Saturday, April 6, 2013

Ribs 101 By Mad Coyote Joe

Ribs 101
By Mad Coyote Joe

            When it comes to cooking over an open flame many foods are revered.  Chicken, steak and brisket are all held in the highest esteem.  But the benchmark for a grilling guru has to be ribs and pork ribs in particular.
            For the beginner or someone that doesn’t have the time to work a barbecue masterpiece, baby-back ribs are fine. But for the pinnacle of the smoking world, spare ribs are where it’s at.
            Spareribs like all legendary regional or ethnic cooking traditions are based in a few realities.  People of limited means use a product that is inexpensive and readily available where they live.  Spare ribs are tougher and fattier than baby-backs.  So they cost less.  This why poor people in the American south, spent the time it took, to figure out how to make them so wonderful.
            Making perfect ribs every time is easy if you follow the simple rules below.  The questions are fuel, sauce verses rubs and how do we make them fall off the bone tender.  Once you have these basics down then you can add your own touches creating your own masterpiece.  You too, will then be the stuff, of family cooking legends.
            When thinking of cuts of both beef and pork I put them into two categories, tough and tender.  Tender cuts are those that are seared rapidly, retaining the natural juices and flavor.  They do not need long slow cooking.  They include steaks, chops, tenderloins and rib roasts.  When talking about cooking meat I do not think in terms of time but instead internal temperature.  I measure this with an instant read, digital meat thermometer placed at the center of the thickest part of whatever cut I am cooking.
            With beef the tender cuts are those that you would serve rare or medium rare, which means an internal temperature of 124° to 132°.  With tender pork cuts we look at two temperatures.  Tenderloins are now being served pink in the center, which is an internal temperature of 145°.  For other tender cuts of pork done, which is fully cooked but still very juicy, is 165°
            For both pork and beef tough cuts are those that benefit from long, slow cooking.   Pot roast, pork shoulder, chuck roast, seven bone roast, flank steak, brisket and spare ribs all fall into this category.  These cuts are less expensive and traditionally have a higher fat content.  They need to be cooked to an internal temperature of 192°f. 
            What happens in the long slow cooking process? We’ve all taken a roast out of the oven that was so tough that it felt like rubber, the proverbial “tough as an old boot.” Think about a dishtowel that is slowly being twisted.  This is what happens in the slow cooking process, the fibers in the meat get tighter and tighter.  Around 160°f if you would cut into the meat it would look fully cooked but too tough to eat.  At this point many people give up, believing the meat is ruined.  But put it back it the oven, grill or smoker and continue cooking and when it reaches an internal temperature of exactly 192°f the collagen is released.  The meat literally breaks, the fibers in the meat, like twisting a dishtowel, have turned so far that they rip apart.  At this point the now ripped fibers soak up the fat and collagen giving it that fork tender, mouth-watering flavor.
            People often ask me if I pre-boil my ribs… NO, NO, NO, NO, NEVER!  Boiling removes flavor.  I start my fire either in my smoker or on one side of my grill.  I place the ribs as close to the coals as I can get them without being directly over them.  Then I stand there and watch, turning often.  As soon as I get some caramelizing on the outside of the ribs I move the ribs as far away from the heat as I can and close the lid, making sure the vents are open.  The rule of thumb with pork is low and slow.  If your smoker has a thermometer try to maintain 190° to 225°.  With ribs you do not need a thermometer.  You need to cook them with the right fuel for the proper amount of time.  Keep an eye on the ribs and if using a basting sauce, baste and turn every 45 minutes or so.  You will see the ribs tighten up and then the bones will start to stick out the meat.  When you can twist a rib bone and it easily comes out the meat, clean the ribs are done.
            Cooking with mesquite wood is an art form unto itself.  I suggest you avoid it as it often results in a smoky flavor that is so strong that it can ruin the meat.  Instead I use pure mesquite, chunk charcoal, not briquettes.  Chunk charcoal will give a nice light smoky flavor that is not overpowering.  Now we get you your first set of personal choices, additional smoke flavorings.  Here are a few ideas for you to think about.  Try adding some wood chips in the last half hour of smoking.  Cherry, hickory and alder are all sweet woods that add a specific flavor.  They need to be soaked for an hour or so before adding them to the hot coals.  What about soaking the wood chips in wine or rum or whiskey.  All of these will impart a different flavor.  How about adding other flavors to the wood chips.  Kitchen scraps are great, orange peels, little bits of onion or garlic, apple, peach or any fruit all add flavor.  Give them all a try. You’ll be surprised. 
            Now we need to think about rubs and sauces.  Rubs have two jobs, they flavorize and tenderize.  Traditionally they are a combination of what we call flavor accelerators.  Flavor accelerators are salts, sugars and acids.  All of which cause you to derive more flavor out of whatever they are added to.  These are not called sprinkles or dusts.  These rubs need to be worked into the meat.  I rub them well into the surface of the meat and then wrap the ribs in plastic and let the rub work into the meat overnight.  This tenderizes the meat and starts the flavorizing process.  Although I don’t like barbecue sauce in general, I do use a basting sauce, which also adds flavor while tenderizing (see recipe below).  The last bit of advice is to keep a few notes.  If you toss a quick rub together and add a few things to the smoker and the ribs are the best you’ve ever had, and then you can’t remember what you did.  It will haunt you for the rest of your cooking days… trust me I know!

