Ruhlman’s Twenty – Grill-Roasted Prime Rib

I can’t tell you how much this book has changed the way I think about cooking.

I’m used to cook books that are nothing but recipes. Ruhlman’s Twenty has plenty of those, but they’re all wrapped around the 20 core cooking tools and techniques that Ruhlman has distilled from his years of being a chef and writing about food.

Before this book, to me an egg was just an ingredient. Now they are Technique #6, little oval kitchen workhorses – cooked gently they become a meal unto themselves, while egg whites leaven souffles by incorporating air, and egg yolks emulsify simple oil and acid into that amazing concoction we call mayonnaise.

Even the shallot (Technique #4) becomes a bit of a wonder in Ruhlman’s book. I always though of them as uppity onions, but mince them with some vinegar (Technique #5) and whirl them with some olive oil and you’ve got a quick vinaigrette (Technique #12) that works  wonders when paired with cold veggies and beats anything that comes in a bottle.

Of course, being a grillmeister and all, I was most interested in his Technique #18, Grill: The Flavor of Fire. Having recently secured a very nice rib roast, I  decided to try his grill/roast technique using a wet rub to season the roast.

Wet Rub
1 4-6 pound rib roast
4-6 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon sea or kosher salt
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Allegro Marinade or Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon paprika

Make the wet rub by putting the garlic, salt and peppercorns into a food processor and pulse until the garlic is minced. Add the oil, vinegar, Allegro, rosemary, thyme and paprika and give them a whirl to combine.

You’ll need a flame-proof roasting pan (I use an old 9×13 baking pan) with a rack.  Put the roast on a cutting board with the deckle (fat cap) on top. Score the fat by making shallow diagonal cuts in a diamond pattern at about 1-inch intervals. Pour half of the wet rub over the roast and work it into the cuts. Turn the roast over and cover the bottom and sides of the roast with the remaining rub. Set aside and let rest while you set up the grill.

The heart of Ruhlman’s grill/roast technique is to sear the meat over a hot, direct fire, give it a rest, and then finish it over lower, even heat. The sear gets you that crispy, tasty crust. The resting time stops the heat from pushing too deeply into the meat, giving you an evenly-cooked roast with more lovely medium-well meat and less gray, over-cooked meat. It also lets you control when you serve the meat. Once the searing is done, you can finish it right away on the grill (or in the oven, if you must), or stash it in the fridge for up to a day before finishing it right before serving.

For the sear, set your grill up for a direct cook over high heat (500°F). Get the cooking grate is nice and hot and sear the roast for 90 seconds on each side. When the roast is browned all over, move it to the rack (fat side up) set in the roasting pan.

If you are finishing it later, move the roast to the fridge until it is cool and then wrap with plastic wrap. If you’re serving it right away, tent loosely with aluminum foil and set aside to rest for at least 30 minutes while you get the grill down to the roasting temperature.

Close the lid on the grill and adjust the vents to reduce the heat to 300°F. On the Big Green Egg, I shut the vents almost all the way down and added an inverted (legs up) plate setter to diffuse the heat. You could also use a flame-proof pizza stone, sheet pan, or trivet to give you indirect heat.

When the grill is down to roasting temps, put the roaster loaded with the meat back onto the grill. Add about a cup of water to the roasting pan to keep the juices from burning. Cook for about 15 to 20 minutes per pound, or until it hits 130°F internal.

Move the roast to a cutting board and let rest for 20 minutes before carving and serving.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
I made this for my dear mother’s 82nd birthday dinner and everyone loved it. The roast had a nice, wide band of tender, rosy-red meat with a great crunchy char on it. Slicing the deckle let the bits of fat fry themselves into a kind of beefy bacon. Perfect.

As for Ruhlman’s Twenty, I find myself reaching for this more than any of my other cook books. I’m not always making recipes from the book, but I am always leveraging his techniques.

The Nutrition:
When you get to be 82, you get to quit counting calories.

One year ago – Scallop Gumbo
Two years ago – Tasty Licks Salmon

Spicy Asian Pork Meatballs with Cucumber Salad

My dear wife told me that we had some ground pork that needed to be used. She was willing to make pork-something for dinner, but lacked the inspiration to decide exactly what to make.

I was otherwise occupied and didn’t have the time to cook, but I could spare a couple of minutes on the interwebs to find a recipe. I pulled up these two great recipes from the National Pork Board that looked tasty, showed them to her, and off she went.

I love it when a meal comes together.

1 large cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

In a medium lidded bowl, toss all the veggies together. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, vinegar, salt, and red pepper. Drizzle the dressing over the veggies, seal the bowl, give it a shake, and refrigerate until you are ready to serve.

1 pound Ground Pork
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon fresh ginger root, grated
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic chili paste
1 tablespoon fresh mint, minced

Mix together all ingredients and form into small meatballs. Fry the meatballs in a 10-to-12-inch skillet over medium heat. Fry for 3-5 minutes or until browned and crisp. Turn and cook the undersides for another 3-5 minutes more, about 6-10 minutes total or until an instant read thermometer reads 160°F. Transfer to a paper towel-covered plate to drain.

