Category Archives: food

How I make ribs…

It’s Labor Day weekend. College football is kicking off. [Georgia plays tonight! Go, DAWGS!] I made ribs yesterday. I haven’t posted in quite a while. [I’ve been suffering from a bit of BD (i.e., bloggers disfunction). The ideas are there; they just haven’t been substantiating. Ugh.]

For all of the above reasons (and, perhaps, more), it’s time to talk about barbecue. Ribs are what I prefer barbecuing. So, here goes…

Yesterday's batch along with a mess of home-made macaroni and cheese.

Yesterday’s batch along with a mess of home-made macaroni and cheese.

First things first: pork, not beef. I’ve made beef ribs, and they end up tasting alright enough but are just too “greasy” and chewy. Stick with pork. It’s easier to manage, tastier, and just downright better.

Furthermore, I’m unwaveringly adamant that if one wants to prepare a proper slab of ribs, one must smoke them. There’s no way around it – smoking is the way to go, even if you don’t have a “smoker” in your outdoors arsenal.

Now for the recipe: the following dry rub is enough to cover a couple of slabs unless you’re the stingy-on-the-seasoning type. If that’s the case, sure, you could make this work for three slabs.

my dry rub:

1 cup of brown sugar

1 tablespoon of sea salt

2 tablespoons of dried oregano leaves (or you can use fresh leaves, chopped)

1/4 of a teaspoon of ground mustard seeds

1/4 of a teaspoon of garlic powder

1/4 of a teaspoon of onion granules (or you can use powder)

1/4 of a teaspoon of celery salt

1/2 of a teaspoon of ground coriander seeds

50 “turns” of freshly-ground black peppercorns

The sauce will come in handy toward the end of the cooking process but should definitely be prepared ahead of time so as to have plenty of time to “marry” and cool off.

my barbecue sauce:

29 ounces of tomato sauce

6 ounces of tomato paste

1/2 of a cup of apple cider vinegar

10 tablespoons of yellow mustard

30 shakes of Worcestershire sauce (preferably Lea & Perrins)

50 shakes of Tabasco Sauce

5 tablespoons of honey (preferably something local)

1 1/2 cups of sugar

3 tablespoons of sea salt

1 handful of garlic salt

1 handful of onion salt

50 “turns” of freshly-ground black peppercorns

[Combine over heat and simmer for half an hour or so, stirring often.]

I generally prepare the ribs the night before I plan to smoke them – cutting the slabs in half, applying the rub generously, wrapping each half-rack separately in heavy duty aluminum foil, and refrigerating over-night.

On the day of the smoke, I take the ribs out and bring them to room-temperature. Then I begin preparing my smoking vessel. I have a traditional charcoal/wood smoker, but I often just use my large kettle grill. Either is fine for smoking as long as you have room for the meat to hang out indirect from the fire. If you have room for this, you also have room for a moisture source. [See the bowl behind/under the ribs in the first three photos below.]

I generally start my fire using natural chunk-charcoal, adding wood (oak, hickory, cherry, or apple, but definitely not mesquite) once the fire’s burning well and then throughout the cooking process.

While they’re cooking, I check the ribs roughly every hour – adding more wood as needed, rearranging the ribs if necessary (N. B. hotspots), and adding more liquid if necessary.

Believe it or not, no sauce has yet been added and they already look this gorgeous.

Believe it or not, no sauce has yet been added and they already look this gorgeous.

After a couple of hours or so of cooking, you’ll know when the ribs almost done as a couple of things should be happening:

  • the meat will have pulled in from the tips of the bone, leaving bare about half an inch of bone

  • the half slabs bend significantly (the meat barely pulling apart) when lifted with tongs

Please keep in mind that properly cooked ribs should best be described as “pull-off-the-bone” not “fall-off-the-bone” – according to my preferences, at least.

If grease (or, melted fat) touches fire, flare-ups are sure to follow.  Manage your ribs carefully, folks.

If grease (or, melted fat) touches fire, flare-ups are sure to follow. Manage your ribs carefully.

Once these two phenomena occur, I begin applying the barbecue sauce I prefer to apply it as a glaze in layers. Rather than just dumping on a bunch of sauce, I lightly apply a single coat at a time, allowing the ribs to continue cooking while each layer caramelizes and “gets friendly with” the ribs. Depending on how the ribs are looking, I will apply anywhere from 2-4 thin layers of sauce as they finish smoking.

No doubt: delicious and delectable.

No doubt: delicious and delectable.

Once the ribs are finished cooking, I let them rest for 10-15 minutes before cutting them into single ribs. To be sure, though serving the half-slabs together is impressive, cutting them down makes for a nice presentation of the bright pink smoke-ring and makes for easier handling throughout your delightful consumption.

