St. Louis Spare Ribs

Ribs on the grill at 12 noon

This Memorial Day weekend (2011) I wanted to do something different than last year’s Memorial Day Memphis Style. I was inspired by a video on YouTube called “St Louis Spare Ribs” and the information I read on the BBQ Pit Boys website, Barbecue Web.

Preparation

I started by buying 9 lbs (2 slabs) of spare ribs from the butcher on Friday before Memorial Day. I had them trim the ribs “St. Louis style” which means they cut off the “knuckles” or the gristly rib tips on the edge opposite the “baby back” cut.

On Sunday, I started at 8 AM by trimming the flap of meat and fat off the meat side and removing the membrane on the bone side. I also cut each slabs in half. Then I spread on a thin layer of regular yellow mustard – the key ingredient to tangy St. Louis barbecue taste – and the rub.  Then I put the ribs in the refrigerator at 9 AM to let them get happy for 3 hours. I planned on starting the low and slow cooking at 12 noon.

For my rub I made a variation of the Amazing Ribs, Meathead’s Memphis Dust Rub Recipe:

3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup paprika
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup garlic powder
2 tablespoons ground black pepper
2 tablespoons ground ginger powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 teaspoons rosemary powder

I set up my grill with the left burner on low and a 13×10 drip pan on the right. I filled the pan with about 1/2 inch of apple juice, put the ribs in a rib stand, and put the rib stand into the pan. I added the rib stand this year because I thought the tilted grate method last year didn’t expose the ribs enough to the heat and moisture. This year I found the perfect sized pan, but the problem with the stand is that it’s too big to go into the pan the correct way – so that the ribs rest on the sides of the stand. So, I had to improvise and I put a strip of tin foil down the middle of the inverted stand and let the ribs drape over the strip.

Cooking

Ribs at 5 PM

The key is 225°F for five to six hours. Open the lid sparingly (get it spare ribs, sparingly). As Meathead says, if the lid is open, you aint cooking.

My grill isn’t the most consistent thing on the market and I admit I’m cheap when it comes to thermometers so I just use an oven thermometer. My grill will vary by as much as 50 degrees with less than a 1/4 inch turn of the dial. I have to check it every 1/2 hour to make sure it’s not too hot or too cool.

Results

I cooked the ribs for a total of 5 hours. I flipped the ribs in the stand at 2 hours in and 4 hours. In hour 4 I added some locally made, but pre-cooked, sausage. At 5 PM I took a knife to the ribs to test the tenderness – they weren’t tender.

I took the ribs in and put them in a 350°F oven for 20 minutes. That didn’t help. They came out tough.

All that work and money up in smoke, literally. I give up. No more ribs from me.

On the flip side, the sausage was tough but good. The corn wasn’t quite what my wife was aiming for, but the pinto beans came out pretty good.

Luigi’s, not so much

Here is the review I posted on OpenTable.com about Luigi’s Patio Ristorante:

We we’re seated in the ‘villa’ section which has concrete floors and a vaulted wooden ceiling. It was nicely decorated, but 1 large party made enough noise in the room that my wife and I could hardly hear each other. My comment to her was, ‘How much does it cost to sit out in the patio area.’ (ambiance 3 stars)

We had two servers stopping by every 5 minutes (1 in training maybe?) – we felt a little rushed. That coupled with the noise was the opposite of a relaxed Italian meal. (service 3 stars)

The food tasted fresh; however, both our meals were not what we expected: too much of one ingredient not enough of the traditional ingredients. (food 3 stars)

Now we know Luigi’s, not so much.

The restaurant was beautifully decorated. The servers were attentive. The food was good.

Design quirks like concrete floors and wooden ceilings make putting 20 people a mistake.

The microscopic table combined with a server in training and trainer hovering right behind made us conscious of two servers there at all times.

