My name is Thomas Lott. I am a proud husband and father of two. Two of my favorite things are football and cooking. I'm no expert in either, but I certainly like to fool around with both. I’ve been a home cook for about 10 years, and been around football since I was 4 years old. This fall, perhaps I’ll find out which one I know better! So I'll be checking in periodically to make a pick - or picks (even I'm allowed a bye week here and there!). Again, I'm no expert, so please don’t go betting the mortgage on my humble picks! From that, I’ll make a dish that has something to do with the game - who I think will win, a star/key player, or other story line. Don’t worry - I’m a home cook so it won’t be anything you can’t do - I promise. I’m still learning so most of these will come from my stash of cookbooks or another recipe floating around the internet. I won’t pawn anything off as my own or pretend there’s some super-secret family recipe that I can't share. Most of these I will probably have made before, others might be an experiment. I hope all will go well, but some may go from stovetop right to the dumpster! I'll be sharing my successes, mishaps, and maybe even a few gratuitous shots of my crew of sous chefs and tasters :-)

I'm always a work in progress, so my food won't *always* be pretty (or healthy!), but it's going to taste good--and if it doesn't I'll tell you that, too. And just so you know, it's also a mathematical certainty that I'll whiff on some of my football picks, too. The whole point is to get better at both! So I hope you keep up with me this fall as I have some fun with the kitchen and the pigskin! I welcome all comments, suggestions, requests and discussions on all things pigskin and kitchen!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Week 8 - South Carolina Ribs

Well nobody saw that beatdown coming in Dallas last Saturday! Some are saying that “no one outside of Austin believed…” but the Longhorns I talked to were just as surprised as everyone else. I said a few weeks back that Stoops’ Sooners are always good for that one “Oh that game was TODAY?!” game, I just didn’t think it would happen so soon. My hats off to the Horns and congrats to Case McCoy.

HUGE HUGE game this week. #5 Florida State at #3 Clemson. This is going to be right up there with Texas A&M/Alabama for game of the year so far. You’ve got two of the nation’s best quarterbacks going head to head in a prime time showdown. Freshman Jameis Winston is a guy we are going to be hearing about for a long time regardless of the outcome Saturday. He has been incredibly efficient as the Seminoles have destroyed their opponents this season. Clemson has had a couple of close games, including a real scare last week against Boston College. I think that those close wins are going to come into play this week. Close games that you are able to pull out can really be a confidence booster and help a team build momentum. I can’t remember a time where Clemson has been this relevant at this point in the season. They've usually Clemsoned already (speaking of - I told you the Georgia letdown was coming!). The difference in this team is they've been gut checked a few times heading into this game. Plus I like the senior QB Tajh Boyd at home over the freshman on the road sooooo.....I’m picking The Tigers. I know better. I KNOW better. But that’s my pick and I’m sticking to it!

I've been looking for an excuse to fire up the grill all season, so this week I’m going to show you an awesome technique for smoking ribs that’s tried and true, but we’re going to finish them with a South Carolina style barbecue sauce. Your typical barbecue sauce has a ketchup base, and then usually brown sugar, molasses, or vinegar – depending where in the country you are. But in South Carolina they use mustard as the base and build it from there. If you haven’t had it you’re in for a real treat!

Smoked Ribs with South Carolina Barbecue Sauce
I'm not going to lie - this is no quick weeknight recipe. It's a process. Ribs are not for the impatient. But I'm telling you: if you're willing to take your time and not get antsy, you'll be in for some good eating! I used spareribs for this cook. Times for baby backs will be a little less.

One thing I can't stand is when I have smoked barbecue and the cook relies on the smoke for all of the flavoring. You've got to rub the meat down with something. There's a ton of commerical rubs out there you could buy and that's just fine. Here is a simple rub from Steven Raichlen who is my grilling hero:

All Purpose BBQ Rub
(makes about 1 C)
From Grilling by Steven Raichlen

1/4 C brown sugar
1/4 C sweet paprika
3 tbsp black pepper
3 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp smoked salt or more kosher salt
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp celery seeds
1 tsp cayenne pepper

The very first thing you need to do with a rack of ribs is remove the membrane. I'll spare you the nitty gritty, but it's essential for the seasoning to penetrate the meat. Here's a short video on how to do it.

The night before the cook, slather the ribs all over with a thin coat of mustard. Then cover on both sides with the rub. This rub calls for about 2-3 tsp per pound of meat, and if you buy a rub it should tell you how much to use also. The purpose of the mustard is two fold: it provides a sticking substance for the rub so it stays on the meat, but the vinegar in mustard helps to tenderize the meat as it sits. Wrap the ribs in foil or plastic and put them in the refrigerator overnight.

So obviously we are going to need a smoker to pull this one off. I actually have an attachment for my Weber Kettle called The Smokenator which I 've had nothing but success with. It's really easy and eliminates the need for a separate smoker. We are going to be utilizing the time tested   3-2-1 method for smoking ribs. That's 3 hours uncovered in the smoke, 2 hours wrapped in foil, and 1 hour uncovered again.

