Sunday, May 31, 2009

Pork Spareribs with BBQ Rub #2

So I know I've posted ribs before, but these are different. The last time, they were baby back ribs, which are smaller, more tender, and a little less juicy than spareribs. Additionally, spareribs have a much higher meat/bone ratio and a bit more fat, making them more succulent and chewy as you eat them. Besides the difference in meat, this rub is sweet/savory - no heat; I think this lets the flavor of the pork shine though more. One word of warning about this recipe: the sauce is tangy! If you like a sweeter sauce, add ¼ cup brown sugar, but I don't recommend it ;)

Rub Ingredients
This makes more than enough rub for one large rack of ribs, but not enough for two, so double it if you're serving more than 4 people.
  • 6 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1½ tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1½ tablespoons Old Bay seasoning (a seafood seasoning, but you could use creole seasoning or chili powder instead)
  • ½ tablespoon garlic powder
  • ½ tablespoon onion powder
  • ½ tablespoon cumin
  • ½ tablespoon black pepper
Sauce Ingredients
This definitely makes enough for two racks of ribs
  • one 8 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • ¾ cup molasses
  • 2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup 
  • ½ tablespoon onion powder
  • ½ tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

Rinse and pat dry one or two racks of pork spareribs. Lay the ribs on a large piece of aluminum foil (one piece per slab). Liberally apply rub to both sides of the ribs and pat on to adhere. Lay the ribs meaty side down on the foil and wrap tightly. Place the rib packets on a sheet pan and refrigerate at least 2 hours, but 8-16 would be best. Discard the foil and smoke the ribs low and slow for 2-4 hours (6 if you really like 'em smoky), meat side down for the first hour, then meat side up for the rest.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Meanwhile mix all sauce ingredients together and heat in the microwave for 1 minute. Get new sheets of aluminum foil. Put the smoked ribs on the foil and start to fold up the sides so the sauce can be poured on. Pour on enough sauce to thoroughly cover the ribs, but not to submerge them. Seal the rib packet and cook in the oven for another 1½ - 2 hours on a sheet pan.

Combine any leftover sauce and all the liquid from the packets in a medium saucepan. Simmer over medium heat for 5-10 minutes, until thickened. Keep the ribs wrapped in foil while the sauce simmers. Rest the ribs for a total of 15-20 minutes before cutting into individual pieces and serving with sauce on the side.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Quick Pork Stir-Fry

Sometimes you don't have time to do a big production dinner. That's why I keep a few "essentials" in the freezer at all times. Some leftovers combined with frozen vegetables and some pantry staples make for a quick and tasty dinner that even kids will eat.

  • 2 packages Ramen noodles (since you're not using the seasoning, it doesn't matter which kind)
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 pound frozen stir-fry vegetables (I like Western Family's "Premium Stir Fry")
  • 8 ounces leftover roast/grilled pork (loin, tenderloin, chops, etc.), cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper (or black)
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, pressed or minced fine
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced or grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

In a medium bowl, soak the Ramen noodles in plenty of hot tap water. Have a colander handy so you can drain them quickly. Mix the soy sauce, broth, vinegar, sugar, pepper, garlic, ginger, and cornstarch in a lidded jar. Seal and shake vigorously to evenly distribute the cornstarch and remove any lumps. Heat the sesame oil in a large saute pan over high heat (or use a wok if you have a wok burner, but please don't use a wok on a normal kitchen rangetop!). When the oil just starts to smoke, add the vegetables. Stir so the vegatables are a spread out as possible, to maximize evaporation of the water that melts off. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are completely hot and start to soften. Add the pork and cook until heated through, 30 seconds to a minute. Give the sauce a final shake (to ensure the cornstarch hasn't settled) and add to the pan. Cook for 30 seconds, or until it has thickened slightly. Quickly drain the noodles and add to the pan. Gently toss to evenly break up/distribute the noodle bricks and coat the noodles in the sauce. Serve immediatley.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Chicken & Raspberry Sauce

Raspberry sauce? Yes! This dish is quite nice with a side of rice and some roasted asparagus.

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons regular olive oil
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons prepared mustard (yellow or brown - your choice)
  • 1/4 cup raspberry jam (with or without seeds, as you like it)
  • 2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces

Season both sides of the chicken with the salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a large stainless steel saute pan over medium heat until it just starts to smoke. Add the chicken and cook without stirring about 5-6 minutes per side, or until the chicken is golden brown on the outside and the middle reaches 150-155 degrees. Remove the chicken to a warm plate and cover with aluminum foil.

