop of television cooks has been previously documented. At the top of the list of abominations has to be Rachael Ray. No one can really be that annoying. Was she dropped on her head as a child? As an adult? Seriously, I think there's a problem there.

I will now make a confession. I watch 30 Minute Meals almost every day. Why? Why would I do that? What's wrong with me? I can't really explain it except to say that I will continue to watch until the day she makes it through a show without saying or doing something that irritates me more than the last time I watched. For example, within a 10-second span of a recent episode she pronounced two very important culinary words as moofaletta and New Orleeens and then declared that she would be making a meatless moofaletta. WTF? I can't imagine what could irritate me more than the idea of a muffuletta without salami, but I'm 100% convinced I'll find out on the next show.

Why do I call attention to this shame? One of the 9,000 shows Ray has running non-stop on Food Network is called $40-a-day. The premise? She visits a town and tries to spend less than $40 on food. I recently watched a rerun of an episode from 2003 (I think) because the magical TiVo device told me I should. She came to Memphis. Of course, I was aggravated to the point of sputtering, but imagine my astonishment when she hit Brother Juniper's for breakfast, Gus's Famous Fried Chicken for lunch and Interstate Bar-B-Que for dinner. Not Corky's, not Rendevous – Interstate! I'd be pretty happy making that rotation on any given day. I guess all that ridiculous popularity gets you a really good pre-production team. Now, I'm really pissed off.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Unthinkable

Earlier this week, E mentioned that her mother wanted us to bring some Corky's BBQ sauce when we visit for Thanksgiving in a few weeks. It seems the supermarkets in southern Florida don't carry that brand. I shrugged it off assuming that I'd misheard or that perhaps she was joking. She's from Memphis. She should know better.

Tonight at the grocery store I purchased two bottles of Corky's original recipe. It was difficult, and though the shame must have been written all over my face, the cashier was polite enough not to make mention. I'm expecting to collect quite a few points in the "Who's the best son-in-law ever?" competition.

Monday, November 06, 2006

One Step Forward

What did I learn from last night's batch?

  1. It's still too hot. I think the chipotle powder packs too much of a punch.
  2. Eliminating the tomato paste and reducing the tomato sauce first was a very good idea (thanks RC). However, I still need to tweak this approach for a more complex flavor.
  3. I still want to add more smoke flavor without increasing the heat or using liquid smoke.
  4. This batch was too sweet, but I really liked the addition of honey.
  5. A few spoonfuls of corn starch slurry thickened the sauce properly, but I kinda feel like that's cheating.
What will I try next time?
  1. 1/4 tsp of chipotle
  2. 24 oz of crushed tomatoes instead of tomato sauce
  3. Search Penzey's for smoked spices
  4. 1/4 cup of brown sugar but include honey and possibly molasses to thicken

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Omissions & Inclusions

Ridiculously, it has been almost two months since I last worked on a batch of The Sauce which is, lest we forget, the raison d'être of this here blog. For tonight's experiment, I will remove the tomato paste and replace it with tomato sauce that has been reduced in volume by half – about 45 minutes of simmering. This is an attempt to remove some of the SpaghettiO's flavor without thinning the sauce. I'm adding some chipotle powder for smokiness, and I'll try both honey and corn starch for thickening after doing some taste tests along the way.

Dry Ingredients
1 tsp Smoked Paprika
1/2 tsp Chipotle Chili Powder
1/2 tsp Onion Powder

1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp Dry Mustard
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Pepper
1/2 cup Brown Sugar

Wet Ingredients
3 cups Beef Stock
16 oz Tomato Sauce
1/2 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1/2 cup Worcestershire Sauce

Simmer tomato sauce about 45 minutes to thicken. Combine the wet ingredients and bring to a boil. Combine the dry ingredients. Add to the wet and simmer 1 hour.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Atlanta BBQ

A report from Moe Green – lost somewhere in Peachtree City:

"Georgia (and Alabama, too) has the worst BBQ in the world. Some jackass in these parts decided that pickles would be a good addition to a BBQ sandwich. Not even sweet pickles, but dill chips mind you. What the hell is that? You actually have to order your sandwich without pickles!"
At least in Kansas City, the pickles came on the side.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Friday Night Videos

Here's a look at the best thing SNL has had to offer in years. The only thing missing is a little BBQ sauce.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Old Style Bar-B-Que

I'd never heard of this 30-yr-old barbecue establishment less than 17 miles from my house until reading today's paper. I don't get to OB very often. I'm glad they celebrated their anniversary and had a good time, but is champagne and BBQ a good combination?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Tonkatsu Sauce

So, I picked up a bottle of Bull-Dog Vegetable & Fruit sauce at the Asian market on Ridgeway near Winchester. Apparently, all Tonkatsu sauce is not created equal. This doesn't taste like what I was served with my kushikatsu in SF. It's good, but it reminds me less of BBQ and more of takoyaki. {Note: I just searched for takoyaki in order to find a link for this post and ran across this recipe calling for "bulldog sauce."} Of course, I grabbed the first thing that had Tonkatsu on the label, but I'm sure there were other options. Perhaps, I'll buy a different brand or use Bull-Dog in the next variant of The Sauce… or maybe just make some takoyaki. Anyone have 200 grams of chopped boiled octopus I could borrow?