When you are about 30-45 mins from putting the ribs on the grill, take them out of the refrigerator and let them sit on the counter to take some of the chill off. This will help a little with the cooking time, too. I just took mine out of the fridge and went to start my coals. For your wood, you can use whatever you like. Hickory is popular for ribs, but you could also use apple, cherry
, or whatever floats your boat. Mesquite isn't really an ideal smoking wood so you might stay away from that. I used a few chunks of Pecan for these guys. Pecan is kind of a milder version of hickory, so perfect for what we're doing.

Once your coals are ready and your smoker is up to temperature place the rack(s) on the grate. The ideal temperature is 225, no more than 250.

Close her up and go play with the kids for a while.

Depending on your smoker, you might need to come back every 60-90 minutes to check the water, move the coals around, or whatever kind of maintenance your smoker requires. The total time of this stage is going to be 3 hours.

After 3 hours, pull the ribs from the smoker. They'll probably already look delicious, but we're only about halway through.

Now we're going to let them steam in foil. This is a very important stage because this is where the meat will break down and become really tender. You could even add a splash of liquid (apple juice, vinegar, beer, or cola just to name a few) before you wrap the foil if you really want to show off. That's not as important as making sure you've got it wrapped tight TIGHT. Since you're wrapping them, the smoke is irrelevant at this point. You could put them back on the smoker or put them in the oven on 225/250 if you want to stay inside for a while. I went ahead and put them in the oven.

Just a splash of apple juice. You don't need much.

Another 2 hours here....

This would actually be a great time to mix up that South Carolina Mustard Barbecue Sauce (recipe below). You'll want a warm sauce to finish the ribs with.

After the ribs have cooked in the foil for 2 hours, remove them from the oven/smoker and unwrap them. Be careful of the steam!!! You'll know you're on the right track if you have to question if the ribs will fall apart if you picked them up. They'll seem almost soggy, and should also have shrunken back from the bone about 1/4" or so.

Technically you could eat them at this point, but you've already been cooking for 5 hours - why not dazzle?

So for the last hour, we're going to put them back in the smoker. You want your ribs to have a that nice char from the grill (aka bark), so that's what we're doing here - essentially drying them back out a little bit. I left the water pan dry for this last hour to help achieve the effect.

We are going for an hour at this stage. At about 30 minutes, you can brush them with a little sauce and the dryness of the grill will make it into a glaze on the ribs. You don't want to do this too early so the sugar doesn't burn. Hit them one more time with 15 minutes to go.

After that last hour, you should have a nice little glaze on those ribs. Pull them off the smoker and let them rest for about 15-20 minutes. And there you have it - competition level ribs!


Like that smoke ring?

I've got to say that these were some of the best ribs I have ever had. The meat literally came right off the bone. I tried to do ribs once before, but made the rookie mistake of getting impatient and pulling at each stage too early. Instead of 3-2-1, it was more like 2.15/1.3/1. So patience and temperature control are key here. And if all else fails, foil and sauce can hide a multitude of sins.

The South Carolina mustard sauce is a real twist. You can faintly taste it from the glazing during that last stretch. It's a sweet tangy flavor thats probably different than you've ever had. If you want to dip your ribs in them that's even better! I'll be honest, I had a little bowl of it fully intending to dip and forgot to use it because the ribs were so tasty on their own. You could smoke ribs this same way and use any sauce you like, but I encourage you to give the mustard bbq sauce a try. Don't have 6 + hours to spare? Use the sauce on some pulled pork or even chicken. Between the rib technique and the new sauce, I hope I've given you some new things to try!

South Carolina Mustard BBQ Sauce
adapted from Pig by James Villas

1 1/2 C yellow mustard
1/2 C ketchup
1/2 C brown sugar (+ up to 2 tbsp if you like it sweeter)
1/4 C white vinegar
1 Tbsp Worcestershire
1 Tsp garlic salt
1 Tsp ground pepper
1/2 Tsp cayenne pepper

1)Combine ingredients in saucepan and whisk together. Heat on medium heat just until it first starts bubbling. Stir well, and warm on low for 20-30 mins.

3-2-1 rib method

1)The night before, remove the membrane, coat ribs in mustard, then rub barbecue seasoning on both sides of the ribs. Wrap them in foil or plastic wrap, and set in the refrigerator overnight.

2)About 30 - 45 minutes before you start cooking, take the ribs out of the refrigerator and set on the counter (still wrapped). Prepare your smoker and bring up to 225 degrees. Ideal woods: Hickory, Apple, Cherry, Peach, Pecan.

3)Smoke ribs for 3 hours at 225 unwrapped. Replinish water/coals as needed.

4)At 3 hours, wrap ribs tightly in foil with a splash of liquid (apple juice, cola, vinegar, beer). Cook for another 2 hours wrapped either on the smoker or in the oven on 225-250.

5)After the 2 hours, unwrap ribs and place back in the smoker for 1 hour. At about the 30 minute mark, brush with bbq sauce. After 15 more minutes brush again. During this hour stage you may want to remove water from the water pan or humidifier (It's also OK if the temperature comes up a little bit, too). Once an hour has passed, remove ribs and allow to rest for 15-20 minutes. Cut and serve with sauce on the side.

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