Monday, December 21, 2009

The Opening of My Drive-Thru

Most Sundays, my friend Bri comes over for dinner and to tell me about the crazy adventures she has.  Not only does she get to tell me tales of things she does, but I get to live vicariously through her as I trudge through the endless drone of law school.  This week; however, she misread her schedule or something, so she was unable to make it for dinner.  Normally a cancellation wouldn't cause too much trouble, but this time I was cooking ribs, and I had been cooking them for the 20 hours preceding the cancellation, so there was no way to cut down the amount of food.  I did find out that Bri got off work at midnight, so I told her to stop by after work and I'd rush her down some food.  Thus, Brian's Drive-Thru was born. 

I cooked the ribs sous vide, meaning vacuum sealed in plastic (like with a Vac-Saver) and cooked in temperature controlled water.  Sous vide cooking allows you to get perfect textures that are simply unable to be created with conventional forms of cooking.  There are a couple food safety concerns, but as long as you serve the food right away or cool it as quickly as possible (like cold paper towels covering it in the refrigerator) you should be fine.  Also, if you are cooking the food for a long time, you should be sure the temperature is always above 140 degrees.  Sous vide is an incredible way too cook meats that are generally braised since you will not lose any of the meat flavor into the braising liquid.  One of my least favorite things that people do is boil ribs before they cook them.  This saturates the ribs with water and leeches nearly all of the flavor from the meat. 

I like making my own bbq sauce too.  Although there are some pretty good store bought brands, you can control exactly how you want the sauce and even make it seasonally appropriate if you want.

BBQ Sauce
3 cups root beer
1 1/2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
5 cloves garlic, peeeled
1/2 tspn tobasco sauce
2 tbsp Worstershire sauce
1/2 tspn allspice, crushed
12 juniper berries, crushed
1 tbsp chile powder
1/2 tbsp smoked paprika
1/2 lime
1 shot glass full of bittersweet chocolate chips (60% cocao)
kosher salt

1.  Put a tspn of salt in a mortar and crush garlic with a pestle until it turns into a paste.
2.  Put the garlic into a medium sauce pan and add all ingredients except for lime, chocolate, salt, and pepper.  Stir to combine.
3.  Bring sauce to a boil over medium heat.  When it boils, reduce heat to low and simmer until sauce is thickened (about an hour), stirring often.
4.  When sauce is thick, remove from heat and mix in the chocolate until it is melted.  Then squeeze the lime juice into the sauce and stir.
5.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and refrigerate.  The sauce is generally better on the second day, but it is very good right away.

Ribs (serves 4)
3 lbs spare ribs
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup chile powder
1/2 cup duck fat (preferably) or 1 stick of butter

1.  Combine salt, sugars, and chile powder in a bowl and stir to mix all ingredients together equally.
2.  Pour half of the mixture evenly over the bottom of a baking dish and put ribs in the mixture.  Pour the other half of the mixture evenly over the ribs.  The ribs should be well coated with the salt-sugar mixture on all sides.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, preferably 12.
3.  Take a large, tall stockpot and fill it nearly all the way full with very hot water.  Attach a thermometer with a clip to the side of the pot.  Heat water on a large burner until the temperature reaches 157.  Reduce heat to low and check the temperature after about 20 minutes.  If it is under 157, raise heat slightly, if it is over 157, add a bit of cold water and reduce heat.  You want to find the stove temperature that stabilizes the water temperature at 157.
4.  When the ribs are done curing, wash the salt-sugar mixture off with cold water.  Pat them very dry with paper towels.
5.  Put ribs into a vacuum bag and put the duck fat or butter into the bag with the ribs.  Seal the bag using a vacuum sealer.
6.  Place the ribs in the water and cook for 20-24 hours, checking the water temperature every hour or so to be sure it is maintaining the proper temperature.  If the water level gets low, add some hot water to bring it back up.
7.  After 20-24 hours, preheat oven to 400.  Brush ribs on both sides with bbq sauce.  Put in the oven for 15 minutes to allow the sauce to bake onto the ribs.
8.  Remove the ribs from the oven and, using a blowtorch, brown the ribs even further.
9.  Brush another layer of sauce onto the ribs and serve.

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