Spatchcocked Turkey, because you don’t have to wait 346 days to cook a turkey

One of the reasons that I’m not a trial lawyer is that I’m not quick on my feet.  Like, I’ll be in a conversation with someone, and I’ll take something they say as fact, which on its face is completely laughable, but again, not that swift of a thinker.  And then a few days later, I’ll realize that what they said made no sense, and a simple retort would have rendered their point moot, and I’ll say to myself “that’s what I should have said!”

That’s pretty much what happened when I cooked our Thanksgiving turkey.  It was a glorious bird, if I do say so myself.  And it didn’t hit me until a few days later, oh yeah, people would have loved to have had this recipe for their Thanksgiving.  Oops.

But the truth is, people don’t make enough turkey during the year, which is a shame.  I mean, turkey is delicious (if you’re one of those weirdos that say that turkey sucks and is flavorless, that’s because your mom sucked and was a really crappy cook, and you should be barred from spreading your genes into future generatio…I mean, you need to try this recipe).  It’s relatively cheap – usually turkeys run about $1.50/pound, and you can make so many meals out of one bird.  And, if you cook one outside of Thanksgiving, you don’t have to worry about rushing the carving to feed your shitty drunk uncle that’s going to spend half the night talking about chemtrails and how 9/11 was an inside job.  So, do yourself a favor and start learning to make one out of season.

You’re probably saying to yourself at this point:

  • I’m afraid to google spatchcocking, what exactly does that mean?
  • How does he know my family so well?

These are valid questions!

Spatchcocking is a fancy way of saying we’re going to butterfly the bird.

What does that mean?  It means we’re going to take the backbone out of the turkey, and then flattening it out by pushing down on the breastbone until you hear it crack, because WHO’S YOUR DADDY MR. TURKEY YOU’RE NOT SO TOUGH NOW ARE YOU I OWN YOU I AM THE PATRIOTS AND YOU ARE THE SAD LITTLE BROWNS!!!

Now, you may be saying to yourself, that seems like a lot of work.  Why would I want to do this?  You seem to have a lot of aggression issues to work out that I’ve managed to get through, why should I crack this guy’s back to help you deal with your problems?

Well Mr./Mrs./Ms. Smarty Pants, the reason why is that you’re going to get the turkey to cook evenly and crisp up the skin to make it absolutely delicious.  That good enough for you?

Here’s the thing: there are two types of bird meat: white and dark.  And they need to cook to different temperatures (the USDA will tell you that white meat needs to be cooked to 165 degrees, and dark to 180.  I will tell you that you can do 150/165 and be just fine.)

When you cook the bird whole, everything gets smushed together, so it’s hard to get everything cooked evenly, so the breast gets done well before the dark.  Also, some of the skin gets bunched up into the meat, so it stays sad and flabby.  But, if you spatchcock it, everything is laid out in one layer, so everything cooks evenly, and all of the skin is exposed to the heat.  The benefit is that you’ll be able to cook your turkey in about half the time of a normal bird, and all of the skin will be cooked super crispy.

So let’s start with buying the bird.  For spatchcocking, you’re going to need to get a relatively small bird, no bigger than 12 pounds.  Anything bigger than that isn’t going to fit on a sheet pan.  Besides, do those 20 pound turkeys look natural to you?  Each one of them looks like Morganna the kissing turkey.  If you’re like the Duggars, or Phillip Rivers, or one of my ancestors that had 10 kids because no one understood birth control back in the 1880’s, get two 10-12 pound turkeys.

Now, there is going to be planning involved.  You’re going to need to get the turkey at least three days ahead of time so it can thaw out, unless you can manage to find a fresh bird somewhere (you’re reading my blog, so you probably can’t).  You could speed up the process by covering it in cold water for several hours, but you’ll probably give yourself salmonella, so just stay away from that.

The biggest inconvenience is that you’re going to need a good deal of refrigerator space for the turkey.  This would be a good time to get rid of that Chinese food from Wong Wu’s, which closed down two years ago.

Now, the day before you cook your turkey, you’ve got a choice to make – am I going to brine the turkey or not?  You’re not going to wet brine it, because it’s a pain in the ass and all you’re going to do is waterlog the turkey, and yeah it’ll be moist but so is a wet sponge and you’re not going to eat that, are you, never mind don’t answer that.

No, instead we’re going to dry brine it, if you’re so inclined.  All this means is that you’re going to coat the skin with a mixture of kosher salt and baking powder.  This will draw the moisture out of the skin, so it’ll crisp up and brown perfectly.  After 12-24 hours of brining, it’s going to get all light and transparent-looking, and you’ll know that it’s ready.

You can also decide not to, but really, if you’re going to take the time to hack a turkey in half, a few extra minutes of work shouldn’t be too much for you.  But, if you decide not to, you’ll probably be ok too.  Just be sure to salt it before you put it in the oven.

