Last week was a major fatty-fat week. We ate, and we ate, and we ate some more. So this week, we were going to be healthy. Chicken breasts and vegetables, fish and plain rice, no cheese before dinner, fruit for dessert. That's why we bought ribs at the grocery store.
Well, we meant to be healthy. There's always next week.
We used to use a recipe for bourbon ribs from Epicurious, but as it calls for apple butter and apple cider, it's really more of a Fall-ish desert. Daniel Boulud had the answer, though, in the form of his Texas-Style Baby Back Ribs. Now, there's really nothing barbecued about these ribs. They're not slowly cooked and smoked over low, indirect heat after being rubbed with a variety of spices. These ribs are in a barbecue-style sauce, but they're not even supposed to see the grill. What can I say?-- he's French.
And honestly, we're not worried about authenticity. We actually like recipes that call for braising ribs because it results in succulent, falling-off-the-bone-tenderness. In order to accomplish this with dry heat, we would have to cook the meat at a very low temperature for a very long time. This wasn't appealing on this particular day for a number of reasons, so we figured we would braise the ribs and finish them on the grill.
Daniel's recipe had all of the elements we were looking for--a yummy sauce, no seasonally inappropriate ingredients, a wet cooking method, a cooking method that didn't require having the grill on for 5 hours, etc. We figured we'd throw the ribs on the grill for a few minutes at the end and we'd have just what we were looking for.
Now, one of the best things about eating ribs is the fact that it's perfectly acceptable to eat them with your hands. Everything is better when eaten with the hands--crabs, cake, etc. So we wanted a side that was also finger-friendly. For a veggie we came up with green beans, which are another post, and oven fries. Meat and potatoes, we love you.
Our all-time oven fries are the Bistro French Fries from Epicurious. They're tasty without being too unhealthy, and the best part is the way they're tossed with garlic and parsley when they're fresh out of the oven. The sharp tang of the garlic with the soothing green of the parsley are the perfect counterpoint to the crispy brown exterior and fluffy warm interior of the fries. They've become a part of the regular rotation in our house, and if you try them you'll see why. I especially love them with some apple cider vinegar.
Texas-Style Barbecued Baby Back Rib
(Adapted from Daniel Boulud's Braise)
For the Ribs:
-2 racks (about 4 pounds) baby back ribs, each cut in two pieces.
-1 onion, peeled and halved
-1 leek, white part only, split in half and cleaned well
-1 stalk celery
-3 juniper berries
-1 tablespoon coarse sea salt or Kosher salt
-1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the Rub:
-1 tablespoon cumin seeds
-2 teaspoons regular oregano or dried Mexican oregano
-1 tablespoon black peppercorns
-2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
-2 tablespoons chili powder
-2 teaspoons garlic powder
-2 teaspoons onion powder
-2 teaspoons dry mustard
-Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
For the Sauce:
-1 large onion, peeled and diced
-4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
-1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
-Splash of chili sauce, to taste
-1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
-1/4 cup molasses
-1/4 cup cider vinegar
-Small pinch freshly grated peeled fresh ginger root
-1 teaspoon coarse sea salt or Kosher salt
-3/4 cup espresso or strong coffee
-1 tablespoon canola oil, for searing the ribs
Place the ribs in a large pot with the onion, leek, celery, carrot, juniper berries, bay leaves, salt, and black pepper and pour in enough water to cover. Bring the water to a boil, lower to a simmer, and cook for 30 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the ribs to a plate and pat dry.
Strain the liquid in the pot through a fine-mesh sieve. Return the strained liquid to the pot, bring it to a boil, and cook, skimming the fat from the surface occasionally, until the liquid has reduced to 2 1/2 cups. This might take a lot linger than you would anticipate--as much as 45 minutes. Remove from the heat.
To make the rub, grind all the rub ingredients together in a spice grinder. Rub 2 tablespoons of the mixture over the ribs.
To make the sauce, combine all the sauce ingredients with the reduced poaching liquid.
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
In a large cast iron skillet or Dutch oven over high heat, heat the oil. Add the ribs (in batches if necessary) and sear until browned, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the sauce and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot, transfer it to the oven, and braise until the ribs are meltingly tender, about 1 hour 45 minutes.
Carefully remove the pot from the oven and transfer the ribs to a plate. Preheat the grill.
Reduce the sauce until it is the proper consistency for barbecue sauce and slather it on the ribs.
Cook the ribs quickly over the flames--just enough to caramelize the sauce without burning. Remove from the grill and serve, with extra sauce on the side if desired.
Bistro French Fries with Parsley and Garlic
(Adapted from Epicurious)
-4 medium russet potatoes (about 2 pounds), roughly peeled
-1 teaspoon peanut oil
-1 teaspoon canola oil, more if fries are not coated
-1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
-3 garlic cloves, minced
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 425°F. Cut potatoes lengthwise into 1/3-inch-thick slices, then cut lengthwise into 1/3-inch-wide strips. Submerge potatoes in large bowl filled with hot water and allow to soak for 10 minutes.
Remove the potatoes from the water and pat dry with paper towels. Combine potatoes and oil in large bowl; toss to coat well. Divide potatoes between 2 large parchment paper-lined baking sheets; spread in single layer. Bake until potatoes are golden brown and soft in the center, turning and rearranging potatoes frequently, about 50 minutes.
Transfer potatoes back to the bowl. Toss with parsley, garlic and coarse salt.