First, an admission. Mark Gabrick is a friend. He has accompanied the Posse on some of its smoked meat sojourns. He’s good company and he knows barbecue.
Gabrick also operated a food trailer in Austin until the Coronavirus Pandemic shut everything down in March.
Now, with his regular business closed, he is making and selling barbecue sauce. His first offering: Texas Tang.
We sampled some during a rib cook on July 4 and it got strong positive reviews from four Posse regulars. Keep in mind, these are barbecue eaters who subscribe to the Posse motto: Let the meat speak for itself.
“It’s tangy,” Sherry Jacobson said, after tasting a rib.
“Yes, very tangy,” Mike Gagne agreed.
“The rib with sauce has a little more personality,” Libby Gagne said, comparing our sauced and un-sauced fare.
“For people who like sauce, this is really good sauce,” Sherry said.
At his locations over the years in Texas and earlier in Florida, Gabrick has been serving what he called a “sweet tomato-based sauce with a little heat." He once was a proponent of Kansas City style barbecue, but we won’t hold that against him.
In an email exchange, I asked Gabrick if he had “Texified” his bottled sauce recipe.
“It has in-fact been ‘Texified’ some since I’ve been back in Austin,” he replied. He added chicken broth and a bit more heat from crushed red pepper.
The inspiration, Gabrick said, came from reading a Daniel Vaughn article about Lone Star State cooking legend Eddie Dean, who catered the Texas Governor’s inauguration party that Gabrick attended last year.
“I realized from the article that I needed to be a magician and own real estate in people’s heads and help create an urge that was further facilitated by the sauce, which was to also complement the meat. Tough challenge in a state that says ‘you don’t need to sauce your meat if it’s good.’
“If you get the taste right and the heat right, you keep coming back for another bite over and over again. This was my goal when dialing in Texas Tang. I wanted it to be spicy, but not so hot where you couldn’t come back for more. It was also important for my boys to like it too and not burn their mouth off.”
Amen to Gabrick’s boys, Michal, 16, and David, 13 All cooks know their first duty is to their family, keeping them happy and eating.
For the Posse’s test of Texas Tang, which occurred on the Fourth of July, I tried a different technique. It was too damn hot (100 degrees) for my normal five-hour-or-so cook on the Weber Smokey Mountain. So I used a quicker method, out of Weber's "Time to Grill" book, on my new Weber Spirit gas grill. Forgive me for using gas. It was a father’s day gift and we have used it a lot since then.
I brined two racks of baby back ribs overnight and rubbed (Big Poppa's Sweet Money rub) them in the morning, per my normal procedure. To cook in the afternoon, I cut each rack in half and wrapped each piece in double foil and put them directly over medium heat for one hour. Then I unwrapped the pieces and cooked each over direct heat for about 10 minutes to get some char.
I basted two half-racks in Texas Tang and left the other two half-racks un-sauced. The technique works pretty well. Nice tender ribs. I do think the foil technique "sweats" off some of the rub inside the foil. I first sampled an un-sauced rib and it tasted fine. Then I had a sauced rib. It had much more flavor and character. We also set out some sauce in a small bowl for dipping. It was empty when we finished.
Next year, Gabrick plans to launch two more sauce varieties: “Sweet Heat” and “Rebel Red.”
In our weekend correspondence, Gabrick said that Texas Tang is available through his website, texastang.com and Wal-Mart. Also, HEB, the giant Texas grocer, has asked him for a bottle of his sauce so it can sample.
Good luck, Mark.