Serve the meatballs over some steamed rice with the salad on the side. Drizzle the whole works with a little sweet chili sauce or Sriracha to spice it up a bit if desired.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Quick, tasty, and healthy – what’s not to love. The pork meatballs were rich and just packed with flavor. The sweet and tangy salad set them off nicely.

The original recipe called for making the pork into burgers to be grilled and served on buns. Add a little Sriracha mayo to it and I think that that would also be a tasty way to go.

The Nutrition:
Makes 4 servings at about 300 calories and 7 points per serving without the rice.

One year ago – Cottage Bacon
Two years ago – Habanero Hot Sauce

Country-Style Ribs

I had this dish at a little hole-in-the-wall resort while on vacation up north and was very impressed. It was advertised as ribs, but came out as a huge pile of meat covered in sauce. I was afraid it would be the usual sickly-sweet, mushy mess you get off of a Sysco truck, but it turned out to be country-style ribs that had been smoked long enough to develop a nice bark, and then braised in a thin barbecue sauce until the meat just started to fall apart.

It was so good that I had to try to make it myself. I haven’t had the best luck in the past with true country-style ribs that are cut from the sirloin or rib end of the pork loin and can be a little gristly. So I went the do-it-yourself way and cut down a boned pork shoulder roast (AKA Boston Butt) into 1-inch slabs.

6 pounds country-style ribs
1 (16-ounce) bottle barbecue sauce (Sticky Hog in this case)
1 (12-ounce) bottle hard cider
1 tablespoon barbecue rub per pound of meat (Dizzy Pig Dizzy Dust in this case)

Season the ribs heavily on all sides with rub. Cover and stash in the fridge until the grill is ready.

Set your grill up for a raised direct cook at 250°F. On the Big Green Egg I didn’t use a plate setter to diffuse the heat, but did use an extender to raise the cooking grid up about 4 inches further from the heat.

Add your smoking wood (apple, in this case) to the grill and when the grill reaches 250°F and the smoke has turned blue, arrange the ribs on the cooking grate. Close the lid and let them cook, flipping every hour, until they reach 160°F internal (about 3 hours).

While the ribs are smoking, combine the barbecue sauce and cider in a medium saucepan. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes until the foaming has stopped and the sauce thickens up a little bit. Remove from the heat and reserve for later.

When the ribs hit 160°F internal, move them off to a flame-proof pan (I used the base of my tagine) and cover with half of the sauce. Turn ribs to coat and move the pan full of ribs back to the grill. Close the lid and let cook for an hour.

Check the ribs for doneness – they should be around 190°F internal and the meat should fall apart when you poke at it with a fork. If they are done, remove the pan full of ribs from the grill and let them rest for 15 minutes before serving. If they are not done, add more sauce as needed and return them to the grill until they are done. Serve with the remaining sauce on the side.

The Verdict: ★★★½☆
I really liked the taste of these ribs. Thinning the sauce with the cider let it soak into the meat while cutting the sweetness and giving it some great apple flavor.

I was not at all happy with the tenderness of the meat. It had some nice bark, and had started to fall apart, but it had also lost a lot of moisture and gotten pretty tough. I was looking for more of a baby-back-ribs-meet-pulled-pork texture. Next time I think I’d wrap them in a couple of layers of foil rather than letting them sit uncovered in a pan.

The Nutrition
Three ounces of rib meat is 387 calories and 10 Weight Watchers points. Ouch! Obviously a special occasion treat.

One year ago – Chicken & Veggies
Two years ago – Sriracha Chili Sauce

Harvesting the Bounty

My dear wife and I have very different temperaments (to put it mildly). She’s a list-maker, action-planner, get-things-done kind of gal, and I love her for it. Me, well… not so much. I’m more of a carpe diem kind of guy. I’m in charge of food and fun and am often surprised when the sun comes up in the east. It’s kind of like what would happen if Aesop’s ant and grasshopper got married, but we make it work.

When the first hint of fall hit a couple of weeks ago, my dear wife into full on ant mode. She made up a list of meals she wanted cooked in advance and frozen off and then we hit the farmers markets hard. She even borrowed our neighbor’s pressure cooker and Mason jars from a friend so we could do some canning.

I gotta admit that the sounds this old Presto pressure cooker made were a little scary, but it made short work of processing sealed jars.

The end result of two weekends spent cooking: 2 roasted chickens (pulled and frozen into 1-pound packages), 4 quarts of salsa verde, 3 batches of stuffed peppers, 26 quarts of canned tomatoes, and 36 pints of salsa.

I think making pickles is next on the agenda.

I’m one lucky grasshopper!

One year ago – Simple Steaks
Two years ago – Dark & Stormy