Sunday, January 17, 2010

Baby Back Ribs

We've been meaning to add this post for a long time. Before I get the electric chair, I'm going to order baby back ribs with cornbread and mac n' cheese. Enough said. This recipe comes from Weber's Charcoal Grilling. We cut the proportions in half, but feel free to double it if you think you can eat 4 racks of ribs.

Baby Back Ribs
Barbequed ribs are initially seasoned with a dry rub, kept moist during cooking with a mop (no, not that mop), and finished off with barbeque sauce. Make the dry rub first and then prepare the mop and sauce as the ribs cook.

2 racks baby back ribs, 2 - 2.5 lbs each
4 chunks hickory wood (not chips), soaked in water for several hours

Dry Rub
1 tablespoons sea salt
1 tablespoons paprika
2 teaspoons granulated garlic
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin

Barbeque Sauce
3/4 cup apple juice
1/2 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon molasses
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 cup apple juice
1 1/2 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 table spoon barbeque sauce (from above)

Ingredients for Ribs

1. Mix the rub ingredients.

2. Remove the silverskin from the back of each rack of ribs. You'll need to loosen some of it with a very sharp knife and then pull it away from the meat with a paper towel while you hold the ribs down. This step is very time consuming if you don't know what you are doing (us included), so get a butcher to do it if you can.

3. Season the ribs with the rub, putting more on the meaty side. Do not press the spices into the meat.
ribs ready to grill

4. Prepare a two zone fire for low heat (with maybe 10-12 coals pushed to the side of the grill), between 250-350 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure the coals cover no more than 1/3 of the surface of the grate. Place a large disposable drip pan on the empty side of the charcoal grate. Fill the pan about halfway with warm water.

5. Arrange the ribs on a rib rack, with all the ribs facing the same direction. Make sure the ribs are as far away from the coals as possible, with the bone sides facing towards the charcoal.

6. Drain 2 chunks of the hickory and place them on top of the charcoal. Close the lid and close the top vent about half way. Let the ribs cook and smoke for about an hour. During this time, maintain the temperature between 250 and 350 by opening and closing the vent.

adding hickory chunks

7. In a small saucepan, mix the barbeque sauce ingredients. Simmer for a few minutes over medium heat, and then remove the saucepan from the heat.

8. After the first hour of cooking, add 8 to 10 unlit charcoal briquettes and the remaining 2 hickory chunks (drained) to the fire. At the same time, lightly baste the ribs with some mop. Leaving the lid off for a few minutes while you baste the ribs will help the new briquettes to light. Close the lid and cook for another hour. During that time, maintain the temperature carefully.

9. After 2 hours of cooking, add 8 to 10 briquettes to the fire. Remove the ribs from the rack, spread them out on a clean work areas and baste them thoroughly with some of the mop. Put them back in the rib rack, again all facing the same direction but this time turned over so that the ends facing down earlier now face up. Also position an ribs that appear to be cooking faster than the others toward the back of the rib rack, farther from the charcoal. Let the ribs cook for a third hour. During that time, maintain the temperature.

10. After 3 hours of cooking, check to see if any rack is ready to come off the grill. They are done when the meat has shrunk back from most of the bones by 1/4 inch or more. When you lift a rack by picking up one end with tongs, the rack should bend in the middle and the meat should tear easily. If the meat does not tear easily, continue to cook the ribs. The total cooking time could be anywhere between 3 to 4 hours. Not all racks will cook in the same amount of time. Lightly brush the cooked ribs with some sauce and, if desired for crispiness, cook them over direct heat for a few minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet and tightly cover with aluminum foil. Let rest for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Bolognese Sauce

No joking around with this post. Bolognese is serious stuff. The dish originates in the northern Italian city of Bologna, also known as "the fat city." It is not just a meat sauce; the "true" ingredients are hotly debated. Thank God that the Bolognese delegation of Accademia Italiana della Cucina voted that an authentic rendition only contains beef, pancetta, onions, carrots, celery, tomato paste, broth, red wine, and milk or cream. And the rules don't stop here. The width and thickness of the tagliatelle (fresh egg noodles) with which this sauce is traditionally served are noted by a golden noodle on a plaque in the Bologna city hall.

bolognese pasta

Below are the Ingredients and Instructions, mixed, as you will find them in Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food.

Ingredients and Instructions
Heat in a large heavy-bottomed pot:
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 ounces pancetta (or bacon), diced fine
Cook over medium heat until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add:
1 small onion, diced fine
1 celery stalk, diced fine
1 carrot, diced fine
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
5 sage leaves
2 thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 12 minutes.
While the vegetables are cooking, heat in a large heavy-bottomed pan, preferably cast iron:
1 tablespoon olive oil
Add and brown over medium-high heat, in two batches:
1 pound skirt steak, cut into 1/8-inch cubes
4 ounces pork shoulder, coarsely ground
Cook until the meat is a nice chestnut color. Once all the meat browned, pour in:
1 cup dry white wine
Reduce the wine by half, scraping the brown bits off the brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Add the browned meat and the deglazing juices to the tender vegetables with:
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Measure and stir together:
2 cups beef or chicken broth
1.5 cups milk
Pour enough of this liquid into the pot to bring it to the level of the meat and vegetables. Simmer gently until the meat is very tender, about 2 hours. As the liquid reduces, keep topping it up with the rest of the broth and milk, and skimming the fat that rises to the surface. Near the end, add a couple tablespoons of heavy cream. This helps tie the sauce together. When the meat is tender, remove the sauce from the heat and season to taste with more salt, if needed, add:
Fresh-ground black pepper

Chez Panisse Beef Stew

This is just one of many ways to make stew. And when you live in a frozen tundra, almost any variety is a winner. But the key to making exceptional stew is browning the meat properly and using good stock.

beef stew and polenta

Below are the Ingredients and Instructions, mixed, as you will find them in Alice Waters' The Art Of Simple Food.

Ingredients and Instructions (cut quantities in half if you don't want to eat this for a week)
Season generously, a day ahead if possible:
3 lbs beef chuck, cut into half inch cubes
Salt and fresh-ground black pepper
Heat, in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat:
2 tablespoons oil
3 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
Cook until rendered and lightly brown but not crisp. Remove the bacon and add the meat, browning well on all sides, in as many batches as necessary. Put the browned meat into a heavy pot or braising dish. Pour off most of the fat, lower the heat, and add:
2 onions, peeled and cut into quarters
2 cloves (stick them into onion quarters)
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
2 sprigs each of thyme, savory, and parsley
1 bay leaf
A few peppercorns
Cook until slightly browned and add to the beef in the pot. Return the pan to the stove and raise the heat. Pour in:
3 Tablespoons brandy (optional)
This may flame up, so be careful. Then add:
1.75 cups red wine
Cook until reduced by two thirds, scraping up all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Pour this over the beef and vegetables. Add:
3 diced tomatoes, fresh or canned
1 small head of garlic, separated into cloves, peeled, and coarsely chopped
1 thin strip orange zest
2 cups beef stock (or chicken broth)

Check the level of the liquid; it should be at least three-quarters of the way up the cubes of beef. Add more if needed. Cover the pot tightly and cook at a bare simmer on the stovetop, or in a 325 degree fahrenheit oven, for 2 to 3 hours. Check the stew occasionally to be sure that it is not boiling and that there is enough liquid. When the meat is tender, turn off the heat, and let the stew settle for a few minutes. Skim off all the fat. Discard the bay leaf, cloves, and peppercorns. Taste for salt and adjust as needed.

Serve sprinkled with a mixture of:
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 or 2 garlic cloves, chopped fine

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