Showing posts with label Pandemic Recipe. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pandemic Recipe. Show all posts

Friday, May 22, 2020

Slow Roasted Brown Sugar Pork Ribs for Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day or Any Day Delicious

Stafer-at-home means being careful but it doesn't mean we can't enjoy a great summertime feast. Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day and any day, we can enjoy a meal and celebrate life even during a pandemic.

For me, that means making pork ribs.

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 cooking

Mix 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.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Ready, Set, Go: Make Italian Limoncello

For the moment, long distance travel to Italy, one of my favorite destinations, is not possible. To remind myself of my trip last fall to Milan and the Piedmont, I have been enjoying Italian treats. Charred red peppers topped with anchovies. Homemade pasta. And, limoncello.

From the scourges of the pandemic, we can learn that our good fortune is fragile and that our determination to overcome adversity is indomitable.

Staying safe at home, we're taking the long view.


The days are good. We do our work remotely. At dinner we watch the PBS NewsHourthen we stream episodes of the Swedish The Restaurant or the French The Bureau or the Israeli Shtisel.


We look forward to the time when we'll be able to have a meal at a restaurant, meet friends for a walk on the beach (even as we still observe social distancing), go to a movie theater and have a dinner party at our house.

To celebrate that time, I'm infusing spirits. Italian limoncello is made with vodka, a great number of lemon peels and simple syrup (sugar "melted" in water) and Japanese Umeshu (more about that in another post) is made with fresh Ume (green sour plums), Japanese rock sugar and vodka.

I make limoncello because my wife drinks an iced tea every afternoon. Now that our dining room is her "office," I know that her daily routine is to have an iced black tea with a lot of fresh lemons.

When Michelle leaves me her post-squeezed lemons, I trim off the white, bitter pith and add the peels to a jar of vodka I keep on a shelf in the garage. Day by day, the lemon peels accumulate and fill the jar.

Over time they transfer their citrus-intensity to the neutral vodka. The more time, the more depth of flavor.

Waiting six months is good. Twelve months is better. To transform the lemon infused vodka into limoncello, I'll add simple syrup and place the bottles in the freezer. When it's time to toast the resumption of our lives, we can raise our glasses with homemade limoncello and celebrate life!


Homemade Limoncello

I first enjoyed limoncello in Italy. Of course. Nothing could be better than sitting at a table at an outdoor cafe, watching people walk by, sipping an ice cold glass of limoncello. Italy has been through so much during the pandemic. So have we all. I can think of no better way to celebrate a return to our new-normal lives than to toast Italy and the resilience of life!

Cin Cin!

Since the vodka will be flavored with lemon peels and simple syrup, no need to buy a premium brand. Use an inexpensive spirit like the off-brands sold in supermarkets or in Smart & Final.

Only use unblemished lemon peels. Meyer lemons have a milder quality and I like to use them when available.


Select a large jar with room for the lemon peels. In general that means filling the jar only 2/3s with vodka, leaving the remainder of the space to be filled with lemon peels.

Do not add lemon juice.

The amount of simple syrup combined with the infused vodka depends on whether you enjoy a dry or a sweet limoncello.  I suggest as you add the simple syrup, taste as you combine the two. You might want to use less simple syrup. Any simple syrup not used can be saved indefinitely for other uses in cocktails, baking and cooking.

Ingredients

20 lemons, peels only, no juice, washed, white pith and pulp removed and discarded

Fifth of vodka

1 cup white sugar

1 cup water

Directions

Place the glass jar and lid into the dishwasher or wash with hot water and soap to sterilize.

Pour in vodka no more than 2/3s of the volume of the jar.

Add lemon peels as you use lemons. If you have a lemon tree, you will be able to add many lemon peels at once.

After six or more months, strain out lemon peels for another use. (Kept in a small amount of vodka, the peels will can be sliced thin and used to flavor cocktails and desserts.)

Measure and set aside vodka.

In a saucepan add an amount of white sugar that equals the amount of vodka.

To the saucepan, add an amount of water equal to the white sugar.

Set on a low flame. Do not stir or disturb.

As bubbles rise from the bottom of the pan, the sugar will slowly dissolve. When the sugar has dissolved completely, allow simple syrup to cool.


Combine simple syrup and vodka, tasting as you add to determine the level of sweetness you prefer. Mix well.

Keep bottle in freezer. Allow bottle to sit on the counter for 15 minutes and serve icy-cold.

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