Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Spicy Smoked Ribs

Three simple steps, Brine the ribs, marinate in the spice rub, and cook slow!

Brine ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup table salt or 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 quarts of water
  • 2 racks baby back ribs (about 2 pounds each), or loin back ribs
  • Dissolve salt and sugar in the 4 quarts cold water in stockpot or large plastic container.
  • Submerge ribs in brine and refrigerate at least 1 hour. Don't go much past 2 hours and certainly not overnight. The ribs are too thin and would absorb too much salt.
  • While the ribs are brining, mix the spice rub.
  • Remove ribs from brine and thoroughly pat dry.
Spice rub:
  • 1 tablespoon hot, smoked paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder (homemade preferably, Ancho Chile Powder if not)
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt or 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
If you are looking for a less spicy rub, eliminate the cayenne, switch the paprika from hot to sweet, and double the brown sugar. If it still seems to spicy, use a regular chili powder instead of ancho or homemade.

  • When ribs are out of brine and dried, rub each side of racks with 1 tablespoon spice rub; refrigerate racks for at least an hour, or you can wrap tightly in plastic wrap and marinate overnight.
  • While the rubs are marinating, soak several pieces of lemon-sized pieces of wood. Soak for about an hour. I prefer hickory or apple wood for ribs.
Barbeque the Ribs:
  • Open bottom vents on grill about 3/4 of the way. Ignite a decent pile of charcoal. I do use briquettes because lump is hard to find and tends to be expensive. Now I use a cut-down gallon milk jug to scoop up the charcoal. I counted it a few times and a typical scoop is about 25 briquettes. For this recipe I start with two scoops, so about 50 briquettes.
  • Depending on the humidity, it should take about 20-30 minutes to get a nice light coat of ash. Push the coals to one side and put two or three pieces of the wood on top.
  • Position an disposable aluminum pan on the opposite side.
  • Put on the grill grate and cover for 5 minutes to heat up the grill grate.
  • After 5 minutes, scrape and oil the grate.
  • Lay the ribs over the aluminum pan (it's for catching any drippings) and position the top vent, wide open, right over the ribs. An alternative is to use a rack to stand them up. Just make sure they are not directly over the coals.
  • Stick a probe thermometer down the vent until it's about half between the cover and the ribs. DO NOT TRUST the thermometer in the hood of your grill. They are notoriously unreliable.
  • Grill temp should register about 350F. If it goes higher, close the bottom vent some. Once you get it settled, it should slowly drop over the next 90 minutes to 2 hours. Grill temp should be about 225F after 90 min - 2 hours. Don't let it drop much further of you might have to re-start your coals -- which sucks.
  • Flip the ribs over and reverse the racks so the one nearest the fire is now the one furthest away. Add about 10 more briquettes and another piece of wood.
  • Continue to cook for about 90 minutes, turned and switching the ribs about every 30 minutes. Only add more charcoal as needed. The grill temp should be between 225F and 250F. Adjust the lower vents as needed. I have found that if you cannot keep the grill temp down at this point, wrap the ribs tightly in aluminum foil and cook that way. There has already been enough smoke in the ribs, this cooking is more to finish the ribs to the point of being almost fall off the bone.
  • How do you tell they are done? First is temp, you should be looking for about 160F in a meaty part of the ribs. Also, when you pick them up with tongs, hold them up from the short edge with the tongs about 1/3 of the way down the rack. The rack should bend about 40 degrees. This is the nearly falling off the bone stage. If you pick it up and the rack collapses, they are a little overdone. I know A lot of people want it to be falling off, but I like a little bite left in them. I want it to come off the bone with a slight tug when I bite into it. If I need a fork to eat it because the bones come right out, then I feel that I just took away half the fun of eating ribs.
  • Once done, wrap in aluminum foil, if you haven't already done so, and let rest on a cutting board about 10 - 20 minutes.
  • To serve I like to cut into either single bone or double bone portions. I think it depends on my audience.

Parker House Rolls

These rolls turned out great on my first try. Yes, they are courtesy of Alton Brown from Good Eats. Some folks have mentioned that maybe i watch too much Food TV, but my counter is that cookbooks are great, but when the show not only explains but shows you how to do it, you can't beat it. What I like about Good Eats is that not only does he give clear directions, but he really seems to do it right in front of you. Well anyway, back to the rolls,


  • Nonstick spray
  • 8 ounces warm whole milk (100 degrees F)
  • 2 1/4 ounces sugar (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 15 ounces all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 ounces unsalted butter, 3 ounces at room temperature, 1 ounce chilled and cut into 16 small cubes

  • Spray a half sheet pan with nonstick spray and set aside. An alternative is to use a Sil-Pat mat. I liked the mat and it worked great.
  • Place the milk, sugar, yeast, flour, egg yolks, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine on low speed for 1 minute. Change the paddle attachment to the dough hook and rest the dough for 10 to 15 minutes. I did put the yeast into the milk and sugar and gave it a few minutes to bloom before adding it to the mixer. I was worried about the yeast and the salt. I know, I know, probably nothing to worry about, but everything else I have read is to let it bloom before letting it near salt. Anyway, it worked.
  • Add 2 ounces of the room temperature butter and mix on low speed. Increase the speed to medium and mix until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and you are able to gently pull the dough into a thin sheet that light will pass through, about 8 minutes.
  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and roll and shape with hands to form a large ball. Return dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside in a warm, dry place to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  • Remove the dough from the bowl and roll into a 16 by 3-inch log. Use a bench knife to cut the dough into 1 3/4-ounce portions, about 16 rolls. Using your loosely cupped hand, roll each portion on the counter until they tighten into small balls. Working 1 at a time, use a rolling pin to roll each small ball into a 3-inch circle or oval. Use the side of your hand or a small dowel to make an indentation across the middle of the circle. Place a small pat of chilled butter into the center of the indentation, then fold in half and gently press to seal the edges. Place the rolls, top-side down, onto the prepared sheet pan, spacing them evenly. Melt the remaining 1 ounce butter and brush the tops of the rolls. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, dry place to rise until doubled in size, 30 to 40 minutes. I did have one problem here. I couldn't put all 16 rolls on one sheet pan. I squeezed in 12 and put the other 4 in the freezer.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Remove the plastic wrap and bake until the rolls reach an internal temperature of 200 degrees F, 8 to 10 minutes. Rotate the pan halfway through baking.
  • Remove the pan to a cooling rack and cool for 2 to 3 minutes before serving.

They came out great. My wife made a suggestion of hitting them with a little more melted butter once they came out of the oven. I'll try that next time.