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Showing posts with label Celebrations. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Celebrations. Show all posts

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Sweet, Crispy Pork Ribs; Cooked Low And Slow

Dry rub pork ribs cut apart after slow roasting and ready for serving. Credit: Copyright 2016 David Latt
The summertime debate is on. What is the easiest way to cook pork ribs? Boil, roast or grill? High heat, low heat, wet sauce or dry rub? I’ve tried them all. Now the question is settled, at least for me.  Slow roasting with a dry rub. To avoid summer’s heat, I put the ribs in a 250 F oven before I go to bed. When I wake up, the ribs are moist with a bacon-thin, sweetened crust. And these best-ever ribs cooked while I was fast asleep.
My mother taught me to make pork ribs with a thick coating of sauce sweetened with brown sugar and raisins. Eating those finger-licking ribs was one of my favorite childhood memories.
Everything changed on a busy research trip to Abilene and Fort Worth, when I ate at 25 restaurants in 36 hours. I fell in love with West Texas BBQ.
At restaurant after restaurant, I watched grill masters lay bundles of mesquite into their subcompact-car-sized smokers. With the heavy metal doors open, the wood crackled as flames enveloped the logs The grill masters seasoned their racks of pork ribs with thick, grainy coats of brown sugar and spices rubbed onto the meat.  Waves of dry heat radiated from the smokers. But the heat that would cook these ribs would come not from an open fire but from smoldering mesquite embers.
When the doors were closed, the blazing logs were starved of oxygen. The flames died and a delicate smoke filled the air. At that moment the grill masters loaded in the racks of ribs coated with sweetened dry rub. Hours later, the ribs were removed, their outer coating thickened to crispness, creating what grill masters call “bark.”
I loved those ribs even more than the ones from my childhood.
At home, without the benefit of a smoker, I experimented for years to duplicate that sweet-crispness. Nothing could ever recreate the wonderful mesquite smokiness but I did succeed in making ribs with bark as good as any I enjoyed in West Texas.

High heat versus slow cookingMix of kosher salt, black pepper, brown sugar, cumin, coriander and cayenne for dry rub slow roasted pork ribs. Credit: Copyright 2016 David Latt

Mix of kosher salt, black pepper, brown sugar, cumin, coriander and cayenne for dry rub slow roasted pork ribs. Credit: Copyright 2016 David Latt

Cooking with high heat is exciting. There is great pleasure in watching the pyrotechnics of an outdoor grill as sizzling fat catches fire.  Roasting at low heat in the oven lacks that excitement.
And yet, what happens in an oven set at 250 F has its own kind of magic. In the darkness of the oven, the waves of steady heat melt the fat inside the rack, tenderizing the meat and gently fusing the dry rub to the outside of the ribs.
The best magic of all is that the oven does the work. No standing over a blazingly hot grill on a hot day. Once the oven door closes, there is nothing to be done.
Walk into the kitchen and a savory-sweet aroma scents the air. Pull the baking tray out of the oven and press a finger against the outside of the rack. The soft pliancy of the meat has been replaced by a jerky-like crust as sweet as a crème brulee topping.

Slow-Roasted, Dry-Rubbed Pork Ribs

Rack of pork ribs, trimmed. Credit: Copyright 2016 David Latt
Cooking time depends on the size and thickness of the rack.
Buy good quality pork. Asian and Latin markets are often a reliable source of fresh pork products. Unlike the ribs sold in upscale supermarkets, the ribs in these markets will most likely be untrimmed.
Above the actual ribs, the rack will have a top portion with boneless flap meat and a section with thick bones similar to country style ribs.  Another smaller piece of flap meat will stretch across the back of the rib bones.
Requiring only a sharp filleting knife and a few minutes, removing the flap meat and the top portion is not difficult. The flap meat is excellent to use in stir fries, slow roasted in the oven or grilled on the BBQ.
A white membrane is attached to the outside of the flap meat. Use a sharp filleting knife to separate the meat from the membrane and discard.
The flap meat and country style bones can be prepared in the same manner as the ribs.  They will cook more quickly and should be removed from the 250 F oven after a total of 2 to 3 hours depending on thickness.
While the rack of ribs does not have to be turned over, the flap meat and country style bones should be turned over after one hour for even cooking. After another hour, use kitchen shears to cut off a small piece of meat to test for doneness. Return to the oven if the meat is not yet tender.
To eat the country style ribs, have a sharp paring knife handy to help cut out those hard to reach tasty bits tucked between the bones.
The ribs can be cooked ahead and reheated. In which case, do not cut apart the ribs until ready to serve. Reheat in a 300 F oven for 15 minutes.
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 6 to 8 hours
Resting time: 5 minutes
Total time: 6 hours, 35 minutes to 8 hours, 35 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
Ingredients
1 rack pork ribs, 4 to 5 pounds, washed, dried
3 cups brown sugar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup cumin
¼ cup coriander
½ teaspoon cayenne (optional)
Directions
1. Place a wire rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat to 250 F.
2. Select a baking pan or cookie sheet that is 2 inches longer than the rack of ribs. Cover the pan with aluminum foil for easy clean up. Place a wire rack on top of the aluminum foil.
3. Lay the rack of ribs on a cutting board, bone side up. Use a sharp filleting knife to remove the tough membrane on the bone side of the rack. Let the knife help you lift the membrane. Use your fingers to pull the skin off the bones and discard.
4. Do not cut off any fat.
5. In a bowl, mix together dry ingredients.
6. For easy cleanup, lay a sheet of plastic wrap on the cutting board. Place the rack on the cutting board. Layer a thick coat of the dry spices onto both sides, covering the meat and bones.
7. Reserve left-over dry rub in an air tight container and refrigerate for later use.
8. Carefully place the rack of ribs on the wire rack meat side up.
9. Put the baking sheet into the preheated oven.
10. Roast six hours. Remove from oven. Use kitchen shears to cut off a small piece and taste.
11. The outside should have a jerky-crispness. The meat inside should be moist and tender. The tapered end of the rack where the bones are small will cook faster than the rest of the ribs. Use the kitchen shears to cut off that section before returning the rack to the oven for another one-two hours. Be careful not to dry out the meat.
12. Once the ribs are cooked, remove from oven and let the meat rest five minutes.
13. Cut between the rib bones and chop into pieces any flap meat without bones. Serve hot with a green salad, Cole slaw, baked beans or freshly steamed vegetables.
Main photo: Dry rub pork ribs cut apart after slow roasting and ready for serving. Credit: Copyright 2016 David Latt.
 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A Classic Flourless Chocolate Cake Gets a Flavor Twist

