Ribs, Baby, Ribs!!

I love ribs.  They are just one of those wonderful things in life.  Growing up in Texas, I was able to eat some tasty ones.  However, I didn’t realize until I started researching for this recipe that there are so many different styles of BBQ.  I honestly wasn’t quite sure what it was that made my childhood Texas ribs so tasty.  I also have always been a bit intimidated by trying to do ribs on the grill.  It always seemed that one needed a fancy smoker or some other apparatus to make them turn out finger licking good.  But this is the summer that I am learning to grill properly and ribs was definitely on my list to master.  I had warmed up with some chicken on the grill and felt like I had a bit of handle on things so now it was time to dive straight to my favorite.

During the last months of my pregnancy, moving was not on the top of my list of things to do so I ended up watching a lot of TV to pass the time.  My favorite station become the Create channel which is one of the PBS stations out here.  On the Create channel there was this great cooking show called America’s Test Kitchen and each episode they did a wonderful job of blending the technicality of cooking and baking with just good old fashioned trying all sorts of things until they got the taste that they were looking for.   I found a wonderful recipe on their site for Texas Style Ribs.  I wasn’t quite sure what that would entail, but neither the sauce or the rub seemed like it would be too sweet and there was plenty of chili powder in it so I figured it was a go.  Grilling is one of those things that isn’t hard, but it requires a lot of lead time and a lot of just being somewhat near the grill to tend to things.  So it took me a bit to get around to having the time (and Alex around to pitch in with the Walter care) to be able to do it.  So Memorial Day rolled around bright and sunny and we decided to have some friends over to help us eat it and do this thing.  I started in on things around 11 a.m. and I would say we ate around 4:30ish so make sure to plan a day of it.  Alex had requested a non-mayonnaise potato salad so I worked on it while the ribs were on the grill.  Don’t forget: the ultimate bbq requirement is that one must have an open beer while working on things, otherwise, everything just goes to hell.  I wish I could somehow upload the smell of these cooking……

BBQ Sauce
2 t. unsalted butter
¼ c. minced onion
1 medium clove garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 teaspoon)
1 ½ t. chili powder
2 c. tomato juice
¾ c. distilled white vinegar
2 t. Worcestershire sauce
½ t. powdered mustard mixed with 1 T. water
2 T. mild molasses or dark molasses (not blackstrap)
1 ½ t. table salt
¼ t. ground black pepper
Rib Rub
4 t. chili powder
½ t. cayenne pepper
2 t. table salt
1 ½ t. ground black pepper
3–4 beef rib slabs(3 to 4 ribs per slab, about 5 pounds total)
To make the Barbecue Sauce: Heat butter in small nonreactive saucepan over medium heat until foaming; add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add garlic and chili powder; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 20 seconds. Add tomato juice, 1/2 cup vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, molasses, and salt; increase heat to high and bring to simmer, then reduce heat to medium and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce is slightly thickened and reduced to 1 1/2 cups, 30 to 40 minutes. Off heat, stir in pepper and remaining 1/4 cup vinegar. Cool to room temperature before serving. (Can be refrigerated in airtight container for up to 4 days; bring to room temperature before serving.)
For ribs:Mix chili powder, cayenne, salt, and pepper in small bowl; rub ribs evenly with spice mixture. Let ribs stand at room temperature for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, cover 1 c. of mesquite wood chips in water for 25 minutes (or follow instructions on package).  Then drain and separate the wood chips into two parts. Open bottom grill vents. Using chimney starter, ignite 30 briquettes (about one-third large chimney, or 2 quarts) and burn until covered with thin coating of light gray ash, about 10 minutes. Empty coals into grill, then bank coals against one side of grill, stacking them 2 to 3 coals high; place ½ c. of wood chips into aluminum foil and place on top of the coals. Position grill grate over coals, cover grill, and adjust lid vents two-thirds open. Heat grate until hot, about 5 minutes; scrape grill grate clean with grill brush. Position ribs, meat-side down, on cool side of grill (they may overlap slightly); cover, positioning lid so that vents are directly above ribs.  So that it looks like this:
(Temperature on thermometer inserted through vents should register about 300 degrees.) Cook until grill temperature drops to about 250 degrees, about 1 hour. (On cold, windy days, temperature may drop more quickly, so spot-check temperature. If necessary, add 5 additional briquettes to maintain temperature above 250 degrees during first hour of cooking.)
4. After 1 hour, add 20 more briquettes and remaining wood chunk to coals; using tongs, flip ribs meat-side up and rotate so that edges once closest to coals are now farthest away. Cover grill, positioning lid so that vents are opposite wood chunk; continue to cook until dinner fork can be inserted into and removed from meat with little resistance, meat pulls away from bones when rack is gently twisted, and meat shrinks 1/2 to 1 inch up rib bones, 1 1/4 to 1 3/4 hours longer. Transfer ribs to cutting board and let rest 5 minutes; using chef’s knife, slice between bones to separate into individual ribs. Serve, passing sauce separately.

Austrian-Style Potato Salad

2 lbs. yukon gold potatoes peeled, quartered length-wise and cut into ½ inch slices
1 c. chicken broth
1 c. water
Table salt
1 T. sugar
2 T. white wine vinegar
1 T. Dijon mustard
¼ c. vegetable oil
1 small red onion chopped fine (about ¾ c.)
6 cornichons, minced (about 2 T.)
2 T. minced fresh chives
ground black pepper

Bring potatoes, broth, water, 1 teaspoon salt, sugar, and 1 tablespoon vinegar to boil in 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-lw, cover, and cook until potatoes offer no resistance when pierced with paring knife, 15 to 17 minutes. Remove cover, increase heat to high (so cooking liquid will reduce), and cook 2 minutes.

Drain potatoes in colander set over large bowl, reserving cooking liquid. Set drained potatoes aside. Pour off and discard all but ½ cup cooking liquid (if ½ cup liquid does not remain, add water to make ½ cup). Whisk remaining tablespoon vinegar, mustard, and oil into cooking liquid.

Add ½ cup cooked potatoes to bowl with cooking liquid mixture and mash with potato masher or fork until thick sauce forms (mixture will be slightly chunky). Add remaining potatoes, onion, cornichons, and chives, folding gently with rubber spatula to combine. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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