Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Midweek back ribs

I know most people don't associate wednesday nights as rib nights. Ribs are something you have on saturday when you have all day to tend the fire, right? Not so, I say! Need a quick prep, no fuss meal anytime...babybacks are your friend. An hour in the oven is all you really need. One hour of undisturbed alone time for you to take a long hot shower. Or as Ruhlman so gently put it in his roast chicken post, go have sex. I bet there's even time for a shower afterwards. Otherwise you can help the kids with their homework, have a glass of wine...whatever. One winter a few years back, I discovered the true beautiful simplicity of this method, which was introduced by my friend chef Ryan Lee. I had ordered 130 pounds of ribs for a cast party after the local holiday performances of the Nutcracker Ballet. My kids were in it along with half the town and the party, especially the ribs were a huge deal. Usually they are lovingly slow barbecued by our friend, Blake LaRue, but Blake's back went out the night before, leaving him completely unable to perform his 'cuing magic. I knew I could put them in the wood fired oven, but how to know they would be perfect? Ryan suggested I use his method that works for one rack or twenty, in a word, foolproof. We set them up in hotel pans with lots of aromatics in the bottom and baked them as directed. Sure enough, they were beautiful! It is now my go-to rib recipe, with it I have the secret to making a lot of people very happy in a relatively short period of time, and that..on a wednesday night, is priceless!

Here's how we 'do' it:

1 rack of baby back pork ribs (or twenty, if that be the case)
1 oven- preheated to 350 degrees
1 roaster pan, rack in place, with tight fitting lid or foil to cover

Turn ribs to the bone side and make sure the butcher has removed the silver skin. The bones should be clearly visible, but if they are covered by a light silver film, you'll want to remove it. This can be easily done by pulling up a section at the edge and working your fingers to separate enough that you can get a hold of the whole end, it should pull away in one piece, use a sharp boning knife to remove any fragments left behind. Rub your spice blend into the flesh, generously, on both sides. If you don't have a favorite rib rub, try this:
2 Tablespoons Kosher salt
1 Tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
2 Teaspoons paprika (smoked would be great here, too)
2 Teaspoons ground thyme
1 Teaspoon red chili flakes
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon sugar
mix all ingredients well and rub away.

lay rubbed ribs on rack in roaster pan 
throw some garlic cloves and chopped onion in the bottom and pour in about a cup of water.
Cover tightly and bake in preheated oven for one hour. This your chance to take a walk, call a friend, or 'you know what'. If you need a side dish, you could throw some scrubbed potatoes on the rack above the ribs.  Put some greens in a bowl for salad and then off with you!
After an hour pull pan out of the oven, let sit for 5 to 10 minutes to rest. This is a great time to mix up my favorite bbq sauce:
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar, the best you have.
Stir until smooth.
If you want to char the ribs on the grill, now is good time, but if your natives are restless and ready to eat, just cut them in between each bone and throw the whole lot in a big bowl, spoon on 1/2 the sauce and toss, coating the ribs evenly. Spill out onto a platter with the extra sauce on the side and your done. Time to pour another glass of wine and sit back and enjoy the quiet, as everyone will be too busy eating to make any noise...ahhh, wednesday!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Raspberry Cheesecake Tarts

The sweet part to the ending of berry season, is we get to make things like this!

To begin: set out 12 ounces of cream cheese in a warm place to soften. 
You will need 2- 8" tart pans or 8- 4.5 inch tart pans

Tart Dough:
2 cups unbleached white flour
1 cup unsalted butter
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
mix all ingredients on low speed in a stand mixer, if that is not available to you, use a handheld mixer and then your hands to rub the butter and flour together very thoroughly. This is like a shortbread. press resulting paste into tart pans. Chill while mixing cheesecake filling.

Cheesecake filling:
12 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
This can be mixed by hand, if the cream cheese is room temp. mix in the order listed, blending well between ingredients. pipe or spoon into chilled tart shells. Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 20 minutes or until shells and filling are slightly golden. Cool thoroughly.

1 cup raspberry jam
1/2 cup red wine
Heat over medium heat in a heavy bottom sauce pan.
Let boil briefly, whisking the whole time, until slightly thickened. 

Assemble tarts by placing dry berries on top of cheesecake filling in fully chilled tart shells, arrange in a pleasing pattern. Very carefully brush glaze over fruit...any extra care you take during this step will be greatly rewarded! Serve all alone or with whipped cream, whatever your choice, it's gonna be awesome!