Peach Spare Ribs

ribs
My dear wife saved me two of her precious peaches for this sauce. In the end, she said it was worth the sacrifice.

The recipe uses a wet blending technique that I’ve become very fond of. Rather than chopping up all of your ingredients individually, just cut them to a manageable size (quartering is usually enough), add a bit of liquid to float the goodies, and then pulse them in a food processor or blender until you reach the desired consistency.

Peach Barbecue Sauce
1 pound of peaches, quartered and pitted (2 -3 peaches)
1/2 cup red bell pepper
1 small onion, quartered
4 cloves garlic
1/4 cup honey
1/4 – 1/2 cup water
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon raw or brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon fresh sage
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
1-2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1-2 teaspoons salt

Combine all ingredients into a food processor or blender. Give it all a whirl until well-combined, but not pureed. You want some chunks of this and that floating around.

Peach Spare Ribs

Pour into a large saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer until it has reduced to about a pint (about 15 minutes depending on how much water you used). It should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Let cool, bottle, and stash in fridge.

Spare Ribs
Set your grill up for a raised direct cook over low (250°F) heat. On the Big Green Egg I used a Woo2 ring to get the cooking grate further from the heat. When the grill is up to temp, add some wood for smoke (apple this time).

While the grill is heating up, trim the rack down as much as you care to. I like a St.Louis-style rack, so I remove the chine (breast) bone and the connective tissue between the chine and the ribs themselves. I also removed the tough membrane that covered the bone side of the ribs to let more flavor in.

After the ribs are trimmed, season them with a dusting of your favorite rub. I went with just salt and pepper on these to let the sauce shine through.

When the wood smoke goes from white (bad) to blue (good), move the ribs to the grill.

Spare ribs take a good 5 to 6 hours to cook. Start them bone side down and then flip them end-to-end and top-to-bottom ever hour. This helps even out the hot spots that can happen when you cook with direct heat. At hour 5 they should start showing signs of doneness – meat pulling back from the bone, and meat cracking when you lift up the rack at the end. When in doubt, check the internal temperature of the meat between the bones – it should read at least 180°F prior to saucing.

ribs

Sauce the ribs with the Peach Barbecue Sauce – and let them cook for 10 minutes. Sauce the meat side and let them go for another 10 minutes. Then sauce the meat side again and move the ribs off to a plate to rest for 10 minutes. Serve with remaining sauce.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Wonderful, clean peach taste with just enough sugar and just a tiny hint of rosemary. It’s very versatile and is great both spread on toast and dolloped on pork chops. Must make gallons of this next year.

Pomegranate Pig Spare Ribs

Pomegranate Pig Spareribs

I have been craving ribs constantly a lot lately. Generally when I think ribs, I’m thinking of baby backs – those meltingly tender short ribs from the loin of the pig. But just to switch things up, I went with spare ribs for this cook.

Spares ribs sit below the baby backs and come from the from the belly side of the pig’s rib cage. Because they do more work (the whole breathing thing), spares have tougher muscles and more connective tissue. That means they also have a richer flavor, but it can be tough to get them tender (think of the difference between a filet mignon and a sirloin).

A full rack of spare ribs includes part of the chine (breast) bone and the connective tissue between the chine and the ribs themselves. I trimmed all of the non-rib bits off to make a St.Louis-style rack that is easier to handle and cooks more evenly. I also removed the tough membrane that covered the bone side of the ribs to let more flavor in.

After the ribs were trimmed, I gave them a generous dusting of Plowboys Yardbird Rub and then stashed them in the fridge while I got the Big Green Egg fired up.

I set the Big Green Egg up for a raised direct cook at 250°F, using a Woo2 ring to get the cooking grate further from the heat. When the Egg was up to temp I added some persimmon wood for smoke and put the ribs on.

Spare ribs take 5 to 6 hours to cook. I started them bone side down and then flipped them end-to-end and top-to-bottom ever hour. At hour 5 they started showing signs of doneness – meat pulling back from the bone, and meat cracking when I lifted up the rack at the end. I checked the internal temp (love my Thermapen for this as it can get right into the middle of the rib meat) and it read 180°F. Pretty much perfect.

