Here’s a sauce imbued with complex smokiness. Christopher Gresham tells us it pairs beautifully with pulled pork, ribs and grilled chicken -- and even works well with burgers or as a vegetable dip.
We recommend, however, that you go light on smoking whatever you're putting on your grill, because this powerhouse sauce brings the smoke, as well as an intoxicating flavor. When it’s cooking, we suggest less is more: The sauce can turn into more of a paste, so eye it and pull it off the stove when you think it has achieved the desired consistency.
He won third place in the Smoke Signals Barbecue Contest.
Make Ahead: The sauce tastes better after a day's refrigeration. It can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.
Servings: 2 cups
- 6 large tomatoes, preferably beefsteak, each cut in half
- 2 green bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and cut into quarters
- 1 large head garlic
- 2 jalapeño peppers, stemmed and cut crosswise into slices, seeds reserved for extra spiciness, if desired
- 1/2 medium onion, cut into small dice
- 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons tamarind concentrate
- 1 tablespoon rendered bacon fat
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
You will smoke the tomatoes and the bell peppers using low, indirect heat for about 2 hours or until the vegetables are slightly dehydrated, with a dark exterior.
Soak 2 cups of mesquite or other hardwood chips, such as pecan or applewood, for at least 1 hour.
Prepare the grill for indirect heat: If using a charcoal grill or smoker, light the coals. Drain the water from the wood chips. If using a gas grill, place 1 cup of the chips in a smoker box or an aluminum foil pouch punctured with a fork on top to release smoke.
If using a charcoal grill or smoker, place a drip pan beneath the grates on the indirect side of the grill. When the coals are white-hot, scatter 1 cup of the wood chips directly onto the coals. The temperature should be around 225 degrees.
If using a gas grill, place a drip pan directly on the flavorizer bars, briquettes or lava rocks. Place the smoker box or foil pouch between the grate and briquettes, close to the flame. Preheat on high until you see smoke, then reduce the heat to medium (350 degrees).
Place the tomato halves and bell pepper quarters, skin sides down, on the indirect side of the grill, over the drip pan. Cover the charcoal grill and leave the vents open. Close the lid of the gas grill.
After 1 hour, add a dozen briquettes and the remaining cup of chips directly onto the charcoal fire. If using a gas grill, add the remaining chips to the smoker box, or remove the foil pouch and replace it with a second pouch. Place the tomatoes and bell peppers skin side down on the grill grates. Cover and smoke over a low-heat fire for 1 hour, adding heat as needed so the vegetables are slightly dehydrated and darkened on the outside. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet to cool.
When they have cooled, place in a blender or food processor (including the skins) and puree until smooth. The yield should be 2 cups.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Use a sharp knife to slice the top off the head of garlic, exposing the cloves inside. Wrap in foil and roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until softened. Unwrap and let cool.
Squeeze the roasted garlic from the cloves into a medium saucepan. Stir in the tomato-bell pepper puree, jalapeno slices, the jalapeno seeds, if using, the onion, brown sugar, vinegar and tamarind concentrate. Bring to a low boil over medium heat, stirring often, then reduce the heat to low; cook for 1 hour, stirring often, until slightly reduced. Let cool.
Use an immersion (stick) blender to puree until smooth, or transfer to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer, using a flexible spatula to push the puree through, into a separate saucepan.
Place the saucepan over low heat, Add the rendered bacon fat 1/4 teaspoon at a time, mixing to incorporate after each addition to achieve a mild bacony flavor. The sauce should be smooth on the tongue.
Add the salt a few pinches at a time, stirring to incorporate. Let cool before serving or covering and refrigerating for up to 2 weeks.
From Christopher Gresham of Washington.
Tested by Jim Shahin.
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