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Our resident barbecue aficionado Al Roker isn’t normally a sauce guy, but ever since he ate at Franklin Barbecue in Austin, Texas during a recent trip there, he can’t stop talking about the stuff.
“You have to understand,” he tells TODAY.com, “the espresso barbecue sauce has changed me.”
Lucky for Al, chef Aaron Franklin has a cookbook due out in just a couple of weeks—and it includes the famous Espresso Barbecue Sauce recipe.
In his book, "Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto," (Ten Speed Press), which hits bookstores April 7, Franklin explains he first dreamt up the sauce while working at the former Little City coffee shop in Austin.
“I was starting to get geeky about coffee and even geekier about barbecue,” he says.
Because of the long hours on their feet, chefs tend to drink a lot of coffee as it is—especially ones who tend to their brisket 12 hours a day, as Franklin does.
He noticed how the sweet aromas of the espresso played nicely with those of the wood and smoke.
“If these smells go so well together in the middle of the night, I thought to myself, their flavors should just as easily merge into a sauce,” he says. “And the sauce was a way to capture that experience of being awake in the depths of the night watching a fire.”
Al’s not the only one impressed with the sauce, or the massively popular restaurant in general. Franklin and his wife, Stacy, opened a small barbecue trailer on the side of a highway back in 2009—and it quickly exploded into one of the most legendary barbecue joints on the planet.
“When I told people I was going to Austin, everybody said you have to go to Franklin's for barbecue. Well, they were not wrong,” Al says.
Long lines form early at the lunch-only spot, now in a large brick-and-mortar space, which closes as soon as all the food is sold out. Luckily, the couple made time for Al to grab a bite.
“I got to meet owners, Aaron and Stacy Franklin, and they blew me away with what they’re doing with barbecue…it's unbelievable!” he says. “From the pulled pork, to the ribs, to the beef brisket and smoked turkey, it is all amazing. And the sausage...oh, the sausage!”
As for that espresso sauce, you can order it online, and Franklin was kind enough to slip us the recipe in advance of the cookbook. Here it is—you’re welcome, Al.
[Note: Fresh espresso, from a real-deal machine, is key to the sauce. If you don’t have such a setup, visit a legit coffee shop to have them pull you a shot, and mix up the sauce there, the chef suggests. “I know it sounds weird and may even be slightly embarrassing, but the results are worth it.”]
This article was originally published Mar. 19, 2015 at 4:34 p.m. ET.