A California power outage miracle recipe……And It Was All Yellow
I had intended to post this recipe a few weeks ago, when the weather was warmer in most places around the country. But I think the recipe is still relevant for a few reasons, tomatoes are still flourishing in California and the recipe is not as much a BBQ recipe, as its cooked mostly in the oven and simply finished on the grill.
I think the real relevance is more the story of how the recipe came to be and the coincidence in that I sit here posting this, hunkered down inside yet again, despite a beautifully warm day outside, because of the gigantic smoke wall heading my way. Massive California fires are blaring a few hours north of me and I am set to lose power at any moment. This recipe happened by happenstance originally in the last forced power outage, so it seems fitting to be finishing the writing and posting of it now, hopefully before the power goes out.
About a month ago I started working on a whiskey article for Edible Marin and Wine Country so I had lots of whiskey on hand. My brother Olof had just been here house and dog sitting for me while I was on a culinary expedition to the Greek Island of Crete. He bought, and left in my freezer, a big rack of St Luis style ribs, which frankly was a cut of meat I had never paid much attention to. Right around the same time PG&E warned they were shutting off power for several days in my area and in many northern California locations, they said it was a precaution for fire prevention, due to expected high winds and low humidity or extreme fire hazard conditions. This is the new norm for California and one that points exactly to what mango growers have been pointing to in regards to their own erratic weather patterns- global warming/climate change. It confuses me that some still believe it’s not real, it is and has been.
Before the power went off I took out the cheese and cream from my refrigerator put it in a cooler and packed several bags of ice into the fridge and the freezer. I taped it shut and vowed not to go into it. Three days later, when the power came back on everything was still cold and most things in the freezer were still a tiny bit frozen. I felt proud of my survival skills and lost only a box of puff pastry that got a little too wet.
I gave away the Turkey I had in the freezer and made other meal plans for the week ahead utilizing the other meat items I had in the freezer. Luckily, I don’t use my freezer much. I generally freeze ice, meat and puff pastry and that’s about it.
I stood staring at the big rack of St Luis style ribs Olof left, not wanting to give it away, but knowing it was way too much food for me. I called up my friend Laura and her partner Gerry, who live in San Francisco and and invited them over for an October BBQ.. They are always up for getting out of the city, as is their dog Cash! Plus, I had to test some whiskey cocktail recipes, it was a win-win for us all. Which is what the sauce turned out to be.
I figured ribs needed BBQ sauce and since my mind connects everything, I was sure a whiskey BBQ sauce was in order. I happened to have a ripe mango on my counter and had been needing to post or create a recipe for this blog. My long obsession with yellow tomatoes was in a heavy cycle and I had plenty of those on hand too. My local farm stand had a medley of local peppers and some beautiful yellow ones I had been attracted to and bought the day before.
The idea of making an all yellow BBQ sauce brought my creative spirit great joy. My pineapple sage plants were in full bloom and frenzy, so my herbaceous soul saw the idea in its entirety as a sign from the gods.
Recipes, like spiritual growth, usually come to me in this way, by making connections, being mindful and trying to see positivity in what’s around me, moving forward with a creative idea or growing in my head and/or heart—they are the same thing for me.
St Luis Style ribs turns out are incredible. My new favorite. They are also, as my brother Olof reminds, inexpensive in compassion to baby backs. There is more meat and more flavor. These ribs will now be my BBQ rib of choice for all my BBQ endeavors.
I tried to make sure this recipe didn’t get too weird, I can get weird in my own kitchen and have to be careful when making recipes for Crespo that I keep things creative, yet accessible to everyone, duplicatable for all. This recipe is hard to mess up, but it does require some effort following the various steps. I promise you it’s worth it.
I chose Charbay Distillery’s Doubled & Twisted whiskey. It was one of the whiskies my article was featuring and I liked the smokiness of it and it’s rich in flavor with roasted like qualities. I don’t think you can go wrong with whiskey choice.
And It Was All Yellow- Whiskey Mango BBQ Sauce & St Luis Style BBQ Ribs
Believe it or not the best time to make fresh tomato-based BBQ sauce is at the end of the season, which means September and October for California tomato growing regions. At the end of tomato season tomatoes are sweeter and contain a denser flavor profile. They are also at their juiciest. They can get a little mealy this time of year, but when they melt down that mealy-ness, gives great texture to a BBQ sauce (also pizza sauce).
The big yellow heirlooms are my favorite and what I use here. I opted not to cook the whiskey into the sauce, as most BBQ sauces do. So, the final sauce can taste a bit boozier than the norm, but I prefer the booze cooks off while on the grill, leading to deeper flavors flowing into the meat. If you want to use it as a serving sauce, to dollop on food after its grilled, I recommend simmering some of the sauce on the stove for about 10 minutes.
Pineapple sage is a whimsical specialty herb that tastes like a combination of sage and pineapple. It’s practically impossible to find anywhere for purchase, so if you are not growing it using regular sage, it yields just as wonderful a sauce.
Makes 3 ½ cups of sauce
For the BBQ sauce
1 large yellow peppers, or 2-3 smaller ones, roughly chopped
½ medium yellow onion, peeled and roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 hot red or yellow chili, deseeded and roughly chopped
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and chopped fine
2-3 wheels or dried citrus (blood oranges, lemons and/ or oranges) substitute 1 teaspoon lemon zest and 2 teaspoons orange zest
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Pineapple sage or sage leaves
1 teaspoons alder smoked salt
¼ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cracked white pepper
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon red chili flakes (I used Aleppo pepper)
¼ cup white balsamic vinegar (I used O brand Honey Balsamic)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup yellow tomatoes, chopped small
¾ cup water
1 tablespoon hot yellow mustard
½ cup mango puree
½ cup whiskey
For the ribs
3-4 pounds St Luis style spare ribs
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons orange zest
¼ cup honey balsamic vinegar or white balsamic vinegar
For the BBQ Sauce
Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees F.
Combine the peppers, onions, garlic, chilies and ginger in a large mixing bowl. Add your dried citrus or zest, the fresh sage and all the spices and sugar. Add the vinegar and oil and mix until all the ingredients are combined and drenched in the spices and oil and vinegar. Lay the mixture flat on a lined baking sheet and place it in the oven to bake for about 35-40 minutes or until the peppers and onions are slightly charred but not burned.
Remove the pepper mixture from the oven in a medium soup or large sauce pan. Add the tomatoes and water and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring often. Once the mixture starts to boil, turn down the burner and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring only occasionally. Take off the heat and allow the mixture to come to room temperature. Stir in the mango puree and the whiskey.
Blend the mixture, in a few smaller batches, into a smooth sauce. Refrigerate until use. You can also freeze some of the BBQ sauce for future use at this stage, since the recipe yields quite a bit.
For the ribs
Pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees F.
Season the rack of ribs on both sides with the salt and orange zest, making sure you rub it in to the rib crevices. Sprinkle the vinegar all over both sides as well. Bake for about 2 ½ hours or until the meat is super tender. Cool.
Heat your grill to medium high heat. Slather about 1 ½ cup of sauce all over both sides of the ribs, making sure the sauce is evenly coated. Place onto the hot grill and cook over medium high heat about 3-5 minutes per side or until charred but not overly burnt.
If you are going to serve sauce on the side, I recommend simmering the sauce for 20 minutes before serving, allowing the whiskey to cook out a bit.