Grilling is one of the classic ways to cook. We evolved by cooking over open fire and that process takes on many forms. From competitive BBQ competitions to summer backyard cookouts, we all love grilled foods. But you can enhance them by adding sauces designed to complement the smoky flavors.
With Labor Day weekend right around the corner, the good folks at Food Network gave us the theme of “Labor Day Foods” for the final #SummerSoiree of 2014 and we had the opportunity to share anything we wanted with all of you. I love that freedom and came up with some really fun recipes for you to try!
I created four different sauces. I wanted to cover a wide spectrum of flavors and cuisines. You can use these sauces to discover new ingredients or as an inspiration to create theme dinners around the sauce origins. They are all good with a variety of grilled and roasted foods.
Of course the first grilling sauce you think of is BBQ sauce and I have a fun, slightly different one for you to try. Using soda as an ingredient is very common in southern cuisine, and I like the sweetness it adds to sauces. I combined root beer with bourbon for a nice kick and rounding of flavors. You won’t necessarily taste any of the individual ingredients, but together they make a sensational sweet and tangy tomato-based sauce. If you like a little heat in your BBQ sauce, feel free to add hot sauce, red pepper flakes, Sriracha, etc.
I served this BBQ sauce as a mop sauce and glaze for ribs. It complemented the savory pork beautifully. If you are going to serve it with a different meat or chicken, you may want to cut back on the sweetness and increase the heat.
The second sauce is inspired by the flavors of South America and combines cilantro and fresh chiles for a bright, light sauce that is perfect with your grilled foods as well as a dip for chips or vegetable crudités. It is positively addicting and my friend Karen is encouraging me to bottle it for her to take home to Canada!
This sauce is so good and versatile that I recommend you double the recipe. This way when you keep “testing” it with tortilla chips to see if it is OK, you will still have enough for serving at dinner, LOL.
The third one isn’t really a “sauce” in the traditional sense, but it becomes one when it melts on the hot foods.
Compound butters are often used in French cuisine. It is common to see a pat of seasoned butter placed on top of a juicy steak hot off the stove, melting onto the beef. These butters can be used with much more than just steak – chicken, seafood, pork, poultry, and vegetables are all better with a beautiful compound butter! You can use any combination of herbs and seasonings that you like. I often make several at the same time, each a different flavor, roll them into logs and wrap with parchment and plastic, and then store them in the freezer for future meals. They also make fabulous gifts for family and friends.
I planned this butter to be served melted over a steak hot off the grill, but one of my friends added some to his grilled vegetables and thought it was almost better that way. It is wonderful when people come over for testing night and give me new ideas on how to serve my recipes!
And the final sauce for today is a green version of Harissa, the North African condiment that goes with everything. It is a bit like their version of ketchup and they use it at many meals. It has some similarities to chimichurri sauce but with different spices and a lot more heat. It is an uncooked sauce that comes together very quickly with the use of a food processor or blender. You can control the heat by using milder chiles or just cutting back to number you use. It started out quite spicy, but after sitting overnight, it had gotten a lot milder.
All of these sauces and the compound butter can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator. Whip them up a couple days ahead of your barbecue or party and that is one less thing you need to worry about on party day!
As you get ready for your Labor Day weekend, I hope you will give these sauces a try. They turn ordinary meals into something really special!
Spicy Bourbon-Root Beer BBQ Sauce
© 2014 Jane Bonacci, The Heritage Cook. All rights reserved.
Yield: about 1-1/2 cups
1 cup root beer (gluten-free if needed)
1 cup ketchup (gluten-free if needed)
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice (or more lemon juice)
1/4 cup good-quality bourbon (leave out for gluten-free)
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce (Lea & Perrins is gluten-free)
3 tbsp firmly packed brown sugar (add more if you like a sweeter sauce)
1 tbsp molasses (not blackstrap)
2 tsp ground chipotle pepper
1 (1/2-inch) slice of fresh ginger, peeled
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper, if needed
In a heavy-bottomed 3 to 4 quart saucepan, measure 1-1/2 cups water. Dip the handle of a long-handled spoon in the water and mark the depth of the water with a piece of masking tape on the handle. You will use this to measure the sauce as it reduces.
Empty the water out of saucepan and wipe dry. Add all of the sauce ingredients except the salt and pepper and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often. It will foam up as it comes to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced to 1-1/2 cups, about 15 to 20 minutes. Use the spoon you taped to determine when the sauce has reduced to the right level. Discard the piece of ginger. Taste, and add salt and pepper if you think it needs it. For a spicier, hotter sauce, add a couple splashes of Worcestershire and some chipotle powder.
Remove from the heat and cool about 15 minutes. Transfer to a bowl or jar, cover and refrigerate. Sauce will last in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks.
Zesty Cilantro-Chile Sauce
© 2013 Jane Bonacci, The Heritage Cook. All rights reserved.
