Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Baby Got Back (yes, two rap songs in two posts)

Michael Pollan said that somebody else said that meat will kill you, but as a newly minted Philadelphian, I'm quickly learning a meat bender is the least of my worries. Case in point, the shithead brandishing a lit roman candle amidst the post-fireworks crowd on the Ben Franklin Parkway this past Saturday, or the guy I just heard about on the news that's running around robbing Hispanics at gunpoint. Wading through all this bad news is certainly enough to make you use Pollan's eater's manifesto as kindling for the charcoals and fire up the grill, but since mine's gas and I actually have a profound respect for Mr. Pollan, I'll just open up the valve, pray that my eyebrows remain intact when lighting it, and grill my face off.

After I torched some of Tom Mylan's choicest cuts of pork last summer (sniff), I had to redeem myself. Stumbling upon a Cook's Illustrated recipe a couple weeks back gave me my opportunity. It was your typical gazillion-step process Cook's Illustrated recipe (bad), but it was also the first one I've seen that offered a smoking method for the gas grill (good). Having a Friday at my disposal, I undertook the lengthy process--a brining, a rub, a rest, preparing the wood chips, preparing the grill, and finally, a four hour smoke bath for my baby backs.

The end result was something I want to make every day for the rest of my life. They were quite possibly the most succulent and sumptuous ribs I have ever tasted, and I'm not just saying that because I made them. The brown sugar in the rub gave them a beautiful glaze and sweetness that was the perfect complement to the spice mixture, and the smoky flavor of the meat had me gnawing at each rib for every last piece of protein. If you've got the time and the equipment, I highly recommend using both to make this magical meaty music. Buen provecho.

Barbecued Baby Back Ribs for Gas Grill (stolen from Cook's Illustrated)
Serves 4

1/2 cup
table salt or 1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 racks baby back ribs (about 2 pounds each), or loin back ribs
Spice rub
1 tablespoon sweet paprika plus additional 1/2 teaspoon
1 1/2 teaspoons
chili powder
1 3/4 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons
dark brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon
table salt or 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon
dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon
ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1. To brine the ribs: Dissolve salt and sugar in 4 quarts cold water in stockpot or large plastic container. Submerge ribs in brine and refrigerate 1 hour until fully seasoned. Remove ribs from brine and thoroughly pat dry with paper towels.
2. While ribs are brining, cover two cups wood chips with water and soak 30 minutes, then drain. Combine spice rub ingredients in small bowl. When ribs are out of brine and dried, rub each side of racks with 1 tablespoon spice rub; refrigerate racks 30 minutes.
3. To barbecue the ribs: Place soaked wood chips in small disposable aluminum pan, (or homemade container as illustrated below); set pan on burner that will remain on. Turn all burners to high, close lid, and heat grill until chips smoke heavily, about 20 minutes. (If chips ignite, extinguish flames with water from squirt bottle.) Scrape grill grate clean with wire brush; turn off burner(s) without wood chips.
4. Arrange ribs on cool side of grill and cover (grill temperature should register about 275 degrees on grill thermometer). Cook for 4 hours, until meat easily pulls away from bone, flipping rib racks, switching their position so that rack that was nearest fire is on outside, and turning racks 180 degrees every 30 minutes. Transfer ribs to cutting board, then cut between bones to separate ribs; serve.

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