Thursday, May 31, 2012

Her first batch of pig candy

This is my daughter's first batch of pig candy (yes, even a 3 yr old can make it). Since I really have nothing to offer in the way of innovation to this recipe (brown sugar, spice, bacon, maple sugar halfway through if you are so inclined), I offer cute.

Totally cute.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Five Questions

I just sent out five questions to five ladies I get the honor of spending Thursday with talking about grilling and barbecue. Many of them are on the PTA at my son's school and bid on my "Ladies Barbecue Lesson & Dinner" auction item to raise funds for all those "extra" educational opportunities like art, music, and science lab.    They volunteer far more time than I do, but this was a way I could contribute. It's also a way I could give back and drink wine at the same time. So win/win.

I love teaching people about grilling and barbecue, especially beginners. Because I'm not sure of the skill level of these five ladies, I sent out these questions to get a sense of what to cover in the lesson.

So here they are. Admittedly #5 isn't a true question. What would your answers be?

1) Tell me a little about your grilling experience. Don't worry if your answer is "never". Are you comfortable on the grill, tentative but willing, think that it will blow up at any moment, or a seasoned (almost) pro?

2) What do you have in your backyard: gas, charcoal, both, or neither?

3) What do you most want to learn? 

4) Are you more interested in grilling or smoking slow and low, or a little of both?

5) And finally, red or white?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

"4 R" Easy Baby Back Ribs (CAW! CAW!)

Baby back ribs are a favorite of mine because they get the highest compliment rating for the least amount of work. For you acronym junkies, that's a high CAW rating (Compliment to Amount of Work). Yes, I just made that up, but maybe someday recipes the world over will include a little graph noting its CAW rating.

Here's the formula:
Rip 'em
Rub 'em
Rack 'em
Regulate 'em

Simple. You only have to remember four R's. Seriously every time I make baby back ribs at a party, people go nuts and all I can think of is how easy it was compared to anything else on the barbecue scale. Sure, smoked chicken thighs are something a 4-year old, were she allowed to play with fire, could do, but nobody cares about chicken thighs. And subsequently, they don't get a high CAW rating.

I'll explain the R's....

1) Rip 'em: Rip off the membrane. This is important for ribs, but especially baby back ribs. The membrane is chewy, and some say can inhibit the smoke penetration. It's mostly men that talk about smoke penetration, though, you know? But I digress...To remove the membrane is really easy. It's on the bone side of the ribs. Take a spoon or knife and get a little piece of it separated. With a paper towel, pull it off.

2) Rub 'em: Use the rub of your choice. As you can see, I've used my cocoa bliss rub on these ribs. A shameless plug for my book. Yes the recipe is in there.

3) Rack 'em: For multiple racks, stack them sideways in a rib rack. I like to place them in every other slot so there is, smoke penetration.

4) Regulate 'em: Admittedly a bit of a mouthful, but the most important of the four steps. Keep a constant 250 degrees for about 2-2.5 hours. How do you do this? Make a slow and low fire, indirect, and keep the damn lid closed! If you are cooking on gas, and no judgement there, maintaining a constant temperature will be pretty simple. 250 is a little higher than I recommend for most barbecue, but baby backs don't need as low temperatures as a brisket or spares. They don't have as much tough connective tissue. I find that 250 is the sweet spot temperature for them. And as you know, if you've been paying attention, my baby backs always get a high CAW rating.

Now a few things that didn't fit into my neat little formula were wood chips or chunks and a finishing sauce at the end. To explain. Wood chips: Yes, do that. Create some smoke. If you are cooking on charcoal you won't need as much as with gas. Finishing sauce: Brush on your favorite sauce in the last 30 minutes of cooking.

How do you know when they are done? I like the bend test the best. Racks should bend easily without falling apart.

That's it! Now it is sharing time. What dishes do you make that give you a high CAW rating?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

You Can Pickle That...Oh Portlandia, how I love thee.

I'm about to start chopping a case of pickles, because we are down to our last little bit of the huge batch I made last month. To procrastinate for a moment, I leave you with this bit from Portlandia. I love this show. I live inside this show. Seattle may not be Portland, but we are definitely kin.