Yield: about 3/4 to 1 cup
1 fresh green jalapeno or serrano chile, stem and seeds discarded, coarsely chopped
2 poblano or Anaheim chiles, stems and seeds discarded, chopped
1 handful (about 1/2 bunch) fresh cilantro or parsley, rinsed, patted dry, larger stems discarded
1 garlic clove, peeled, split in half lengthwise and center core discarded
1 shallot, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup high quality low-fat mayonnaise, such as Hellman’s or Best Foods
Zest and juice of 1/2 lime
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
Combine the chiles, cilantro, garlic, and shallots in a food processor or blender. Pulse until finely chopped. Add the mayonnaise, lime zest and juice. Blend until smooth and creamy. Turn off the machine, taste and adjust seasonings, adding salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate, covered tightly. Letting it sit overnight will give the ingredients time to blend and become smooth. Return to room temperature before serving.
Smoky, Spicy Salsa Compound Butter
© 2014 Jane Bonacci, The Heritage Cook. All rights reserved.
4 sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil, drained (gluten-free if needed)
1 Chipotle en Adobo, chopped or 1 tsp ground chipotle powder (gluten-free if needed)
1 medium (or 1/2 large) onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves or parsley, chopped
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, at room temperature
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
In a food processor, pulse the tomatoes, chipotle, and onions together until finely chopped. Add the cilantro and butter and blend until smooth. Taste and add salt and pepper to your liking. Have some chips handy to taste the sauce with. If you want more heat, you can add some of the adobo liquid or more chipotle powder, but remember that the flavors will develop during the resting time and become hotter as the sauce sits.
Transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight to allow flavors to blend and intensify. When firm you can press and roll it into a cylinder, wrap it in plastic and freeze for longer storage. When you are ready to use it, just bring it down from the freezer about 45 minutes ahead of time and slice into “coins”. Serve on grilled beef, chicken, shrimp, or vegetables.
Green Harissa Sauce
© 2014 Jane Bonacci, The Heritage Cook. All rights reserved.
Yield: about 1-1/2 cups sauce
1/2 packed cup baby spinach leaves (stems discarded)
1/2 packed cup Italian flat-leaf parsley leaves (stems discarded)
6 fresh mint leaves, plus extra for garnishing
3 poblano peppers, stems and seeds discarded, finely chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, stem and seeds discarded, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, bitter core discarded
1 large shallot, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 tsp ground coriander
2 to 3 tsp ground cumin, to taste
1 tsp Chipotle Morita chile powder or ground ancho chile (gluten-free if needed)
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Fill a medium bowl with cool water and add the spinach leaves. Agitate the water and then set the bowl aside for 15 minutes. This gives any sediment and grit time to settle to the bottom of the bowl. Use your hands to carefully lift the spinach out of the water. Set it on a clean kitchen towel and pat dry or place in a salad spinner to remove water.
While the spinach is resting in the water, rinse the parsley, drain thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels or place in a salad spinner to remove water.
In a blender or food processor, place the spinach, herbs, poblanos, jalapeno, garlic, shallots, seasonings, and lemon juice. Pulse until everything is fairly finely chopped. With the motor running, slowly pour the oil through the opening in the lid and blend until you have a smooth puree. Stop the motor and add a pinch or two of salt and a couple grinds of freshly ground black pepper. Pulse a few times. Taste and adjust seasonings. Keep in mind that the intensity of flavors will continue to develop as the sauce rests, so if you are making this in advance, do not over season at this time. You can adjust seasonings again before serving.
Transfer to a bowl or jar with a lid and let rest at least 4 hours or overnight. For longer storage, pour a thin layer of olive oil over the top of the puree. This helps preserve the sauce, helping to keep it from turning brown. Store, covered, in the refrigerator up to 1 month, adding a fresh layer of olive oil on top each time you use the harissa.
Taste and adjust the seasonings before serving.
Create a New Tradition Today!
This recipe is part of Food Network’s weekly Summer Soiree. See the links below for more inspiration and great recipes!
Feed Me Phoebe: Hot Crab Dip with Jalapenos and Scallions
The Heritage Cook: Four Sauces Designed for Grilled Foods (Gluten-Free)
Jeanette’s Healthy Living: Grilled Brined Chicken with Homemade Barbecue Sauce
Dishing with Divya: Baked Vegetable Sacks
Virtually Homemade: Roasted Summer Vegetables with Lemon Tahini Dressing
Weelicious: Heirloom Tomato Salad
Elephants and the Coconut Trees: Peach and Blueberry Baked Fruit Pizza
Devour: Cooking Channel’s Ultimate Labor Day Party Menu
Dishin & Dishes: Grilled Chicken with Board Sauce
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Heirloom Tomatoes and Two Rice Salad
Domesticate Me: 10 Fabulous Summer Recipes for Labor Day
Taste With The Eyes: “End of Summer Rolls” Caprese-Style
FN Dish: Day-Off Desserts for Labor Day
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