My veal scallopini (Saltimbocca alla Romana) came with scalloped potatoes covered with a cheese blanket and chefs vegetables. The veal had some breading and was smothered in a prosciutto and sage sauce; odd. My wife ordered the chicken parmigiana (Pollo Parmigiana allo Stile di Luigi). It was chicken smothered in a deep red tomato sauce. It was a little too much. She said maybe serve the chicken on top of a bed of pasta with a little sauce on  the side.

We also kept comparing it to other restaurants in the area. Needless to say, there were other places that we like more. So we decided, Luigi’s, not so much.

It’s Turkey Time

It’s that time of the year when the leaves turn colors, and the wind blows, and the drizzling rain starts on Friday and ends on Sunday. It’s Fall in Texas. It’s time to cook turkey! It’s Thanksgiving, or, at least it’s one week until Thanksgiving, and I bought a turkey fryer from Academy (COOKOUT SUPPLY COMPANY ELECTRIC TURKEY FRYER BY CAJUN INJECTOR) to make deep-fried Thanksgiving dinner.

The last thing I wanted to do was cook Thanksgiving dinner with an untested method on one of the most important meals we have all year. So, I got a sacrificial chicken and I fried it with the fryer a week in advance. It came out pretty good, but I learned something. Don’t be timid when injecting the bird. Don’t be afraid of tearing the flesh as this will leave holes for hot oil to seep in to and cook the hard to reach parts (near the leg joints). Anyway, here is a video of the chicken. Come back after Thanksgiving to see the real challenge.

UPDATE:

I did a little research to find the best oil to cook with. The “All About Cooking Oils” page from missvickie.com was helpful. I don’t know how old that page is or how long it will stay up so I made a copy of it in PDF form.

Memorial Day Memphis Style

This is going to be a social media experiment. I want to share my experience as I cook ribs, and maybe get some feedback along the way. I’ll update this post along the way.

It’s Memorial Day weekend and I want to try a new rib rub, Meathead’s Memphis Dust Rub Recipe. I already made wet Memphis ribs back in February, but now it’s hot outside (95 F) and it’s a holiday weekend. Next to July 4th, I think Memorial Day is the best day to bbq. So, this time I’m going dry and rubbed; sauce will be on the table.

Ingredients

3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup paprika
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup garlic powder
2 tablespoons ground black pepper
2 tablespoons ground ginger powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 teaspoons rosemary powder

2 quarts apple juice

Sides

Now, what sides? On Friday, I asked my wife if she would make potato salad. She wanted to make a pasta salad recipe that she found online. I thought maybe a 3-bean salad or corn or baked beans would make a good side dish. That’s how our ‘chat’ online usually goes: we throw out a bunch of ideas and pick one. Well, this time we picked them all. Saturday we went to the store and bought beans for the salad, corn, pasta, fresh parsley, fresh rosemary and a bunch of other things to make all but the baked beans.

Oh yeah, I also bought a big disposable roasting pan. I suggest that you get a slab of ribs and put it in the pan to see if it fits. I made that mistake with the brisket last year. I also bought mesquite chips and a small disposable pan to put them in.

Preparation

Saturday night while I was preparing the ribs, she was busy making 3-bean salad and pasta salad – from scratch! She was cutting herbs, cooking pasta and beans and bacon, mixing, tasting – hum. That was so time consuming and exhausting that the potato salad would have to wait until Sunday.

My rib rub was a little different from the Memphis Dust ingredients. First, I couldn’t find ginger powder or rosemary powder and I didn’t feel like making them myself. I added about 1 tablespoon ground cumin instead. Second, 1/2 cup paprika is a lot! I ran out at 1/4 cup so that’s all I used. The final rub was plenty spicy so I left out cayenne.

I sprinkled the rub on the meat side of the ribs, wrapped them up in plastic-wrap, and put them in the refrigerator to marinate overnight.

Grill

Ribs on the grill

I have a three-burner gas grill so indirect cooking isn’t too hard. I just turn on the left burner and place the pan on the right side of the grill. It is important to let the grill heat up and stabilize between 220 and 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

I poured about 1 quart of apple juice into the roasting pan, placed it on the right side of the grill, and heated the grill until it stabilized at about 220 degrees.

