Saturday, May 15, 2010

Ribs Eve

Looks like Mother Nature is giving me the OK to smoke ribs tomorrow (knock on wood), so here are the steps for Ribs Eve!

First, we have to pay homage to Steve Raichlen, barbecue guru extrordinaire. The recipe for Chinese ribs below is from his book (I haven't actually used ANY of the other recipes in there, but as far as I'm concerned, if I get one good meal out of a book, it's worth it). I do heartily recommend Barbecue Bible for any of you poor souls out there who don't already have it!

OK, on with the show!

The first thing to know about ribs is that they require a bit of advance preparation. There is a membrane on the back of a rib rack that should be removed prior to smoking. According to theory (and I don't feel like questioning it), removing the membrane helps the smoke get in there, and since we are cooking with the smoke, since we are striving for the most legendary smoke ring possible (more on this later), and since we are relying on the smoke for tons and tons of flavour, we WANT the smoke to get in there.

Removing the membrane is pretty easy if you follow a few simple bits of advice. Here's what the ribs look like straight out of the butcher paper.

Slide something thin and sturdy (I used a meat thermometer) under the membrane, and lift it up a little until there is enough room to get your hands in there.

Then lift straight up, as perpendicular as possible, inch by inch along the length of the rib rack. The membrane should come off in one piece, leaving the racks looking like this.

Now, you have two options. You can prepare your ribs for a dry rub, or a wet marinade. If you're like me, when confronted with a question along the lines of "Would you like A, or B?" you say "Both!" So, we're going to do a wet rack and a dry rack. Oh, the joys of life!

I've chosen to go with the Chinatown Ribs recipe (from Ribs, Ribs, Ribs, above) for the wet rack. This requires 1 cup of hoisin sauce (I can't find ANY hoisin sauce without sodium benzoate in it, and I refuse to eat that crap, so I went for Memories of Kobe from Bloblaws. It has sulphites in it though, so pick your poison -- personally, I prefer to avoid the cyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, but that's just a personal preference.) ANYWAY, you'll also need 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/2 cup of soy sauce (good way to get the ancient soy sauce bottle out of the fridge), 1/3 cup of vermouth (the recipe calls for rice wine, but I always use Noilly Pratt instead since it's cheap, good, works, and is WAY easier to find), 3 tablespoons of dark sesame oil, 5 cloves of beach-stone-smushed garlic, 5 slices of fresh ginger, 3 minced scallions (I used Egyptian Onions since I need to take every opportuntiy to keep them from taking over my garden), and 1/2 a teaspoon of 5 spice powder (this is a Chinese mix, if you can't find it use a bit of ground fennel, a bit of ground cloves, and a bit of cinnamon instead).

Just mix all this up until it is combined.

Then, before you do ANYTHING, set half of the mix aside and pop it in the fridge. You'll use this to glaze the ribs tomorrow. The rest will be used as a marinade tonight.

Find a big container (and make sure it will fit in your fridge first).

Coat the back side of the rib rack with marinade.

Then coat the other side. Cover the container (sadly, I can find nothing other than glad wrap that works here), and slide it in the fridge.

Ok, now for the dry rack (it won't be 100% dry, since we will make a mop sauce for them tomorrow, but it will be dry for now.)

There a several dry rubs to choose from. You can pick your favourite, or if you're like me, you can use all of them (a consequence of my "both" mentality).

Sprinkle your chosen rub(s) over the ribs (no need to do the back side). Note that you'll never, ever be able to reproduce your recipe if you use my method. But who cares!! Greatness awaits you! Big Schmeal if you can never do it again!!

Wrap them up like your Gran wrapped your lunch sandwiches, and then pop the rack in the fridge too. (You might need an extra layer of waxed paper to keep the fridge tidy -- the parchment it's in now may get a little damp....)

Now, you're all set for tomorrow. At least, you are on the food front.

You should also assemble all of your safety equipment tonight. You'll need good solid barbecue gloves, a good hat, and beer. The gloves are a necessity because EVERYTHING will be hot tomorrow -- you'll need to grab cast iron handles, reach into roaring fires, and pick up 220 degree rib rack holders (220 only sounds cool until it touches your skin). The hat is vital for keeping your nose from getting fried while you sit in the driveway and tend the 'cue. It also helps wave away billowing clouds of mesquite smoke so you can see what you are doing, and lets you whack flies, snuff out fires, clean your hands, or do whatever else a good hat is handy for. Finally, the beer. Sadly, I have run out of Duchy Originals, so my lame "Pass the Duchy" jokes are not going to work. However, I'll gladly take Beau's Screaming Beaver over Duchy Originals any day. I'll just have to think up some jokes with a "beaver" theme. Hmmm... I have NO idea how I'll do that, but I'll work on it. ANYWAY, beer is useful because it can (in a big emergency) be used to douse all the fires that can spring up. It also keeps you calm and mellow, which is important because ribs can sense fear, and they need your calm, cool , low-and-slow demeanour to reach ultimate perfection and deepest smoke ring (Oooooh! I still haven't discussed the fabled smoke ring. Well, as they said in Hammy Hamster, that is another story, and it will have to wait until tomorrow.)

Peace til then, dear friends.

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