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Sweet Lightnin’

brown sugar jalapeno bbq sauce
“Why this car is automatic. It’s systematic. It’s hydromatic. Why it’s grease lightning!”

Theme song by John Travolta “Greased Lightning” from Grease
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I’m surprised the Grease soundtrack is not on Spotify, but I guess that’s just the nature of streaming music in the 21st Century. I’m honestly not a big fan of this musical. I mean, the movie has its charms, but ultimately it’s a bit too long and the idea of 30-somethings playing high school kids is sad. Not to mention, lyrically this theme song is MORE than a bit questionable. Sure, ostensibly this is about a bitchin’ hot rod, but check under that hood before you drive it outta the garage. You’ll find a very sexist, somewhat misogynist set-piece about how “chicks” will give it up for some shiny exhaust. I’m sure there’s some yadda about “evoking a time” or “greaser culture,” but this theme joins a few other questionable theme BGC recipes. 

So why use it? Mostly because it’s a 10-year-old recipe and my favorite sauce from my old Q joint, the Cha Cha Hut. The Hut was the start of my Music & Food obsession. Many of the menu items, including the sauces, had some sort of pun or cultural reference. Despite the prevalent belief great BBQ doesn’t need sauce, I LOVED making sauces. And my customers LOVED buying them. So the night after nailing this sauce, driving home from the store, I started riffing on names. At some point, Cherie (of We Can Tour That fame) started listing ingredients. “It’s brown sugar!” “It’s jalapeno!” And I believe I, in my best John Travolta impression (which sucks), went “It’s SWEET LIGHTNIN’!!!” Yeah, 14-hour days running a Q joint can make you loopy. After a bit more riffing, we couldn’t find a better name and so that’s what we went with. It’s also ended up being one of our best-selling sauces.

That I actually HATE sugary BBQ sauce but love this is a testament to the balance struck here. This relies on a fuck ton of brown sugar. When I was making it at the Hut, the recipe was a BAG measure, not weight or volume. I mean like POUNDS of brown sugar. That sweetness is balanced by the spice of the jalapeno and garlic. Yes, I realize “candied” jalapeno adds even more sugar to the mix, but trust me – this is not one of those sickly sweet Q sauces.

If you’re not up for making the Rock Candy Jalapenos, you could certainly substitute regular pickled jalapenos from your local grocer. You’ll lose a bit of overall depth to the sauce, but it’ll still be delicious.

At BGC, there are two main uses for this sauce. ANY egg dish, especially BECs, and our Cheeses Of Suburbia mac & cheese (and the Bang Bang Mac). It was designed as a rib & pork sauce, but I’ve also found it’s a superior replacement to ketchup on burgers and hot dogs. 

Brown sugar jalapeno BBQ sauce
Makes about 3 cups

1 1/2 tablespoons Rock Candy Jalapeno, minced
3 clove garlic, minced
2 cups brown sugar
2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon hot sauce (Frank’s, Red Devil, Texas Pete’s, etc)  
1/3 cup  cider vinegar
1/3 cup dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoon  Worcestershire
1 1/2 cup  ketchup

Place garlic & jalapeno in a food processor until finely minced or mince them as finely as possible with a knife.

Combine all ingredients in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer 15 minutes stirring often. Cool to room temperature before using it. The sauce will thicken as it cools. Pour into a jar, bottle, or storage container, and store in the fridge.

NOTE: Pay close attention to this sauce while simmering. Due to the high sugar content, it will have the tendency to easily scorch or set up too thick (or both). The key is to keep stirring every 5 or so minutes to keep the sauce moving in the pot.

Posted in bbq, cha cha hut bbq, condiment, cooking, food, foodmusic, grilling, music, musicfood, recipe, sauce


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