As you can see from the picture, the pan was a little too big for grill and I had to shape it a little to get it to fit.

Every few hours I would check the apple juice level and added more mesquite chips. You don’t want to open the lid too much because it lowers temperature and lets out all of the smokey, steamy, apple goodness. I think it took about 5 hours for my ribs to finish cooking.

Results

Dinner table set with rib feast

It was hot outside that day – at least 95 degrees. I tried to make a video, but I don’t like it too much.

All in all everything turned out pretty good. The ribs were tender, the potato salad was creamy, the bean salad was crisp, and the pasta salad was still good (after more ranch dressing).

As for the social media part, well, there wasn’t any. I guess I don’t have a big enough following because no one tweeted any suggestions. No one posted on my facebook wall how long to cook ribs or what temperature. And my video only got about 70 views in 1 year, and I was probably half of those.

As for take aways I’d say if you want social media interaction for anything you need keep a lot of people interested. You also need to put out the word well in advance. I made a good rub. I cooked the ribs for enough time to make them tender. Next time I either need a bigger grill or smaller ribs and pan.

Watch my video “Memorial Day Memphis Style

Memphis Ribs in Winter?

In my defense I offer two arguments: 1) it has been about 8 months since I made brisket, 2) tomorrow is the Super Bowl and (2.5) we had good weather today. I wanted some ribs so I found a recipe from Marlboro of all places and decided what the heck.

There is something you need to know about BBQ: all barbecue is not the same. And for god’s sakes don’t slap some barbecue sauce made in New Jersey on a rack of ribs and call it barbecue. I didn’t learn about barbecue styles until I came to Texas, but apparently there are 4 styles in the US.

Memphis style comes wet or dry. The wet is mopped with a mustard and vinegar sauce while cooking. The dry is made with a rub and not mopped.

Carolina style is rubbed and mopped with a vinegar sauce. Variants range from North to South Carolina.

Kansas City style depends on the sauce. The rubbed meat is smoked and then  served with sweet sauce at the table.

Texas is so big it has 4 regions of it own. From experience I can say Texas style is cooked with a rub and then a tomato-based sauce at the table – if you really need sauce. In fact they will probably call you a Yankee if you sauce your bbq; it’s all about the rub in Texas.

Well, I’m made wet and sloppy Memphis style ribs today. I rubbed them this morning and let them setup for 5 hours in the refrigerator. Then I made the mop sauce when I lit the gas grill. I setup the grill for indirect cooking as much as one can on a gas grill. For ribs its not really about the low and slow method. These ribs were supposed to cook within 2 hours.

Rub Ingredients

1/4 cup paprika
1 1/2 Tbsp black pepper
1 1/2 Tbsp dark brown sugar firmly packed
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp celery salt
1 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tsp dry mustard
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
6 lbs pork ribs (I use two 3lbs racks of baby back ribs)

Mop Ingredients

1/4 cup prepared mustard
1 cup cider vinegar
1 tsp salt

The secret to tender ribs is to pull off the membrane on the back. Make a cut parallel with the ribs in the membrane and insert the knife under the membrane and gently pull it up. Then pull the rest of the membrane up with your fingers.

Combine the rub ingredients and rub about 2/3 on the ribs. Wrap in plastic-wrap and put in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

When you wait for the grill to come to 200° F, combine the mop ingredients and set aside.

Cook the ribs 1 hour meat-side up then mop the top and let cook for another 30 minutes. Flip them over and mop and let cook for 30 minutes. Continue mopping and cooking for 30 minutes until you run out of mop sauce or the ribs are done. Be sure to check the temperature. I try to keep mine at 200° F the whole time. It took my ribs about 2 1/2 hours to cook.

I served my ribs with baked potatoes and baked beans.