I sauced the ribs on both sides with Pomegranate Pig Barbeque Sauce and let them cook for 10 minutes. I sauced the meat side and let them go for another 10, then sauced the meat side again and moved them off to a plate to rest for 10 minutes.

Pomegranate Pig Spareribs

The Verdict: ★★★★★
These have got to be among the best ribs I’ve ever made! Love the Plowboys rub and the way it works with the sweet tangyness of the sauce. Even though I cooked these raised over direct heat (no plate setter to diffuse the heat), they came out moist and tender. I like ribs cooked to the ever-so-slightly-not-yet-falling-off-the-bone point, and I nailed that here.

My only (very minor) disappointment is that the persimmon wood didn’t give me as much smoke flavor as I would have liked.

The Nutrition:
A four bone serving is about 600 calories and 10 Weight Watchers points.

One year ago – 1st Carnitas of the Year
Two years ago – Badly Bungled Black ‘n’ Bleu Bon Voyage

Grilled Pork Chops with Orange-Fennel Mostarda

Pork Chops Mostarda

Mostarda?

Yeah, I’d never heard of it either, but thanks to Food52 I got to give this chutney-ish Italian condiment a try.

The Brine
4 thick-cut, pork chops
1 1/2 cups hot water
3 tablespoons sea or kosher salt
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

I got a whole pork lion and cut it into 4 nice and thick chops and 2 roasts for later.
I got a whole pork loin and cut it into 4 nice and thick chops and 2 roasts for later.

Mix the salt and sugar into the hot water and stir to dissolve. Stash in fridge to cool. Once it is cool, arrange the chops in a single layer in a shallow non-reactive dish (a glass pie plate works well) and then pour the brine over top. Let this sit for anywhere from 1/2 hour to 2 hours before cooking.

The Orange-Fennel Mostarda
1/2 of a small fennel bulb, diced
1 navel orange
1 1/2 teaspoon whole mustard seeds
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
Pinch of salt

Place the fennel, mustard seeds, sugar, vinegar, and water into a small sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

While this is cooking, grate the orange peel (I use a microplane grater) to get 1 teaspoon of zest.

Mostarda

Peel the orange, removing as much of the pith as you can along with any seeds, rind or stringy bits. Dice the orange segments (I found it easiest to pull the orange in half and slice each half across the segments) and add to the sauce pan.

Bring the mixture back to a boil for 5 minutes, Reduce heat and simmer until the orange has broken down and the mustard seeds have plumped up and softened and the mostarda takes on a marmalade-like consistency, about 30 minutes.

Mostarda

Stir in reserved orange zest and cook for 5 minutes more, then set aside to cool.

The Cook
Set up your grill for a direct cook over medium (350°F) heat.

Remove the chops from the brine and season them on both sides with your favorite rub (I used Dizzy Pig Raging River). Grill the chops 5 minutes on one side. Grill the chops 6 to 8 minutes per side (depending on how thick they are) until the internal temp hits 135°F (pork is done at 140°F, but I usually pull it at 135°F as the internal temp will rise as it rests).

Pork Chops Mostarda

Remove from heat and let rest for 10 minutes. Serve with mostarda on the side.

The Verdict: ★★★★☆
Wow! The chops themselves were tender and juicy, but add the sweet and savory mostarda and it’s a knockout.

Why only 4 stars? As good as the mostarda was, the mustard taste didn’t come through as strongly as I would have liked. I used brown mustard seeds, so maybe that makes a difference? I would add a teaspoon or so of grainy mustard to this nest time. Also, the original recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon of whole fennel seeds, which I was out of, and you could taste their absence.

On the plus side – I have big plans for this condiment! I can easily see it as the filling for a butterflied pork loin roast or as a pan glaze similar to what I did with the Apricot-Glazed Pork Chops recipe.

The Nutrition:
3 ounces of center-cut pork chops is 4 Weight Watchers points and 180 calories. The mostarda only adds 1 point and 50 calories per tablespoon.

