Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Ribs, Potatoes, and a Power Outage

And the cabin fun continues.

Way back in February, at the last Cabin weekend, my friend's husband declared that he wanted ribs at the summer cabin weekend. Being that I am the one usually in charge of the big dinner at said cabin weekends, I was the one to make his decree a reality.

I knew exactly what I was going to make, My Dad's Ribs. My parents are exceptional cooks, and my Dad is a master at his grill. He has been perfecting his rib strategy for years and I figured it was time for me to learn how to make them myself, and learn from the best. (I promise I am not just sucking up so they will cook me dinner when they come to visit in two weeks, I swear)

After a few email exchanges of recipes, a few phone calls containing conversations such as:

'well how much mustard powder do I use for 5 racks of ribs?'
'I don't know, whatever looks right'

I had my plan, and a fairly vague recipe. I also had to tell myself to trust my instincts and to just go with it. So I went.

My Dad says that he got the original recipe form an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper about a decade ago and has been changing and tweaking it ever since, therefore I have no clue how close the current recipe is to the original. What I do know is that it is the perfect mix of sticky, sweet, spicy, and savory, all grilled to absolute baby-back rib perfection. Served with roasted potatoes, sweet corn, and an Asian slaw (post to come), it was a summer meal to remember.
Even after all the planning that was put into this meal, there of course was a kink. The ribs were in hour-6 on the grill, the potatoes had just been put in the oven to roast, the first round of corn was just starting to boil on the stove. The sun was starting to set over Moose Point Lodge, tummies were starving, and then, the power goes out. Crap.

We went into crisis mode for a few minutes until I could think about what the heck I was going to do with two sheet pans full of raw potatoes and half cooked corn on the cob. Everyone offered their help and between the ten of us were ably to pull of this meal, even in a dark kitchen with no oven. Luckily we had a grill. I took the ribs off the grill, wrapped them in foil and put them into the warm oven. The potatoes went onto tin foil sheets onto the grill where they roasted for about another 45 minutes.

The corn hung out in the hot water and actually finished cooking. I rigged a lantern to hang from the kitchen cabinet and mixed up the coleslaw. Everything was still shockingly warm when we finally sat down to eat in the porch with candles and lanterns burning away. It was quite romantic. There were almost no leftovers so I can safely assume everyone enjoyed the dinner, and I did hear someone say "screw Famous Daves" at one point during the meal. I will take that as a compliment.

Dad's 3-2-1 Ribs
Adapted from the Minneapolis Star Tribune

I used 5 racks of baby back ribs for this, and I had the butcher cut them in half for easier handling. The measurements for the brine and the rub are nowhere near exact, but that's okay. Put in a little more of what you like, a little less of what you don't, and the ribs will be perfect for your taste buds. The 3-2-1 title refers to the time (in hours) spent on the grill in various ways: 3 hours on the grill, 2 hours wrapped in foil with liquid to steam, and 1 hour back on the grill bathing in sauce. It seems like a lot of work, but it is so, so worth it.

One handful kosher salt
One handful brown sugar
a few tablespoons of dried thyme, dried rosemary, black peppercorns, garlic powder, powdered ginger
3-4 crushed bay leaves

Put into 2 gallon Ziploc bag with ribs and add water until the ribs are covered. Let sit refrigerated overnight.

You can make as much of this as you want, put what you need on the ribs and save the rest for a later use.

2 parts onion powder
2 parts garlic powder
2 parts paprika
1 part powdered ginger
1 part hot mustard powder (or regular mustard powder, just add a little extra cayenne if you like it hot)
1 part thyme
1 part rosemary
1 part freshly ground black pepper
1/2 part salt
1/2 part cayenne
1/4 part cinnamon
1/4 part nutmeg

Mix all ingredients together, put in an airtight container until ready to use.

3 cloves of garlic
2 inch piece of ginger
1 tablespoon of Siriacha (Asian chili paste)
1 cup raspberry vinegar
1 cup honey
1/2 cup soy sauce (I used gluten-free tamari)
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1 cup olive oil

Puree garlic and ginger in food processor until it forms a paste. Add chili paste, vinegar, honey, soy sauce, and mustard and pulse to combine. Then, stream in the olive oil while processor is running to emulsify. Pour into saucepan and simmer over low heat for about 15 minutes until the sauce thickens just a bit. This can be made in advance, refrigerated, and reheated before applying to ribs.

When you are ready to start cooking, take the ribs out of the brine, and rinse well under cold water, making sure to get all the excess salt and herbs off the meat. Pat dry with paper towels and sprinkle the rub over one side of the meat. Let sit for a minute or two and then rub into meat with fingers or a fork. Flip ribs over and repeat. Let the ribs rest at room temperature while you prepare your grill.
Preheat your grill to high, and set up for indirect grilling. If you are using gas, turn the front and back burners on and leave the center burner off. If using charcoal you can put a drip pan in the center and arrange the coals on either side of the drip pan. When the grill gets hot, clean the grates and lower the temp until it hits 225-275. This is where the temperature should stay for the next 6 hours. Place your ribs on the grill over the center burner that is off, or over the drip pan, close the lid, and leave them alone.

Note: I prefer to use charcoal, but if like me, you find yourself cooking ribs at a cabin with only a gas grill at your disposal, it is possible to still get nice smoke flavor. Place some soaked wood chips (I used apple wood here) into a large piece of tin foil and wrap into a packet. Poke holes all over with a fork (including the bottom) and toss it onto an unused part of your grill.

Also, I had a ton of ribs and a very small grill. In order to keep all of the ribs over indirect heat, I had to stack them on top of each other. Since these are being grilled for such a long time, it doesn't really affect it too much, as long as you swap the ribs, bottom to top and vice-versa every 45 minutes or so. Note that this may add a bit to your cooking time since you are opening the grill more often and letting all the heat out.
After the ribs have been on the grill for three hours, it is time for stage two. For the next two hours, the ribs will basically steam on the grill, to make them absolutely tender and moist. Take the ribs and place them in a large sheet of HEAVY DUTY tin foil. Mold the tin foil up around the sides so as not to let any liquid leak out. Pour about a cup or two of chicken broth, beer, or cola (water is fine as well) into the bottom of the foil, and cover and seal with another sheet of foil. Now go have another beer (or go for a spin on the pontoon like I did).
Two hours later, it is time for the final stage. Take the ribs out of the tin foil and put them back directly on the grill, over indirect heat (the same as stage one). This time though you will be liberally applying the sauce every 15 minutes or so for one hour, until the ribs are almost falling off the bones, and are smelling heavenly.

Take the ribs off the grill, wrap them back in foil and let them rest for at least 15 minutes before eating and enjoying.

Go ahead lick your fingers, you know you want to.


Pops said...

Considering the circumstances (gas grill, power outage, etc.), it appears that you did your mentor (me) proud. The ribs look great...note that the best smoking would IMO is apple...not too overwheming and slightly sweet.
Looking forward to futher culinary adventures from Hollow Peas!

HollowPeas said...

Thanks Dad, I added the note about the type of wood in there, I did end up finding apple wood at the meat shop. Glad you approve!!

Hungry Dog said...

Ah, crisis averted. Sounds like those ribs turned out great and the whole evening was fun and cozy.

a-man-duh said...


I found your blog while stocking you on facebook. I love it and can't wait to try every single one of these recipes.

HollowPeas said...

Hungry Dog-

It just goes to show not matter how much preparing you do, you can't plan for everything. But I have a new skill set in my culinary repertoire: cooking in the dark.


So great to hear from you! I have your blog bookmarked too, nothing better than cooking with cocktails :-)

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