Monday, September 28, 2009

Sticky Balsamic Ribs

When Jim and I took our engagement photos, the photographer asked Jim to look down and talk to me...about anything. Jim looked like he was drawing a blank, and then he said to me "The Bronco's play on Sunday and experts say..." I didn't hear what he said after that. I was laughing so hard. Our photographer quickly caught on and anytime during the day he wanted to see that "sparkle" in Jim's eye, he would strike up a conversation about the Broncos. Needless to say, Jim is passionate about football and especially the Denver Broncos. Another way to get Jim's eyes to sparkle, mention BBQ Ribs. And I'm sure after the Broncos, and after BBQ Ribs, you mention ME and his eyes will light up too!

Today, because it's Sunday and the Broncos are playing, and because I'm leaving on a work trip for five days, I'm making Ribs so all Jim's favorite things can collide in one day. It will be a joy overload!

I'm using a recipe from the July 2009 issue of Gourmet Magazine, a recipe developed by food editor, Ian Knauer. I like the bones of this recipe (pun intended) but because of what I have on hand and the time I have, I'm actually not following this recipe exact...but since when do I follow a recipe exact? Ha!

I believe the success of these ribs...any ribs... lies in a straightforward three-part process. Long marinating in a sweet, garlicky rub ensures the ribs soak up loads of flavor. Next, a leisurely roast in the oven makes them fall-off-the-bone tender. Finally, a mop of balsamic-brown-sugar glaze and a few minutes on the grill gives the ribs a whiff of smokiness and caramelizes their edges.

Here is what you need to gather for the ribs: 8 large garlic cloves, minced. 2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary - I used a mix of dried and fresh. 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar, dark is preferred but I only had regular brown sugar. 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar and 1 teaspoon cayenne.

A note about ribs: Recipe calls for 8 lb baby back pork ribs but if you can only get larger ribs (4 racks), you will need more glaze; use 12 large garlic cloves, 3 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary, 3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar, 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne, 1 1/2 tablespoons salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper. Ribs can be roasted and glaze can be made 1 day ahead and chilled separately (covered once cool). Bring to room temperature, about 30 minutes, before glazing and grilling. Ribs can be broiled 3 to 4 inches from heat (instead of grilled) about 8 minutes.

The first thing to do is to peel off the membrane from the back of the ribs, yes it's gross, but not as gross as touching fish skin! Removing the membrane is an important first step.

To make the marinade, mince and mash garlic to a paste with 1 tsp salt.

Stir together with rosemary,

brown sugar, vinegar,

cayenne, 1 Tbsp salt, and 1 tsp pepper.

Put ribs in a big roasting pan and rub the marinade evenly all over ribs.

Don't be afraid to get right in there with you hands!

My addition is about 2-3 tablespoons of dark soy sauce. Marinate, chilled, 8 to 24 hours.

I'm going to cook these LOW and SLOW! Sunday before we go to church, I preheat the oven to 170 degrees and let the ribs cook for 3 hours, uncovered.

After 3 hours in the oven.

Then when we return to the house I add 1/2 cup water to the pan, turn the heat up to 400, cover the pan tightly with foil and braise for 2 hours, until meat is falling off the bone.

Ribs after one hour at high temperature.

Remove ribs from the roasting pan and cover with foil.

Add 1 cup hot water to the roasting pan and scrape up brown bits.

Add 1 cup balsamic vinegar and 1/2 cup packed brown sugar and continue to stir and scrape.

Next, I used my gravy skimmer to separate the fat from the drippings and sauce.

Transfer liquid to a saucepan and bring to a boil.

I let this violently boil for about 15 minutes until it was reduced to about one cup of liquid.

Prepare grill for direct-heat cooking over medium-heat.

Brush some of the glaze onto both sides of ribs. Grill, turning occasionally, until ribs are hot and grill marks appear, about 6 minutes.

You could say these are FALL OFF THE BONE good.

Brush ribs with more glaze and serve remaining glaze on the side.

Jim and I have been talking about a "Rib Cook-Off" and I'm sure to WIN with this recipe. I loved the sticky and sweet flavor - these are finger licking good. Next time I would add a little more cayenne pepper, the ribs had a slow heat, but I would have liked them a tad bit spicier.

I have one more note. I have labeled this post "meat, ribs, easy" because I promise you that this recipe is super easy. Cooking ribs sounds so intimidating, but I swear to you there are three steps. Remember to plan ahead... buy the meat a day or two early, make a rub and let them marinade overnight...then you put them in the oven! And walk away! Finish on the grill, or not, you could also finish them under a broiler. I wouldn't lie to you. Impress your friends, impress your spouse, impress your neighbors... make these for your next gathering (or football game) and I am confident you will be named "Champ of Ribs."