One year ago – Have Ribs, Will Travel
Two years ago – Corned Beef Hash

Pile o’ Pig

Pulled Pork

I’ve been asked to make pulled pork for a graduation party. Having learned some lessons from my last catering effort, I got a head start cooking for the event.

While I would normally do pork butts (recently renamed Boston Roast) low and slow overnight, our weather has been so crazy lately that I decided to go with the hot and fast method – roasting them at 350°F, then foiling and braising them until tender.

The Big Green Egg will hold 4 butts at a time, so I cooked 2 batches. Here’s one batch seasoned up with Plowboys Yardbird Rub.

Pulled Pork

I set the BGE up for a 5 hour indirect cook at 350°F. This meant filling the firebox with lump and using a plate setter and drip pan to diffuse the heat. When the BGE was up to temp, I added some chucks of apple wood for smoke. When the smoke went from white (bad) to blue (good) I loaded up the butts, using an extended grid to give me some room and made sure to leave some space between them on the grate so they didn’t act like one big piece of meat.

I cooked the butts for about 4 hours at 350°F, until they developed a nice dark bark on the outside and hit 160°F on the inside.

Pulled Pork

I moved the butts off to a hotel pan and covered them tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil. The pan full of butts went into the oven set at 350°F. I braised them for a little over 2 hours, until their internal temperature hit 210°F. Then I removed the pan from the oven and let them cool for another hour before pulling the meat.

My dear wife broke down the major muscle groups from the fat and connective tissue and I worked the meat over using a pair of bear paws to help remove all the remaining inedible bits and separate the meat into tasty morsels. I added a little finishing sauce while we were working with the meat to help keep it moist.

Pulled Pork

The finished pulled pork was put into one gallon zip-top freezer bags and stashed in the deep freeze until the big day.

I’ll follow up next month and let you know how it went. Wish me luck!

One year ago – Chicken & Chorizo Fajitas
Two years ago – Lemon Pepper Chicken

Cheesy Grits with Sausage Gravy

Cheesy Grits and Sausage Gravysports74.ru

I have always enjoyed biscuits and gravy, but (as a northerner) could never quite get the idea of serving the gravy over grits. This is the recipe I went with to try to expand my palate.

Cheesy Grits
3 cups water
3/4 cup stone-ground grits
4-ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring the water to a boil in a deep, heavy-bottomed pot on the stove top. Whisk in the grits and then turn the heat to the lowest setting and put a lid on top.

While the grits are cooking, assemble the gravy.

Sausage Gravy
1 pound ground pork breakfast sausage
2 tablespoons gluten-free all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1/4 cup strong-brewed coffee
1-3 tablespoons Louisiana-style hot sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Brown the sausage in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Do not drain. Add the flour and cook over low heat for 5 minutes until it forms a roux and begins to brown.

Remove pan from heat and stir in the coffee. Scape the bottom to get up any brown bits. Add the milk a little at a time, stirring constantly. Return to medium-high heat and stir occasionally until gravy comes to a simmer and starts to thicken, about 10 minutes. Add the hot sauce, salt and pepper to taste, and stir to combine. Remove from heat.

The grits should be soft and creamy by this point. Stir in the cheese and butter.

Divide the grits into shallow bowls and top with gravy. Serve with more hot sauce.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Okay, now I’m starting to get grits.They were rich and creamy and stood up nicely to the gravy. Adding just the 1/4 cup of coffee really gave the gravy more depth.

The Nutrition:
Cheese + butter + sausage + gravy ? health food.

One year ago – General Purpose Rub v1.5
Two years ago – Flashback Friday

Double-Smoked Ham

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When we ordered our last pig, we got something I hadn’t seen before – ham roasts. Not a full ham, but more like a really thick cured and smoked ham steak. Normally I’d pan fry one of these for ham and eggs, or chop if up for ham and bean soup. Instead I decided to treat it like a regular ham and  gave it the double-smoke and glaze treatment.

