Saturday, June 12, 2010

Low-and-slow baby back ribs

Sorry the picture is not the best. I forgot the real camera,
so this was taken with my phone. And I was anxious to sink
my teeth into those ribs, so I kind of rushed the shot.

Living in Southern California, it is pretty much barbecue weather all year long.
But summer is, of course, prime season for grilling.
And ribs are always a favorite at any cookout.
I have tried several methods for making barbecued ribs.
The method that yields the most tender, flavorful ribs for me is a combination of a long briny soak, a low-and-slow roasting in the oven then a quick trip around the grill.
I also like to use a dry rub after brining and before roasting.
Sauce or no sauce is up to the cook. Sometimes I like no sauce, letting the brine and rub shine through. Sometimes I like to use a little sweet, spicy sauce.

So yes, these take a while from start to finish, but most of the time is not active time.
If you plan on making these, allow overnight to brine and a good 2-3 hours of roasting before you need to grill them.
They can be brined and roasted ahead of time and then grilled later. I have done this where I have cooked them on a Saturday and grilled them on a Sunday. It works just fine.

Low-and-slow baby back ribs

4-6 servings (depending on how hungry you are!)

for the brine:
8 cups water
1/2 cup kosher or sea salt
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons black peppercorns, cracked (I use a mortar and pestle to crack the spices)
2 tablespoons fennel seeds, cracked
2 tablespoons coriander seeds, cracked
4 bay leaves
1 tablespoon dried marjoram or oregano
3 garlic cloves, smashed or split horizontally
4 pounds pork baby back ribs (I cut the racks in half so they will fit in the pan I use)

for the rub:
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

make the brine:
In large pot combine water, salt, sugar, spices, herbs and garlic. Simmer and stir until sugar and salt dissolve.
Either arrange the ribs to fit into the pot with the brine, making sure they are fully submerged, or arrange them in a single layer in a roasting pan and pour the brine over them.
Refrigerate, covered, for 8-12 hours.

make the rub:
Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container until needed.

once the ribs are brined:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Remove the ribs from the brine, rinse and pat dry.
Divide the rub evenly over the ribs and rub it into the meat.
Arrange the ribs in a single layer on a baking sheet or sheets and cover with foil.
Roast for about 2 hours, or until the meat is very tender.

Either grill the ribs now, or put them in the fridge to grill later.

grill the ribs:
Get the grill started, it is ready at a medium-high heat.
If you use sauce, brush the ribs lightly with your favorite barbecue sauce.
Grill the ribs for 5-10 minutes, turning occasionally, until they are done to your liking.

I like these with and without sauce, probably a little on the longer end of grilling time. I like them to get a little crispy outer crust on them and the meat inside stays very tender and moist from the roasting.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Bacon-y tomato soup with red peppers and goat cheese

I am that person who can eat soup pretty much any day of the year.
I like it in cold weather and I like it in hot weather.
I am a soup person.

Lately I have taken to making a simple dinner at least one night a week. Often this involves some combination of soup, salad and/or sandwich.

I enjoy all sorts of soups, but really like a puree.

Combining several favorite flavors and using ingredients I already had on hand, I made a lovely puree:
Bacon-y tomato soup with red peppers and goat cheese

Serves 4
8 slices bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces - I like the Nieman Ranch bacon from Trader Joe's
1 small white onion
3 garlic cloves
6 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed and chopped (about 1 tablespoon)
3 stalks celery, diced
3 carrots, diced
14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes, with the juice
8 ounces roasted red pepper, drained and chopped
15 ounce can of white or pinto beans, drained
4-5 cups chicken broth
3 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
creme fraiche or sour cream, optional

Cook the bacon in a large stock pot. Once bacon is crisp, remove from pan and set aside.
Discard all but about 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat.
In the remaining bacon fat cook the onion, garlic and thyme until soft.
Add celery and carrots and cook on medium heat about 10 minutes, until soft.
Add tomatoes with juice, red peppers and beans.
Stir in 4 cups of the chicken broth and cook on medium heat about 10 minutes.
Remove from heat.

Using an immersion blender, puree soup until it is smooth (or to the texture you like). Add more broth as needed to get the texture you like.
(If you do not have an immersion blender, puree in batches in a food processor or blender. Return soup to pan when done.)

Put soup back on medium heat and add goat cheese, stirring until cheese is melted.
Salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, ladle soup into bowls. If you like, add a small dollop of creme fraiche or sour cream.
Divide chives and sprinkle on top of soup.
Finally, sprinkle bacon pieces over the whole thing.

I, of course, added the creme fraiche.
I actually got five decent sized servings out of this.
For dinner for two at home I paired this with grilled white cheddar sammies on sourdough.
The remaining three servings went to my mom, sister and brother-in-law.
They all raved about the soup.
I am guessing it was even better the next day when they ate it. It is just that kind of soup.