New Year's Eve is fast approaching. Super Bowl Sunday isn't that far off. Perfect for both or any celebration, a flourless chocolate cake proves the maxim, a little taste goes a long way. Because the dense cake has so much flavor, a thin slice topped with freshly made whipped cream or vanilla ice cream is more than enough to end a meal or celebrate a memorable occasion.

Many years ago I read my first flourless chocolate cake recipe in Esquire magazine. As created by Jean Banchet, the celebrated French chef, the basics were straight forward. A good quality dark chocolate is melted together with sweet (unsalted) butter. In a separate bowl egg yolks are sweetened with sugar. Egg whites are whipped into peaks. Then, the three are mixed into one bowl.

Like a souffle, a flourless chocolate cake is a delicate confection. Jostled or treated carelessly, the egg whites so carefully aerated will collapse.

My contribution to this classic was a few flavorful ingredients. Instead of a liqueur which is often used to enliven the density of the chocolate, I like to add orange zest and a handful of finely chopped roasted almonds.

The recipe will make 1-2 large cakes or 8-10 smaller ones.

This is purely a matter of taste, but I prefer thin cakes, 1"-2" tall. The taller the cake, the longer the bake. The times listed below are estimates. Ultimately the test of whether the cake is done is to insert a pairing knife into the middle. When withdrawn, the knife should have a small amount of chocolate on the blade. Be careful not to dry out the cake.

After a dusting of confectionary sugar, the cake must always be served with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

A few special kitchen tools are essential. Non-stick parchment paper. Springform pans. And a power mixer.

The cake is best served warm, heated for ten minutes in a 250F oven.

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Orange Zest and Roasted Almonds

Only use good quality chocolate without additives. The same is true of the heavy cream used to make whipped cream for the topping. In Los Angeles where I live, Trader Joe's has two products which I always use. The One Pound chocolate bars (56-70% cacao) and the heavy cream are both made without additives. I highly recommend them for this and other desserts.

When filling the springform pans, leave room 1" at the top because the batter will rise.

Serves 12

Makes (1-2) 6"-9" cakes or (8-10) 3" cakes

Time to prepare: 20 minutes

Time to bake: 30 minutes - 3 hours depending on diameter and height of cake

Ingredients

1 1/2 sticks + 2 tablespoons sweet butter
1 tablespoon white flour
14 ounces dark chocolate, chopped into quarter sized pieces
1 1/2 cups sugar
10 large eggs, whites and yolks separated
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup raw almonds, roasted in 250F oven 5 minutes, finely chopped
1 teaspoon orange zest, finely chopped
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
2 cups heavy cream or 1 pint good quality vanilla or vanilla bean ice cream

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 250F.

2. Remove the bottom(s) of the springform pan(s) and place on parchment paper on a flat surface. Use a pencil to trace the outline of the bottom(s) onto the paper. Use sharp scissors to cut out the paper round(s). Lay the parchment paper round(s) inside the springform pan(s). Set aside.

3. Use a double boiler or place a sauce pan on top of another pan. Add water in the lower pot to fill halfway. Place on stove top on a medium flame so the water simmers.

4. Melt butter in double boiler. Use pastry brush to paint the top of the parchment paper and inside the springform pan(s) with melted butter. Dust with flour. Set aside.

5. Add chocolate to melted butter. Stir and melt but do not boil. Once chocolate and butter are combined, stir in roasted chopped almonds, set aside for five minutes.

6. Place egg yolks, sugar minus 2 tablespoons, vanilla extract and orange zest into a mixing bowl. Mix well. Set aside.

7. In the bowl of an electric mixing, place the egg whites and lemon juice. Using the wire whisk attachment, beat two minutes and sprinkle in 2 tablespoons sugar. Continue mixing until peaked but no more. Set aside.

8. Using a rubber spatula, carefully combine the egg yolk and chocolate mixtures. Set aside.

9. Transfer the chocolate mixture into egg whites being careful to incorporate all the egg whites.

10. Place the springform pan(s) on a flat baking sheet. Using the spatula, transfer the batter into the pan(s), leaving room 1" at the top.

11. Place springform pan(s) into the oven. Check every 30 minutes and rotate baking sheet to prevent the cake(s) being uneven because your stove is not level.

12. To make whipped cream, place heavy cream in electric mixer with wire whisk. With machine on high, sprinkle in confectioner's sugar. Continue whisking until the cream is fluffy. Be careful not to over whisk. The result will be butter milk. Refrigerate whipped cream in an airtight container until needed, as much a day before.

13. Insert pairing knife into center of cake(s). When blade has a small amount of chocolate, remove cake(s) from oven and allow to rest on cake rack 15 minutes. Cake(s) will contract making removal from the springform pan easy. Lift cake(s) off the bottom and parchment paper. Place on a decorative plate.

14. Serve cake(s) warm with a sharp knife and a large bowl of freshly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.