Basic Barbecue Rub
This is a good place to start.  Give it a try.  Then think about adding a few flavors of your own.

3/4 C Dark brown sugar
1/4 C Mild New Mexico red chile powder
1/4 C Mild paprika
2-1/2 TBL Kosher salt
2-1/2 TBL Fresh-ground black pepper
1 TBL Granulated onion
1/2 TBL Granulated garlic
1/2 TSP Cayenne pepper

Mix and store in a covered container. Rub into ribs or chicken just before cooking.

Missouri Basting Sauce
This sauce will make ribs, brisket and pork shoulder, tender and delicious.
It will keep fresh in the refrigerator for 2 months.

1-3/4 C White vinegar
2 TBL Tabasco® Habanero sauce
1 TSP Kosher salt
1 TSP Fresh-ground black pepper
1 TBL Dark Brown sugar
1 TSP Sugar

1. Mix in a glass bowl and cover.
2. Baste ribs while slow smoking.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Spicy Sage and Dark Mexican Beer, Brined Pork Loin

Spicy Sage and Dark Mexican Beer, Brined Pork Loin

The use of Mexican Beer combined with the red chile, brown sugar and molasses in this marinade adds a depth of flavor.  Combine that with the slow spit roasting and wow, that’s the way roasted pork was meant to be eaten.

5 cups hot water
½ cup dark brown sugar
½ cup kosher salt
8 to 10 cloves garlic, chopped
2 Tbl. dark molasses
1 Tbl. fresh ground black pepper
1 Tbl. crushed red chile
2 tsp. dried sage
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 or 2 drops liquid smoke
3 bottles cold Negra Modelo, or your favorite dark beer
1-3 lb. boneless pork loin, excess fat trimmed

In a large non-reactive bowl whisk together the hot water, brown sugar and salt until fully dissolved.  Whisk in the garlic, molasses, pepper, red chile, sage, mustard and liquid smoke.  Then stir in the beer.  Place the brine in the refrigerator for 1 hour then place the pork loin, in the brine.  Set a plate on top to keep the loin submerged. Brine for 24 hours. Spit-roast the pork until it reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees.  Allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing. 
Serves 8-10

Sonoran BLT Salad and the Caesar Salad

I get asked, quite often, " What do you do with the left over bread?"
Sonoran BLT Salad
This is my Sonoran twist on the Italian favorite, Panzanella.  It’s a great summer time salad.  When we take it to a barbecue we just call it BLT Salad. If we serve it at dinner… well that’s a different matter.  It’s then called Sonoran Panzanella.

4 cups assorted small tomatoes, like cherry, grape and yellow pear
2 Tbl. Canola oil for frying
4 cups good crusty French or Italian bread cut into ¾ inch cubes and dried overnight
6 slices thick-cut hardwood smoked bacon, chopped and then fried, drippings reserved
1 poblano chile, roasted skinned and chopped
½ avocado, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 cup watercress leaves, rinsed well
2 cups romaine lettuce, chopped

¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Black pepper
2 Tbl. *Chiffonade of basil leaves
1 Tbl. *Chiffonade of mint leaves
3 Tbl. Extra virgin olive oil

Fresh grated Parmesan cheese for topping

Cut the tomatoes into bite size pieces.  I cut the cherry tomatoes in quarters and the smaller tomatoes in half.  In a hot pan, fry half of the tomatoes in the canola oil until they start to brown and dry out a little, remove from pan and set aside to cool.  In a large serving bowl, toss the dried bread in the bacon drippings.  In a separate bowl whisk together all dressing ingredients, except the oil.  Then drizzle in the oil while whisking to emulsify.  Add all other salad ingredients to the bread and toss well.  Drizzle in the dressing and toss again.  Serve on chilled plates topped with a little fresh grated Parmesan cheese and a good, cold, crisp, Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris.
Serves 6 to 8

Chiffonade is a fancy French cook term for laying leaves on top of one another, rolling them up like a cigarette and then cutting them, the short way very finely.  Heck you’ve probably been chiffonading for years and didn’t even know it!
Caesar Salad

This famous salad is not Italian, but rather a true treasure of Baja.  Originally from Tijuana, Mexico, it was created by the famous chef Alex-Caesar Cardini, who first called it “Aviator’s Salad”, in honor of the pilot’s from Rockwell Field Air Base in San Diego California that frequented his restaurant.  Later it was called The “Caesar” Salad in honor of Cardini.  Many recipes call for lemon juice but I believe this original recipe which uses Key limejuice is has a much fresher taste.