German Sauerbraten – Patience Is Key To Perfection

Sauerbraten

Sauerbraten or “sour roast meat” is a dish that is marinated in a vinegar and herb solution for several days to break down the toughness of the meat. After marinating, the meat is cooked for several hours like a traditional roast. Traditionally, sauerbraten is served with potato dumplings (Kartoffelklöße or Kartoffelkloesse) and red cabbage (Rotkohl).

I love sauerbraten and I wanted to share it with my new family. Because it takes 3 days to marinate and 3 hours to cook it requires patience, but I think it is worth it.

I started with a recipe from Cooks.com. My technique is to start with a recipe and make it my own by modifying it a little. For my version I chose bottom round of beef and added some uncooked bacon and Merlot wine to the marinade. I also warmed the marinade to a simmer to let all the flavors come out at the start. Then I let it sit in my refrigerator for 3 days. I turned the meat over every night.

When it was time to cook the meat I saved the marinade and brazed the meat until lightly brown on all sides. Then I put the meat into a baking dish and added some of the marinade’s carrots and onions and new water. I roasted the mixture in a 350 degree oven for 2.5 hours.

Meanwhile, I boiled carrots, celery, onions and the remaining vegetables from the marinade with some new water and the juice of the marinade. I also made the red cabbage and potato dumplings. When the meat was finished I made a quick gravy from some of the drippings, flour and water.

Original Ingredients

1 kg beef
1 onion
4 peppercorns
2 cloves
1 bay leaf
1/4 liter vinegar
3/8 liter water
salt and pepper
sour cream
corn flour and water
Maggi liquid seasoning

All in all it came out alright. There were a few things I could have done better. I think one mistake I made was not covering the meat while it cooked. The meat was a little dry and not as tender as I wanted it. I also started cooking the vegetables too soon; they only need about 20 minutes to cook.

So remember, it takes patience and love to cook sauerbraten. If you take the time you will be rewarded in the end.

German Rouladen – A Warm Dish On A Cold Night

Rouladen before it is rolled up

Rouladen or more precisely Rinderrouladen is a German dish made with thin beef, onions, pickles and mustard. There are many variations, but Rinderroulade uses these combination of ingredients.

I was in the mood for something from my German heritage so I settled on rouladen. At first I thought about sauerbraten, but then I thought it takes 3 days and my wife isn’t partial to vinegar.

I started with a recipe from RecipeZaar.com and made some changes. I substituted dill relish for chopped pickles and I added real-bacon bits from a jar to my cooked bacon. Since my wife’s stomach is more English-delicate than my German-hearty, I added the Dijon mustard to sour cream to cut the acidity.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 lbs beef flank steak
4 teaspoons heavy German mustard or Dijon mustard, will do
6 slices bacon, diced
3/4 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup chopped dill pickles
1/4 cup flour
1 (13 3/4 ounce) can beef broth

Potato dumplings

I started with cooking the bacon and onions on medium heat. I chopped 1/4 white onion into fairly large pieces and mixed it with 6 green onions chopped into medium pieces. While that was cooking I pounded 4 flank steaks to about 1/4 inch thickness. The mistake here was cooking the onions at the same time as the bacon. I should have cooked the bacon to almost done and then added the onions. Another mistake was green onions. I should have only used 1 whole white onion.

After the steak was thinned, I mixed the mustard with about 8 ounces of sour cream. (The sour cream was left over from another great meal I made the night before – .) I spread the mustard mixture over the meat, added the bacon and onions, then topped with relish. Then I rolled it up – starting from the thin side – and tied the roll with string.

I brazed the rolls in the bacon fat and set them in to a 6×9 glass dish. Into the bacon-steak-onion-pickle-mustard-broth flavored pan I added flour and 15 ounces of beef broth. I stirred this mixed until it was fairly creamy and then spooned it over the rolls. I added whole mushrooms just for something extra. (Steak and mushrooms always go good together.)