1 ham roast (2-3 pound thick ham steak)
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice

Combine the honey, vinegars, Worcestershire sauce, and spices in a small sauce pan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Let simmer until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon – about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Set your grill up for an indirect cook over medium heat (350°F). On the Big Green Egg this means using an inverted plate setter to diffuse the heat, and a trivet to set the pan on. I added a good-sized chunk of pecan wood for smoke.

On fully cooked hams, all you need to do is warm the ham to 140°F internal. At 15 minutes per pound, this 3 pound roast should take less than an hour. Place the roast in a small roasting pan (I used a 9×13 cake pan). Close the lid and cook the roast for 20 minutes.

Flip the roast over and baste the ham with the glaze. Close the lid and cook for another 20 minutes. Glaze again, and continue cooking until the ham reaches 140°F internal. Glaze one last time and remove to a cutting board.

doublesmokedham-1010063

Let the ham rest 10 minutes before slicing and serving. Skim the fat off the pan juices serve it as an au jus.

The Verdict: ★★★★☆
Cooking ham is easy, and double smoking and glazing the roast like this is a great way to really bump the flavor up without adding much more effort to it.

This cut got a little dry, but that was the only problem. Next time I would probably glaze it right before putting it on the grill and then eery 15 minutes or so until just done.

The Nutrition:
Ham is 130 calories and 4 Weight Watchers points per 3 ounce serving.

One year ago – Longaniza Sausage
Two years ago – Tamale Pie

Carnitas Nachos

Carnitas Nachos

I’ve been in the mood for some porky comfort food, but it has just been way too cold and wet to make it on my Big Green Egg.  So I moved this carnitas recipe inside to the oven.

8 pounds pork shoulder roast
Juice of 3 oranges (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon achiote oil
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano

Preheat your oven to  350°F.

Cut the roast into 3 to 4-inch chunks, discarding any stringy connective tissue, but keeping all of the fat.

Combine all of the ingredients in a Dutch oven, and give it a stir. Put the lid on and move to the oven. Let it simmer for an hour. The orange juice should be bubbly and the fat in the meat should have started to render out.

Carnitas Nachos

Remove the lid, stir, and return it to the oven uncovered to simmer for another hour. Keep checking and stirring once an hour until most of the liquid has evaporated and the pork has started to fry in its own fat (about 3 hours total).

As it gets closer to being done, start checking and stirring the meat every 15 minutes to make sure the meat is getting crispy, but not becoming dry or burned. Total cook time for this batch was just shy of 5 hours.

Carnitas Nachos

Remove the carnitas to a serving dish using a slotted spoon. Cover and keep warm while you put the sauces together.

Avocado Dressing
1 avocado
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon ranch dressing mix (Penzeys Buttermilk Ranch in this case)
1 cup buttermilk
1 medium shallot
2 cloves garlic
1 cup fresh cilantro
Juice of 1 lime (about 2 tablespoons)
2-3 tablespoons picked jalapenos, including juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Pit the avocado by cutting it lengthwise around the seed and then twisting the two halves apart to expose the pit.

To remove the pit:

  • If you are brave and good with a knife, hold the avocado half with the pit in the hand that you can afford to lose (you can use an oven mitt to protect your hand, but you lose style points ;)) . Tap the pit with the heel of a chef’s knife blade hard enough that the knife sticks into the pit. Twist the pit out, then slap the knife’s tang  flat against the edge of a trash can edge to release the pit. Take a little bow.
  • If you have more common sense than you do knife skills, just twist the halves apart as above, then use a tablespoon to pop the pit out.

Once the pit is out, use said tablespoon to scoop the avocado flesh out of the skin and into a food processor. Add the mayonnaise, ranch dressing mix, buttermilk, shallot, garlic, cilantro, lime juice, and jalapenos. Give it a whirl until everything it blended smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings. Stash in the fridge while you make the cheese sauce.

Cheese Sauce
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (Pamela’s Gluten-Free Baking Mix in this case)
2 cups milk
8 ounces Colby-Jack cheese, shredded, about 2 1/2 cups
Pinch ground cayenne pepper
Pinch Hungarian paprika
Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium sauce pot, melt the butter and add the flour to it. Whisk together and cook flour and butter for a couple of minutes over moderate heat until it starts to bubble. Gradually whisk in the milk until it is smooth. Simmer gently until the sauce is thick enough to coat a spoon, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the cheese, cayenne, and paprika. Keep whisking until everything is smooth and melty. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Keep warm over low heat.