Friday, September 25, 2009

Creamy Chipotle Ranch Dressing

As you may have heard, Texan's tend to want to dip everything in Ranch Dressing. When I have meetings at hotels, I try to put some sort of vinaigrette salad dressing on the table along guess it... Ranch. I like to dress up Ranch at my house. Here is a little something different than my Jalapeno Ranch Dressing. For Creamy Chipotle Ranch Dressing you will need the following ingredients: garlic, salt, mayo, buttermilk, chipotle peppers in adobe, cilantro, scallions and lime zest.

Start by adding 2 minced garlic cloves to a mortar and pestle along with the salt.

Blend together to make a coarse paste.

In another bowl, add 1/3 cup of mayonnaise.

Add 2 Tablespoons buttermilk.

When a recipe calls for buttermilk and you don't have any, here's what you can do: for every cup of buttermilk, mix 1 tablespoon vinegar with 1 cup milk. Let the mixture sit for 10 minutes or so. The combination will come close to the tangy creaminess of buttermilk.

What is buttermilk, anyway?

Real buttermilk is the sour liquid left over from the process of churning cream into butter. That's usually not what you get when you buy a carton at the store, however. Most commercial buttermilk is made by adding a culture to milk (like you would to make cheese). As the culture converts lactose to lactic acid, the milk thickens and sours. (Commercial sour cream is made by a similar process.) Info from cookthink

Chipotle peppers can most likely be found on the Mexican food aisle of your grocery store in a small can. The peppers come in adobe sauce. Mince one small chipotle with adobe and add to the bowl. Careful, these are hot!

Mince a handful of cilantro and add 3 tablespoons to the mixture.

Thinly slice one scallion, the green and white parts. Add to bowl.

Using one of my favorite kitchen tools, zest a medium lime until you have one teaspoon.

Add the garlic and salt paste, stir to mix. Voila, a creamy homemade chipotle ranch dressing! Serve with EVERYTHING in Texas!!!

Creamy Chipotle Ranch Dressing
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons buttermilk
½ to 1 small chipotle in adobe, minced
3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves
1 scallion, green and white pats, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon freshly grated lime zest

Mash minced garlic and salt together to make a coarse paste. Add remaining ingredients, mix together for a creamy dressing and serve on everything.

Here are some of my other favorite dipping sauces:
Salsa Veracruz
Ninfa's Green Salsa
French Onion Dip
Spinach-Green Chile Dip

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Umami Burger

When I was asked to supply burgers for a baby shower, I was determined to find THE best burger recipe. My brother swears by a burger recipe he uses where he puts a square of mozzarella in the center of the patty, then grills. I was looking for a classic recipe with an edge. Well I think I found it. Above are the ingredients I used: 80/20 ground chuck (per Bobby Flay) and minced garlic, a bit of Turkey meat and...what's that back in the corner?

Fish Sauce? Shhh.... it's a SECRET! While on my online hunt for my new hamburger recipe I came across this post by White on Rice Couple. They describe this burger that they have been making and how guests of thiers claim it to be the best darn burger ever. Someone tagged it as the "magic meat" because of the magical flavor sensations that everyone experienced when they bit into one of their patties. The name of the burger comes from this new topic of Umami, which describes the rich and savory taste in foods.

I was making A LOT of hamburgers so this recipe has been tripled. I had one pound of ground turkey.

6 lbs of ground chuck.

6 garlic cloves minced.

One and a half teaspoons of sugar.

Then I use my motar and pestle to grind together.

Next I add three teaspoons of black pepper, then mush it all together.

Add the secret ingredient, four and a half tablespoons of fish sauce and add to the ground meat.

Don’t be afraid of the fish sauce. Understand the crucial umami factor that fish sauce brings to food and it will become your best pantry fiend. So often, the powerful, pungent punch of fish sauce can be intimidating to cooks who aren’t familiar with it’s marinading magic.

Fish sauce is essentially the salty liquid from the fermentation of small fish and salt. But when used in small quantities, fish sauce brings fabulous umami savoriness to the burgers. It won’t taste like a “fish sauce burger.” It just taste like a darn great burger! You’ll be a fish sauce marinade convert very quickly, one taste of these burgers. - White on Rice Couple

Mix together gently with your hands and let it sit for 20 minutes, marinading.

Form meat into balls, then flatten into patties. Using your thumb, make an indent in the center of the patty because the patty will puff up when cooked.

On to the giveaway! I can't tell you how excited I was everytime a new comment came in on my blog. Comments in general are always welcomed and I really enjoy reading your feedback on my posts. But WOW, as a collective group we have a lot of fantastic things to celebrate. Thank you for sharing with me.

The random integer generator picked a winner and out of everyone who left me a comment it was lucky number 4. Sarah is "Celebrating the fact that all the celebrating around here is over for awhile. After 15 birthdays (no lie) in the last 6 weeks, I'm ready for a break."

Congrats Sarah! You can take your break from partying and munch of some yummy treats as well. E-mail me Sarah at homewithmandy @