Deglaze the pan with the chicken broth, stirring to remove any browned bits. Add the mustard and vinegar and simmer over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the liquid reduces by about half. Add the jam and reduce the heat to low, simmering until the jam has melted. Remove from heat and stir in the cold butter, one piece at a time until it is all integrated. Put the chicken back in the pan along with any accumulated juices. Toss the chicken in the sauce. Serve the chicken with the remaining sauce on the side (for rice or veggies).

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Smoked Salmon Pasta Salad

First: I'm sorry for the week (or more) without a post - I'm such a slacker!

Second: Now that the weather is nice (more or less) all the time, it's time to bust out the BBQ. I know a lot of people like to grill salmon hot and fast, but I prefer smoking it low and slow. The smokiness adds a real depth of flavor that you don't get from cooking it over high heat. If you don't have a grill or smoker, you can use a broiler or grill pan along with a light spritzing of liquid smoke for added flavor.


  • 1/4 cup pickling salt (don't use table salt - it has a metallic taste from the iodine)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon 5-spice powder (ginger, clove, cinnamon, anise, fennel)
  • 20-24 ounces salmon, pin bones removed (or use 4 frozen salmon fillets, thawed)

Combine the salt, sugar, garlic, pepper, and the 5-spice powder. Rinse and pat dry the salmon. Apply about 2 tablespoons of the salt cure mixture to each side of the salmon (don't apply to any skin). and pat on to adhere. Reserve the remaining cure for another purpose (or the next time you make this recipe!) Tightly wrap in plastic wrap, place on a lidded baking sheet or pan (to catch any liquid) and refrigerate 6-10 hours (or overnight). Discard plastic wrap and rinse off the salt cure with cold water. Pat dry and place on a rack on a baking sheet. Put in a cool, dry place with a small fan blowing on it for 2-3 hours, or until the fish dries slightly and a tacky skin has formed (called a pellicle).

Meanwhile, light 1-2 quarts of charcoal briquettes using your preferred method (I prefer a chimney starter and newspaper, and I discourage lighter fluid when smoking because it can leave a slight chemical flavor). Soak 2-4 handfuls of hardwood chips (depending on how smoky you like it) in water while the coals get hot. When the coals are hot, dump them onto only half the grill. Drain the wood chips and put directly onto the coals. Put the grill grate on and put the fish on the cold half of the grill. Put on the lid, with the vent placed on the opposite side of the grill as the fire. All the vents should be half closed. Smoke until the fish reaches at least 140 degrees (30-45 minutes), but you can go longer if you want a smokier flavor (I generally go to about 180-200). Either serve the fish immediately (very nice as a fish sandwich on sourdough toast with mayonnaise, lettuce, and tomato), or put on a plate wrapped with aluminum foil, chill completely, and put into the salad that follows.


  • 1 pound of pasta (rotini, fusili, or some other twisty variety), cooked according to package directions in salted water (it should be soft, not mushy - a little bit past al dente), rinsed and chilled.
  • 2-3 green onions, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped, lightly salted, and put in a colander (in the sink or with a bowl underneath!) for 15-30 minutes to drain excess liquid
  • 1/4 cup roasted bell peppers (either freshly roasted or from a jar), chopped.
  • 1 recipe smoked salmon (see above), cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 3-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon (about 3-4 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons red or balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ground pepper

Toss together pasta, onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, and salmon. Mix together oil, lemon juice, vinegar, and pepper and fold into the salad until everything is coated. Serve with fresh melon slices and garlic toast.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Cross-Rib Pot Roast

I think we too often overlook some very fine pieces of meat because we are unfamiliar with them. I went to the store the other day and the butcher was out of chuck roast (my preferred pot roast cut). Since I really wanted to do a pot roast, I looked for other cuts. I've been disappointed by round/rump cuts as pot roast, and I wasn't in the mood for brisket. That left the cross-rib roast. I'd never personally done one before and was not disappointed - moist, tender, and flavorful, I'm sure I'll be doing this again soon.