Assemble nachos by alternating layers of chips, cheese sauce, meat, avocado, salsa, sour cream, more chips, just smidge more meat, hot sauce, maybe some more cheese, etc… until you have your personal nacho nirvana.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Aside from not having the smokey goodness that the grill adds, these carnitas rocked – crispy, juicy, and tender. I really liked the added orange juice as the citrus sweetness played real well with the earthiness of the anchiote.

Both sauces were very tasty, but the avocado sauce was a real standout – smooth, fresh, and herby.

The Nutrition:
Carnitas will never be diet food. Four ounces of meat is 5 Weight Watchers Points and 190 calories, so use it sparingly. The cheese sauce won’t do you any good either, but the avocado sauce is lighter and more flavorful than guacamole, so you can save some calories there.

One year ago – Caribbean Lobster
Two years ago – Tamale Pie

Plowboys Ribs

Plowboys Ribs

I had such nice results using Plowboys Yardbird Rub on chicken, that I just had to take them up on their “Created for Chicken but Made for Pork” tag line and try it on some baby-back ribs.

I went with a very minimal prep of the ribs, just removed the membrane on the bone side of the ribs and rubbed in a generous coating of Plowboys Yardbird Rub into both sides of them about an hour before they went on the Big Green Egg.

I have to say that whoever designed the jar for this rub is a genius – 14 ounces, so you’ve got plenty of rub to work with, and then this dual-function top has both big holes for easy shaking and a larger flap that lets you get a measuring spoon in there. Very nice.

Plowboys Ribs

I set up my grill for an indirect cook at 250°F. I filled the firebox with lump charcoal and used an inverted plate setter to diffuse the heat and a drip pan with a little water in it to catch the fat.

I lit the charcoal just in the center, and once the temperature hit 250°F in the dome, I added a couple of chunks of apple wood for smoke. When the smoke changed from white (bad) to blue (good) I loaded up the ribs bone side down on the grate and let them cook for an hour.

I flipped the ribs bone side up and then let them cook for 2 more hours. After the ribs had been on for 4 hours total, I started checking for doneness. Ribs are generally done when a full slab will almost fold in half and start to crack when you pick up one end with a pair of tongs. These weren’t quite there yet.

I gave them another 30 minutes and checked again. The meat had just started to pull back from the end of the bones, but a gentle tug on a couple of bones showed that they weren’t ready to come apart yet.

I gave them another 30 minutes and checked again – much better. I brushed them with a thick coat of Honey Hog Barbecue Sauce and let them cook for another 15 minutes. I sauced them lightly again, cooked them for another 15 minutes, then removed them from the smoker and let them sit 10 minutes before serving.

Plowboys Ribs

The Verdict: ★★★★☆
The Plowboys Yardbird rub stood right up to smoke and the porky goodness of the ribs. In fact, it may be better on pork than on chicken. What I’m really liking about this rub is how it disappears – like a good background singer – you don’t hear them but you would sure miss them if they were gone. The rub enhances the natural flavors without getting in the way.

Why not a 5? We had a high of 6°F the day I cooked these, and the darker and colder it got the more those ribs sure looked like they were done. My bad. Another 30-45 minutes and they would have rocked.

The Nutrition:
Ribs will never be diet food, sorry, but I think I burned off most of the calories with all the shivering I did.

One year ago – Surf & Turf
Two years ago – Super Bowl Link Love

New Year’s Bo Ssam

Bo Ssam

A little change in plans for New Years. I was going to make prime rib, but the more I thought about it the more it felt like it was one of those been-there-done-that-got-the-t-shirt meals.

Don’t get me wrong – I love prime rib, but I decided it was time to cross something new off of my culinary bucket list.

This particular Bo Ssam recipe has been on said list for a while now. It is courtesy of Indirect Heat, who took the Momofoku recipe and added some (much appreciated) wood smoke to the mix.