10-12 Fresh romaine lettuce leaves
1-cup Garlic croutons
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Caesar dressing;
3 cloves fresh garlic
6 flat anchovy fillets, drained and minced  or 1 Tbl Anchovy paste
* Yolk of 1 fresh large egg
1 Tbl. fresh squeezed key limejuice
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of salt
Pinch of crushed red chile
1/4-cup extra virgin olive oil

Rinse lettuce well and dry in a salad spinner. 
Tear into bite size pieces and place in the refrigerator for at least 1/2 hour.  Refrigerating makes the lettuce crisper.
Rub the salad bowl with the garlic and then mash it into a paste.  Add the anchovies, egg yolk, limejuice, Worcestershire sauce, pepper, salt and red chile.  Mash and mix well.  Then whisk in the olive oil. 
Toss together lettuce, half of the croutons and half of the cheese.  Toss again.  Place salad on serving plates and sprinkle top with remaining cheese and croutons.  Offer fresh ground black pepper.

*Authors note; Eggs can contain dangerous bacteria, if the eggs in your
area have been known to have this problem, or if you are concerned at all,
Substitute eggs with 1 Tbl. heavy cream.  The flavor change is minimal.

Serves 4

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Snake Update!

 Last week I posted that the snakes are out and about.  I offered this picture of a Bull snake that was near  our house.  I was sent a few messages asking if that was a Rattler or if Bull snakes are poison.
Look at this picture (below) of a Rattle snake that was on my street today. Close but different and no, Bull snakes are not poison.
Rattlesnakes can strike more than their body length and the smaller ones are more deadly.  

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Grill-Roasted Babaganouj

Grill-Roasted Babaganouj

By roasting this in your grill, you get the light smoky flavor of barbecues of the past.

2 Medium eggplants
1/2 C Tahini
4 CLOVES Garlic, minced fine
1/2 BUNCH Italian parsley, rinsed and chopped fine
Juice of 1 large lemon
3 Scallions, chopped fine
2 TSP Kosher salt
1 TSP Fresh-ground black pepper
1 TBL Extra virgin olive oil

1. Light the grill and turn one burner on medium. Adjust heat until temperature reaches 400 degrees.
2. Cut stems off the eggplant and pierce the skin in several places with a fork. Place the eggplant in an oven-safe baking dish and slow roast in grill over indirect heat for 45 minutes, or until the eggplant has wilted and they are totally soft.
3. Remove from grill and allow to cool. Separate the peel from the insides. In a mixing bowl, mash the insides well and stir in the Tahini, garlic, parsley, lemon juice, scallions, salt, and pepper.
4. Place in the refrigerator and chill well. Drizzle with a good olive oil before serving.

Tabouli Salad with Cucumber Yogurt Sauce

Tabouli Salad with Cucumber Yogurt Sauce
Tabouli is perfect for those days when it's just too hot for a big meal.  Add a few pita bread, a little feta cheese, some good, Kalamata olives and our Cucumber Yogurt sauce and you've got a great, light Middle Eastern meal on your hands.  Add grill roasted lamb and it's a feast!

    Tabouli salad
1 C Bulghar wheat, dry
1-1/2 C Water, boiling
1-1/2 TSP Kosher salt
1/4 C Olive oil, extra virgin
1/4 C Lemon juice, fresh-squeezed
1 TBL Lime juice, fresh-squeezed
2 CLOVES Garlic, finely minced
1/2 TSP Mint, dried
1 C Plum tomatoes, diced
1 C English cucumber, diced
1/2 C Scallions, chopped fine
1 BUNCH Italian parsley, chopped fine
2 TSP Kosher salt
  Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
    Cucumber yogurt sauce
1-1/2 C English cucumber, peeled
1/2 PINT Sour cream
1/2 PINT Yogurt
2 CLOVES Garlic, minced fine
1 TBL Mint, dried

1. Pour the bulghar into a mixing bowl, then add the salt and pour in the boiling water.
2. Cover with plastic and let soak for 30 minutes.
3. Whisk dressing together and stir into the bulghur.
4. Allow flavors to blend in the refrigerator for three hours.
5. Carefully stir in finishing ingredients.
6. Taste to correct seasoning.
1. Shred cucumber with a cheese grater.
2. Combine all ingredients and allow to chill in the refrigerator for a few hours before serving.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Open Mic Excitement and Danger!

Open Mic Excitement and Danger!
Easter Open Mic was very interesting.  Only a few dropped by to listen, but around three, an arm fell of a Saguaro and just missed a patron.  Jeff the manager and I went outside to take a look.
Thirty minutes after Jeff posed for this picture, the table to his left was smashed by another arm falling!
Good thing Jeff was out of the way.  The table and the spot where Jeff was standing was buried under the massive Saguaro, it would have crushed him!