Quite a while ago I got a big package of ribs from Country Meadow Meats – and if you are ever in the Owen Sound area, I strongly suggest you pay them a visit – but I never had too much of an occasion to use them. My spouse does not particularly like them, so doing them up would be a consideration if we either had guests all of whom would appreciate it, or just me and my two sons around the table.
It will be the latter. One of them is heading off for a 2 week holiday in BC, then right back to college in September. Its a good time – its the last time to see him for a while.
So …. how to cook them? I’m not really much of an expert. We have tried it a few times – mainly my son’s doing – and while the results were OK, it wasn’t that fall off the bone richness either. Once we even placed them in a chafing dish in the morning, lit candles under it and left it for the day, checking the candles had not either burned out nor were scorching that which was immediately above them.
For this occasion, I seem to remember seeing some interesting stuff in Ruhlman’s ’20’ and also in Ramsay’s World Kitchen (2nd blog in a couple of days I’ve come back to it.) After looking to see what I could find, I came across Ramsay’s BBQ’d short ribs – and it has a cooking time we’ve had before that led to results being OK but not spectacular. I guess I’m still thinking along the lines of a gentle slow sous vide braise approach where it stews most of the day in its sauce, never getting above its ideal cooked temperature.
Ruhlman also had an interesting take on a pork shoulder (pulled pork) in which the very first thing done to the meat is to sear it over a hardwood fire to get that lovely rich smokiness into it at the outset. So that was interesting too. I also read his section on braising – as ribs really need a long and slow bath to gently coax them into tenderness.
SO. Here’s what I’m going to try:
Get some wood chips going in a smoker box
Once its smoking well, turn off the gas and put on the ribs – about a minute on each side, covered.This all happens in the morning.
Remove, put in a casserole with the sauce, set oven for …. 200…. and leave a meat thermometer in it – aiming for a constant temperature of about 170.
Near dinner, get the smoker box happening again, pour off the sauce, lather it on for a brief finish on a hot bbq.
The sauce….. I can’t decide!
Ruhlman offers 2 – 1 for his pulled pork which has cider vinegar, sugar, chilies, fish sauce, pepper and salt. His Red wine braised short ribs is a red wine/tomato base with veggie pieces – though these are not added until after the braise.
Ramsay offers us a sauce with molasses, honey, worcestershire sauce, tomato, mustard, and cider vinegar – All 3 sound good – but one can only braise them in one of them. Perhaps I will end up with my own that is a based generally on the vinegary – winey sugary – hot kinds of features common to them all.
As for other stuff: I’m thinking a salad and roasted veggies – though clearly I will need to do them in the bbq as the oven will otherwise be in low heat use.
I’ll let you know how it turns out tomorrow….
In short… the results were amazing.
As for the sauce/glaze, I went with a version of Ramsay’s. I say a version of…. I had a cup of marinade I had prepared when I made jerky a few weeks ago, and threw that in, along with inexact measurements of tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, a head of roasted garlic (I’m figuring anything that smacks of flame and fire and smoke is desirable at this point) as well as the required onions and tomato paste which are the base of the recipe.
At the end of the braise, this recipe instructs us to prepare a glaze which essentially comprises the addition of a molasses and honey (plus a few other things, like Worcestershire sauce, hot peppers) to the sauce it has been cooking in all day and boil this up.
I’m not giving a recipe per se for three reasons: 1) it was a one-off sauce using ingredients I had on hand. 2) the World Kitchen book is well worth having on your own shelf! 3) there are a gazillion bbq sauce recipes out there, and far be it for me to nominate any one as the quintessential one.
So in some more detail here is how it went:
Initial searing on a hot smoky bbq:
I was surprised how quickly this took and realize I should have spritzed the chips first. They did flame, and I spritzed at that point, although I did not feel I was able to catch it in that minute when the smoke and heat are truly billowing away.
The Sous Vide braise:
This went as planned. I set the oven at 170, prepared the sauce as noted above, using my Crueset dutch oven. I stuck a meat thermometer in to keep track of it all. It reached the desired temperature in 3-4 hours, and stayed there. Initially the thermometer was in the liquid, not the meat. About 4 hours into the process, I stuck it in the meat, and, no surprise, it was a few degrees cooler. I increased the oven temperature briefly to 350 until the meat had come up to 170, then dropped it back down. The meat continued to heat up beyond that then it too came back down. I removed it, drained the sauce for the glaze, and kept it covered while I roasted my veggies and baked a foccacia. All in all, the ribs were slowly cooking for 8 hours, but it could have been much longer, or even a little (but not much) shorter.
Back to the bbq… and more chips in the smoker, to get it going again. I still feel I missed that optimum smoke point – I’m learning! It was smoking but not the way I would have liked. Even so, it was still excellent: moist tender, falling off the bone. The sauce and glaze worked really well. The molasses added a nice depth to the taste especially for a long cook.
It always bothered me how could not previously get in my home what any restaurant serving ribs seemed to do with ease – to get that rich fall off the bone tenderness. I realize now that its a pretty simple proposition for them. Prepare it all in the morning and keep it warm for the whole day. The keeping it warm, however is doing more than that – its tenderizing and gently cooking it at the same time, allowing the flavours of the sauce to fully infuse the meat.