Bo Ssam
1 whole pork shoulder (a.k.a. Boston butt), 8 to 10 pounds
1 cup white sugar
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon kosher salt
7 tablespoons brown sugar

I made a dry cure by mixing the white sugar and 1 cup of the salt together. I poured half of the cure into a large zip-top bag, put the pork shoulder in on top of it, and covered it with the rest of the cure. Then I worked the cure in with my hands so it covered all of the shoulder as evenly as possible. I squeezed the air out of the bag, sealed it, set the bag in a 9×13 pan, and stashed it in the fridge overnight.

As the cure started to work, it pulls water out of the meat and forms a brining solution. I turned the bag every so often to evenly distribute the liquid.

The next day, I removed the shoulder from the brine and rinsed off any remaining cure. I patted it dry and arranged the shoulder with the fat cap up on a rack set in a roasting pan. I scored the fat cap with a paring knife and hit it with a bit of Dizzy Pig’s Tsunami Spin rub just to bump up the flavor/crispiness a little.

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I set the BGE up for a 8-hour indirect cook at 300°F. I filled the firebox all the way up with lump and used the inverted plate setter to diffuse the heat.

When the grill was up to temp, I added some guava wood for smoke, and when the smoke changed from white (bad) to blue (good), I loaded the grill with the rack full of pig.

While the shoulder was cooking, I made up the sauces and put together the accompaniments.

Ginger Scallion Sauce
2 1/2 cups thinly sliced scallions, both green and white parts
1/2 cup peeled, minced fresh ginger
1/4 cup neutral-tasting oil (grape seed in this case)
1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
1-2 teaspoons kosher salt

I combined the scallion, ginger, oil, soy sauce, and vinegar in a food processor and gave everything a whirl to combine. Then I saved it off in the fridge.

Ssam Sauce
2 tablespoons ssamjang (Korean fermented bean-and-chili paste, I used gluten-free red miso instead.)
2 tablespoons kochujang (Korean chili paste)
1/2 cup sherry vinegar
1/2 cup neutral-tasting oil (grape seed in this case)

I tried just mixing the chili paste and miso into the vinegar and oil, but they didn’t want to dissolve. I ended up pouring everything into a pint canning jar, warming it in the microwave for a minute or so, and then putting the lid on and shaking it to get it to combine.

Accompaniments
2 cups plain white rice, cooked
3 heads bibb or butter lettuce, leaves separated, washed and dried
Kimchi

After 5 hours on the grill, I checked the shoulder for doneness with a thermometer. I knew it wouldn’t be falling apart at this stage, but I wanted to make sure it was getting a nice smoke ring and that the fat had started to crisp up. My shoulder ended up taking 7 hours to hit 160°F internal.

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I moved the shoulder inside and wrapped it in a couple of layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil, set it in a clean roast pan in the oven, and cooked it at 350°F until it hit 190°F internal – about another 3 hours.

I checked the shoulder for doneness again. This time by carefully unwrapping it and poking at it with a fork to see if the meat would yield and pull apart. It wasn’t ready to completely collapse, but it was tender enough that I could remove it from the foil and move it into a heat-proof serving dish (I used the base of my tagine) and put it back into the oven set on low and went out to enjoy our guests.

When we were ready to eat, I covered the shoulder with a mix of the remaining tablespoon of salt and the brown sugar and turned the oven up to 500°F. I turned on the exhaust fan, cracked open a window, and blasted the shoulder until the sugar melted into the meat and started to caramelize (about 10 minutes). I basted it once with the pan juices to melt all the sugar and gave it another 5 minutes in the oven to finish.

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When everything was a lovely, piggy, smoky, caramel crispy mass, I moved the shoulder to the center of the table and served with the sauces and fixings.

You assemble the bo ssam by first taking a lettuce leaf and then placing a bit of the pork, rice, kimchi, and sauces on it, then curl everything up together and enjoy.

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The Verdict: ★★★★★
Oh, wow! I’d give this 10 stars if I could. Not just good, but crazy good. Each little bundle had the perfect mix of sweet, salty, smoky, tangy, and spicy.

