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Posts Tagged ‘Rub’

Cowboys and Cowgirls

I usually scoff when people claim to have replicated some very distinct, obviously highly-dependent-on-cooking-method-and-ingredients flavor using some simple, inauthentic trick.  Like, “barbeque” poached chicken.  No, you did not make barbeque poached chicken.  Or “asian”–actually, what the hell is “asian” flavor anyway? Is that Thai, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Lebanese…?  I digress.

That said: this totally tastes like cowboy steak.  Yeah, cowboy steak.  It’s very smoky, very rustic, and even cooked in a cast iron skillet.  The key, of course, is the rub, which is a new favorite.  Cumin, paprika, salt, pepper, chile flakes, some brown sugar, and the real kicker: coffee.  The coffee was an amazing addition to what is otherwise our typical rub.  So dark, roasty, earthy, complex–and perfectly complemented by the same qualities in the paprika and cumin. I toasted all the spices before mixing together.

For extra cowboy authenticity we used rib eye steaks (right?). Funny story there.  We bought just over 2 pounds from our favorite butcher, Ferraro’s, and thought, “this is the perfect amount.  Three good sized steaks for three people.”  Then we get home and open it up and under the first three–are three more!  So we saved the last 3 for another time, and instead of having a totally awesome serving of steak, decided to settle for what was probably a much more reasonable and certainly healthier portion.

I’m not sure if we’ve mentioned this, but steak is something we don’t cook often, because cooking a steak any way but over a really hot grill–I hardly see the point.  But this recipe surprised me.  Would it be better cooked over a smoldering hickory log? Absolutely.  In fact, the first thing I thought after this meal was that I needed to give this recipe to my parents so they could do it properly, with a fat sirloin steak over my father’s charcoal grill (he will undoubtedly use hickory or mesquite wood, too).  But for now, I have a reason to cook steak again.

For added cowboy authenticity, you can eat this the way we did: paired with a bottle of Chilean cabernet sauvignon; on white bone china plates; with a red wine reduction, mashed potatoes with locally-grown kale; and while listening to Benny Goodman.  I guess the boy who used to go to school wearing chaps, cowboy boots with spurs, a cowboy hat on his head and a handkerchief tied around his neck has grown up a bit.  Into a sissy east coast intellectual.

Directions: for the rub, basically equal parts everything mentioned, perhaps with two parts coffee or salt depending on your preference.  Heavily rub the steaks and let them sit for a while.  If you have a cast iron, great, but you can also cook this under the broiler if you don’t have a pan that can take the heat.  Rib eyes don’t take too long, less than 5 minutes per side (again, my preference would be for something thicker…and also cooked outdoors).  Remove steaks when done and let sit for ten minutes.  Meanwhile, make a pan sauce using the drippings.  Preferable would be a 1 cup dark beer, but we used red wine (a question of availability).  Add an herb (thyme for us) and 1T butter at end (optional).  You may want to lick the pan when you are done.

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While at Costco this past Saturday, my wife asked me, “Why don’t we ever buy ribs?” and I answered, “Because we never cook ribs.”  “But I love ribs!” she exclaimed.  I had no idea!  I always thought that we didn’t cook ribs because she didn’t like ribs.  And I realized my error.  And repented.  So we bought a Costco sized portion of two racks of pork spareribs.

Few things in life are as good as barbecued spareribs, slow-cooked for hours to smokey goodness.  But we’re still sans grill, and I always figured there was no cooking method that could do ribs justice so I never even bothered (plus, I thought she didn’t like ribs, remember?).  Well, I was wrong for so long about so many things.  We decided to give oven-roasting a shot.

I’ve realized that one of my favorite things to do is to slow cook a piece of meat for hours on end (beef short ribs have been the favorite for some time now).  Maybe it’s the satisfaction of knowing that the best things in life are not rushed and that trying to speed up success can often ruin it–these ribs were no different.  We let them “marinate” dry-rubbed for two hours and then cooked them for just over three hours.  And I’m worried the barbecue gods are going to strike me down when I say this: I honestly don’t know that they would have been that much better done properly over a smoldering log of hickory.  Well, maybe just a little better.

Dry rub:  I’ve got a chili powder spice mix with just about everything I use in a rub (paprika, salt, coriander, oregano, garlic, cayenne, cumin) to which I added more cumin and red chili pepper flakes.  I used about 1/2 a cup of rub for a rack of ribs, with more than 2/3 of that going toward the meaty side.  Let sit for at least an hour, but more is better.  Some people will also add sugar (brown or white) to their rubs, but since sugar can burn (a low risk cooking in a low-temperature oven, of course) and since we were going to slather them with a sweet and tangy sauce at the end, I left it out (I always leave it out).

Heat oven to 300 F.  Place ribs on a roasting rack in a roasting pan (so that there is room below the ribs for the drippings–we’re roasting, not frying) and slide in the oven.  They’ll be done about 3 hours later.  There’s no rush; at that temperature it’s hard to dry them out and the longer you wait, the more fat that will render and the more tender they’ll be.  When they’re done, remove from the oven, cover generously with sauce (forthcoming) and put under the broiler for 5-10 minutes but do not overcook or the sauce will burn!  Let the ribs rest before you cut them apart. Eat with your hands.

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