So I made a little error last night when preparing the recipe for today’s post. I forgot to take a picture of the completed product, in all of its glistening, cabernet-colored, caramelized glory, coating a juicy chicken breast. Somewhere between taking the chicken off the grill and fending off my dogs, who were begging for the last few succulent pieces, the photo opportunity slipped my mind. On the positive side, I suppose this is a true testament for how delicious this smoky sauce really is–I couldn’t wait to eat it. On the downside, the only photo that I have for you today is of my basting brush waiting patiently in the tub for the chicken to be ready to coat (it still looks good though).
I have seen recipes for barbecue sauces that contain every ingredient imaginable: whiskey, espresso, Coca-Cola, rum, red wine, and even chocolate. Once you have the basic tomato-base of the sauce, it is fun to play around with the different flavors and levels of spice–just add the ingredients gradually. A sauce with two cups of whiskey might set the entire backyard on fire, which might really irritate the neighbors, especially since you were having a barbecue and didn’t invite them. Anyhow, this particular sauce was inspired by a bottle of liquid smoke from the pantry and a bottle Sioux City Sarsaparilla that I had in my refrigerator for quite some time. I didn’t want to throw it out, but I am not much of a sarsaparilla drinker either, so I was just waiting for a chance to use it.
Sioux City Sarsaparilla is a soft drink comparable to root beer. The flavor is a bit creamier and also contains a hint of vanilla. It is definitely a niche item with a vintage soda look, and it is not easy to find (other than on-line), but if you happen to come across it, this "Granddaddy of all root beers" is definitely worth a try. Here are a few extra comments about this savory sarsaparilla sauce:
- As I said above, Sioux City Sarsaparilla can be a bit tough to find, but you can use another brand of sarsaparilla soda, root beer, or even Dr. Pepper as a substitute.
- Don’t omit the liquid smoke from this recipe, it really gives it a unique flavor and heavenly aroma while it is cooking on the stove. You will recognize it as soon as you taste and smell it. It is made by concentrating liquid smoke and extracting it with water (similar to a vanilla extract). It doesn’t cost very much, and a little bit goes a long way, so I would definitely recommend purchasing a bottle for the barbecue season.
- When grilling chicken, pork, or whatever you plan to coat with this sauce, do not baste with the sauce until the last few minutes of grilling. The sugar content will cause over-caramelization and charring if the sauce is added too early.
Sioux City Sarsaparilla Barbecue Sauce
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup orange juice
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey, molasses, or agave nectar
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until reduced to about 1 1/2 cups, 20-25 minutes. Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Cool slightly.