I was worried that the sugar would overwhelm everything, but the vinegary chile sauce took care or that and the kimchi and ginger cut right through the richness of the meat.

I was also really nice to have a dish that was tasty and impressive without being fussy. It took some time to prepare, but it mostly took care of itself. The only real hands time-sensitive, hands-on part was the last 15 minutes. So I got to spend New Year’s Eve having fun, and that is a huge plus in my book.

Happy New Year!

One year ago – New Year’s Prime Rib
Two years ago – Orange Cashew Tart

Jerk-ish Ribs

Did you remember to set your clocks back? I did (well, my dear wife did). While that extra hour of sleep was great, it doesn’t make up for the lack of sunlight in the evening. Soon it’ll get cold and I’ll be trudging back and forth to work in the dark, on foot, with snow on the ground, uphill both ways…

It’s joyous thoughts like that that make me yearn for warmer climes. To try and break my funk, I made up a rack of baby back ribs that packed a sweet heat reminiscent of jerk dishes I’ve had in the Caribbean.

The Marinade
1 rack baby back ribs
1 large shallot
4 to 6 Habanero or Scotch Bonnet peppers (4 were plenty for me)
4 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon dark rum
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon ground thyme
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Wearing gloves, seed and devein the peppers. Put the salt, shallot, and garlic in a food processor and pulse until the garlic and shallot are minced. Add the peppers, soy sauce, oil, vinegar, sugar, rum, lime juice, thyme, black pepper, allspice, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg and give them a whirl until they are well-combined. Makes about 3/4 cup.

Reserve 1/4 cup of the marinade for the barbecue sauce. Prep the ribs by removing the membrane on the bone side and trimming off any scraps of meat or excess fat. Put the ribs into a zip-top bag. Pour the remaining 1/2 cup of the marinade over the ribs, turning to coat. Squeeze the air out of the bag, seal it, and stash in the fridge overnight.

The Barbecue Sauce
1 (11.3 ounce can) mango nectar
1/2 cup raw or brown sugar (divided)
1/4 cup marinade
1/4 cup tamarind concentrate
1 tablespoon cider vinegar

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the mango nectar and 1/4 of the raw sugar. Bring to a boil and cook until the mixture has reduced to about 3/4 cup – about 10 minutes or until the mixture is thick enough that it starts to spit at you.

Reduce heat to medium and add the remaining raw sugar, reserved marinade, tamarind, and cider vinegar. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook until all the sugar has dissolved and the sauce starts to thicken a little bit (about five minutes). Bottle and store in the fridge until you are ready to use it.

The Cook
Set your grill up for a raised direct cook at 300°F. I didn’t use anything between the ribs and the fire to diffuse the heat, but did use a Woo2 extender to raise the cooking grid up about 4 inches further from the heat.

When the grill is up to temp, add your smoking wood (guava in this case), and when the smoke changes from white (bad) to blue (good), put the ribs on bone side down for an hour.

Flip the ribs bone side up and let them go for another hour. Flip the ribs back to bone side down and start checking signs of being done – the slab cracks when you pick up one end with a pair of tongs and the meat has started to pull back from the bones.

This rack started looking done at the 3 hour mark, so I slathered both sides with some of the barbecue sauce and put them back on bone side down for another 15 minutes. I slathered the meat side again and let them go another 15 minutes. I gave the meat one last coating of sauce and moved the rack off the grill to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

The Verdict: ★★★★½
This was one fine rack of ribs – all the heat and spice of traditional jerk but with a sweet and fruity base. It was one of those eat, sweat, wipe brow, swig adult beverage, repeat, kind of meals.

Next time I would use about 2 cups of the thicker mango nectar you can buy in  refrigerated boxes in most mercados. This was the thinner Jumex canned version, and it just didn’t have oomph.

The Nutrition:
Ribs still won’t ever be diet food  – 460 calories for 8 ounces of meat (4 to 6 bones worth) and 12 Weight Watchers points. But they were sure the cure for the gray blahs.

One year ago – Achiote Oil
Two years ago – Suck Creek WFR Hot Sauce