Holy pork! Look at that smoke-ring!  [not even edited in the least]

Holy pork! Look at that smoke-ring! [not even edited in the least]

My Kind of Trail Mix

Be ye warned: This trail mix is not for the faint of heart.  I concocted it just yesterday and should let you know that it was quite amazing.


the ingredients:

  • salted pretzels (with sesame seeds)
  • lightly salted cashews
  • dried cranberries (not “craisins” but, rather, the fresh ones)
  • dark chocolate-covered espresso beans
  • dark chocolate-covered almonds (rolled in sea salt and turbinado sugar)

le menu de demain

Dry-Cured, Smoked Turkey

Cornbread Stuffing with Country Sausage

Cranberry Chutney

Blistered Green Beans with Sautéed Garlic

Macaroni and Cheese

Honey Rolls

Pumpkin Pie

The scoop…

The rub on the turkey features juniper berries, star anise, freshly-ground black peppercorns, kosher salt, marjoram, and thyme and was applied yesterday.  The turkey is now smoking with a bundle of rosemary sprigs, a couple of stalks of celery, and three small Gala apples.

The dressing features country sausage, crumbled cornbread (stone-ground cornmeal, AP flour, kosher salt, baking powder, two eggs, unsalted butter, and sunflower oil), oregano, fire-roasted poblano chiles, turkey stock [Home-made, of course.  Why not?], unsalted butter, freshly-ground black peppercorns, kosher salt, more minced garlic than would feed a mob family, and diced onion, celery, and carrot.  It’s now sitting in the fridge getting itself together before being cooked tomorrow.  You know: the already cooked ingredients are getting to know one another and are hopefully making nice.

The chutney is made with orange juice, fresh cranberries, freshly-groud cinnamon and nutmeg, both brown and granulated sugar, and a touch of maple syrup.  It’s hanging out in fridge as well and will be basically solid tomorrow morning.

The beans will be blistered in a cast-iron skillet with extra-virgin olive oil, a bit of kosher salt, freshly-ground black peppercorns, and the same amount of the aforementioned minced garlic [If I’m mincing garlic, I’m mincing the whole bulb.  So… today, I minced one for the dressing, and tomorrow, I’ll mince another for the beans.  After all, doesn’t it keep the vampires away or something?].

The mac is made with more butter (unsalted) than anyone should discuss, a bit of AP flour, cream, freshly-ground nutmeg, a touch of cayenne pepper, and both Cheddar and Monterey cheeses.

The rolls involve AP flour, kosher salt, local honey (buckwheat), water, yeast, and an egg.

The pie crust is made with AP flour, stone-ground cornmeal [I know, but trust me… and Alton Brown.], too much butter (unsalted) for even a nun to remain modest, kosher salt, granulated sugar, and spritzed apple juice [I agree, again, with Alton Brown: Why would you add water to pie crust when you can easily add a shot or two of more flavor?], while the filling is made with cream cheese, pureed pumpkin, freshly-groud cinnamon and nutmeg, a bit of kosher salt, granulated sugar, vanilla extract, half-and-half [I used four parts whole milk and one part heavy whipping cream.], some salted butter, an egg, and a couple of additional egg yolks.  The pie is in the oven and will set overnight.  And, by the way, what to do with the left-over pie crust?  Why, make a tiny pie for yourself, of course.  It’s in the oven too and will soon be devoured without any pretense of setting or even cooling.

Oh, yeah… We’ll drink tea.  Sweet tea.  Luzianne sweet tea.  It’s from New Orleans, folks!

>Behold, the Bird…

Imogene: “Wow! What’s that?”
Me: “That’s our bird, babe.”
Imogene: “We’re eating a bird for Christmas?!”

Okay, so I admit it… I’m crazy for a smoked turkey. One of my most fond yearly memories of Christmas growing up is that of my Pappy smoking a large bird on Christmas morning. Every year, while his health remained intact, we’d have smoked turkey for Christmas lunch. He always kept it simple, but the flavor was -without fail- outstanding.

About four years ago, Lindsey got me a smoker for Christmas. We were still living in Ackerman, Mississippi, while I pastored Salem IMC and attended WBS. She made sure that I had the smoker in hand before Christmas Day because she knew what I’d want: to smoke a turkey for Christmas lunch. I did. And I have since.

Like Pappy, I try to keep things simple; however, I do have a couple of subtle twists to add a distinctive touch to the smokey flavor. First, the smoke must be wood produced, not just produced by charcoal, water, and poor ventilation. That being said, I burn a blend of hickory and oak. Second, I dress the turkey uniquely for her last date with destiny. She wears extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt, and freshly cracked black peppercorns and is stuffed with a couple of stalks of celery and a granny smith apple cut into wedges. [Pictured above: I placed some apple wedges on the top of the turkey while smoking; hence, the leopard spots.]

So… yesterday evening around 6:30, I stepped outside and got the fire going. Once the bird was in position, I simply kept the smoker shut except to periodically add another log to the fire. I kept a close eye until a bit before 1:00 this morning, when I called it a night. Upon the kiddos’ arousal from sleep, the bird was beautiful.

Just a few days ago, I heard Anthony Bourdain say that you should let your turkey rest for as many hours as you roast it. Granted, I didn’t roast mine per se, so I let it rest for about 3 hours (rather than 12). When it was time to carve, wow! what a delight.

B-b-b-bird, bird, bird: Bird is the word!