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 cross-rib roast, 2-4 pounds.
  • 1 small onion, frenched
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 bay leaf

Preheat oven to 200 degrees

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a dutch oven over high heat. When the oil is smoking, brown all sides of roast, about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove roast to a plate, reduce heat to medium-high and add remaining oil and vegetables. Saute veggies until the onions are softened and everything starts to brown, 3-5 minutes. Deglaze the dutch oven with broth and add the soup. Stir everything to combine, add the bay leaf and put the roast back in the dutch oven. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and roast in the oven for 4-5 hours, or until the roast is fork-tender. Remove the roast to a serving dish and cover with foil. Remove the bay leaf and discard. Using a stick blender, puree the remaining liquid and vegetables. Shred the roast with two forks and mix in some of the pureed gravy. Serve with potatoes or as a sandwich with gravy on the side.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Tuna Quesadillas

A nice way to use up leftover cabbage, since most people I know always have a can of tuna around for emergencies.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for tortillas
  • 2 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1 can diced green chiles
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 can tuna
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup crumbled queso blanco (Mexican white cheese)
  • 8 large flour tortillas

Saute the cabbage in olive oil in a large nonstick pan set over medium-high heat until the cabbage starts to brown. Add the chiles, tuna, and lime juice and reduce heat to medium. Cook until almost dry and transfer to a medium bowl.

Wipe out the pan with paper towels that have been dipped in a little bit of oil. Heat the pan over medium heat. Brush one side of a tortilla with oil. Put in the pan oil side down and brush a little water on the other side. Put 1/4 the cabbage mixture on the tortilla along with 1/4 of the cheese. Brush one side of another tortilla with water. Make a sandwich with the other tortilla, water side down. Brush a little oil on the top side. Cook for a couple of minutes, until the bottom tortilla is golden brown. Flip and cook the other side for 2-3 minutes, again until golden brown. Keep warm while repeating with the remaining tortillas and filling. Makes 4 full-size quesadillas. Serve with sour cream, diced green onions, and hot sauce.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Introducing the "Mexican" tag

By the way, in honor of Cinco de Mayo, I have marked all the Mexican-flavored dishes with the "Mexican" tag. This should make finding the spicy recipes you'll want for this week very easy.

Fish Tacos

It's Cinco de Mayo week. Two bits, four bits, six bits, a peso. All for tacos, Stand up and say so!


  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (freshly ground from toasted whole seeds would be best)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 lime's worth of lime juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds tilapia fillets, cut into 2-ounce strips
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, sliced thin
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 3 cups shredded cabbage or coleslaw
  • 1 cup mexican blend shredded cheese
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges

Whisk together all sauce ingredients in a medium mixing bowl, including salt and pepper to taste. Chill in the fridge while preparing the rest of the dish.

Mix together flour, kosher salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper in a pie pan or small square casserole. Dredge the fish strips in the flour, shaking off any excess so only a light dusting remains. Place floured fish strips on a wire rack until they are all floured.

Heat oven on its lowest setting. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat until shimmery. Carefully lay as many fish strips as will fit in the pan without crowding it. Cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Put the cooked fish in the warm oven (on a sheet of aluminum foil or a sheet pan) as you cook each batch.

Meanwhile, heat a 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Place one tortilla in the middle and cook for 3-5 minutes, or until the cooked side is light brown, speckled with dark brown. Flip and sprinkle salt on the cooked side. Toast the second side for about half as long, until it just starts to color. Remove the tortilla and quickly (and gently) fold in half to make a taco shell, with the salted/browned side out. Hold it folded for about 30 seconds while it cools (you may wish to use tongs or paper towels to avoid burning your fingers). When it cools slightly, it should hold it's folded shape. Repeat with remaining tortillas.

Note: If you are not an experienced kitchen juggler, you may wish to make the tortilla shells first, then cook the fish. As you become more familiar with the timing, you may want to save time by cooking both at the same time.

To serve: place a fish strip in a taco shell. Top with onion, tomato, cabbage, cheese, and sauce.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Baked Beans

I'm going to a barbecue today, and I need to bring a dish to share. I think baked beans is the best BBQ side dish ever, and in case anyone asks me for the recipe, I figured I could put it here!

  • 1 pound Great Northern beans, picked over to remove stones and bad beans
  • 1 pound bacon, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 jalapenos, chopped (remove the ribs for milder flavor)
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cans vegetable broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Soak the beans overnight (no more than 12 hours) in a non-reactive bowl in plenty of water (enough to cover the beans by several inches).

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Drain the beans, reserving the leftover soaking water. Add enough broth to the soaking water to make a total of 4 cups of liquid, set aside. Cook bacon, onion, and jalapenos in a large dutch oven over medium heat until the onions are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste, molasses, and brown sugar. Stir to combine and cook for 30 seconds. Add the beans and water/broth mixture and bring to a boil on high heat. Add the salt and peppers, stir, cover, and bake in the oven for 6-8 hours, until the beans are tender.