Rouladen is ready

When the rolls were about 30 minutes from done I started the potato dumplings (Kartoffelklöße or Kartoffelkloesse). I bought a box mix of potato balls so it was easy to make. I did put the optional crouton in the center of each ball just to be traditional.

The last thing to make was red cabbage. Actually, I bought a can of it from the store too. It was next to the potato dumplings and it’s so mush easier to make.

From start to finish it took me at about 4 hours to make this dish, but in the end it was worth it. I made a warm dish on a cold winter’s night worthy of any German restaurant.

Celebrate With BBQ Brisket On Independence Day

In Search of the Wabba Wabba

I wanted to chronicle my experience with cooking Brisket on July 4, 2009. First, a few words of prologue, Brisket (with a capital B) scares the hell out of me! That is why I’m writing this post – for future reference. I’ve heard horror stories about how easy it is to f-up brisket, and how it is such a tricky meat. Me and wife decided at the store, “what the heck,” it’s time to give it a go. And at $0.99/lbs for untrimmed brisket we couldn’t loose too much. It was $13.57 for 13.71 lbs untrimmed brisket (July 3, 2009, Kroger special price).

Prepare the meat

I used “Meathead’s” (seriously, that’s his nickname) Big Bad Beef Rub recipe with a few modifications:
3 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
3 tablespoons table salt
1/2 tablespoon cayenne
1/2 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon granulated white sugar
1 tablespoon onion powder
2 teaspoons mustard powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon of brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

For the top:
3 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
3 tablespoons table salt

Important Tip: Beef rub is different than pork rub. Pork loves sweetness, but beef does not.

I rubbed the first set of ingredients on the bottom, or meaty side. Then I rubbed the salt and pepper mixture on the top, or fatty side.

We’ll have the Little Penguin Merlot with dinner. The watermelon will be part of a red (watermelon/strawberries), white (RediWhip) and blue (dark cherries) on angel food cake dessert – yum.

After the rub down I wrapped it in plastic wrap and let it set up in the refrigerator overnight.

Prepare the grill

Important Tip: Get the temperature stabilized at about 225 F. It is crucial to keep the temperature low or else the proteins can seize up and squeeze out all the juices. This can happen fast on brisket, so monitor your temperature carefully. Brisket is a lot less forgiving than pork shoulder.

 

I figured it was going to take 10-12 hours to cook so I woke up at 8:30 AM and got right to work stabilizing the heat. But first, I had a problem. The brisket was too big for my drip pan. Note to self: buy two big, disposable pans when you buy brisket or ribs. So I did what any other quick thinking chef would do, I cut the brisket in half and put the “flat” half in the oven and the “point” half on the grill. The grill heated up to about 225 F on only one burner. I double checked the grill’s thermometer with my handy oven thermometer.

On a side note, the forecast was 101 F and no rain; another scorching day in Texas. I checked on the grill every couple of hours to make sure it stayed at 225 F and that there was liquid in the foil.

Cook the meat

Finally, it was time to cook, check liquid levels and temperature, and cook, and check, and repeat, for 10 hours. Needless to say, I had time to go buy a meat thermometer; actually my wife got a really nice one. It will come in handy especially when you hit the “stall.” That’s when the temperature stays around 140-160 F and takes hours to climb. At about 7 PM – the 10th hour – we were somewhere in the stall. The temperature was 170 F, and everything looked and smelled good.

Some time between 8:00 and 8:30 PM I took both halves off the heat, wrapped them in heavy-duty foil, pored half of bottle of beer in each half, and let them sit in the cooling grill. At 9:00 PM we all sat down to dine on a rather well cooked, dry brisket. It looked good on the outside. The meat near the fat was delicious and soft. My theory is that I should have mopped/basted/injected the meat during the latter part of the stall. I didn’t do that and it dried out.

We still enjoyed the meal. Put some sauce on the dry brisket and it tastes great. The corn was good, the baked potatoes where great, and the red, white, and blue dessert was an explosion of flavor.