Now, the spatchcocking process.  Get yourself a good pair of kitchen shears – really powerful scissors will work in a pinch.  You’re going to cut the backbone out of it, which will take a few minutes.  Save the backbone, we’re going to use that for the gravy later.  Oh, and save the goodies in the plastic bag inside the turkey.

Once you’ve broken the breastbone and the turkey’s spirit, you’re ready to cook!

Now, that backbone you just took out.  You’re going to need to hack that into smaller pieces for the gravy.  If you have a cleaver, this would be a great time to use it.  Also, if you have a cleaver, stay away from me.  If you don’t, do the best you can to find some joints in it to cut through easily.

Once it’s finished cooking, and you’ve given it enough time to rest, it’s carving time.  Again, we’re going to the video, because I am not even going to act like I can teach you that.

When you start carving it, you’re going to hear that lovely crackling sound of super crisp turkey skin, and the bird will be the best one you’ve ever tasted.  And I’m sure you’ll drown it in too much gravy, but that’s on you.

Spatchcocked Roast Turkey and Gravy

From Serious Eats

Serves 10-12

Ingredients

For the brine

6 T kosher salt

2 T baking powder

For the turkey and gravy

3 large onions, chopped

3 large carrots, chopped

4 celery stalks, chopped

12 thyme sprigs

1 whole turkey, spatchcocked and butterflied, backbone and giblets reserved

2 T vegetable oil

1 1/2 quarts chicken or turkey broth

2 bay leaves

3 T butter

4 T flour

Directions

Place the oven rack on the middle position in the oven. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Line a rimmed baking sheet or sheet pan with foil. Mix up 2/3rds of the onions, carrots, celery, and thyme sprigs, and pour them onto the sheet. Place a cooling rack over the vegetables.

Use paper towels to pat the turkey dry, and place it on the rack. Rub one tablespoon of the oil all over the skin. Season the turkey liberally with black pepper (if you don’t brine the turkey, season with salt as well). Tuck the wing tips behind the back.

Move the rack to the oven and roast the turkey until the breasts measure 150 degrees and the thighs register 165 degrees, about 75-80 minutes.

While the turkey is roasting, chop the reserved turkey parts for the gravy.

Add the remaining tablespoon of the oil to a 3 quart saucepan, and heat over medium-high heat. Add the turkey parts to the pan and cook until lightly browned, about five minutes. Add the remaining vegetables to the pan and cook until the vegetables soften and brown, about another five minutes. Add the chicken broth, remaining thyme sprigs, and bay leaves to the pan. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a bare simmer for 45 minutes. Strain the solids from the broth, and skim the fat off the top.

In the same pan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the flour and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture is golden brown. While whisking constantly, add the broth to the pan in a steady stream. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer until reduced to 1 quart, about 20-30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper as needed, and cover the pan to keep warm.

When the turkey is finished roasting, remove it from the oven and allow it to rest for 20 minutes. Carve the turkey as desired. Collect any juices from the turkey, and add them to the gravy.

Crispy Chicken Skin, because don’t act like this doesn’t look delicious

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Ok readers, let’s have a little honest chat here – I believe that the kids call it “real talk” (I’m 45 going on 106, I say things like “the kids”).

We all love fried chicken.  It’s so delicious, the meat is so juicy, the buttermilk tenderizes the chicken and makes it so easy to chew.

Bullshit.

You want the skin.

You love the skin.

The crispy skin is the best.

Sometimes you get a full bucket of chicken just so you can peel the skin off, and throw perfectly good chicken flesh away just to devour the 12 secret spices and the fatty goodness of the skin.

And it’s ok.  We all love it, though I’d seek help for the last point.  Because it’s fatty and crispy and delicious when cooked up right.  So, no shame here.

This brings me to today’s recipe.  A few weeks back, I was making a recipe (which wasn’t good enough to make the cut for the blog) that called for skinless, bone-in chicken thighs.  And the only way to do that is to buy a pack of chicken thighs and skin them yourself.

So I’m skinning the thighs, and there is just a huge pile of skin when I’m done with it – almost a half-pound! (That picture would look disgusting, just plow through it)

I can’t throw all of that away.  What would the starving children think of me throwing that all away?  Would the pioneers approve of me wasting part of the animal?  Would the Pioneer Woman approve of me wasting part of the animal?  Hell no!!

(For those of you that think this sounds disgusting, ask yourself what pork rinds are?  Yep, pork skin.  And if that disgusts you, I don’t know why you’re still reading this blog.)

It took me no more than a minute to find an excellent recipe from Bon Appetit, which is incredibly simple – so simple that I can’t even justify using the HTML code to write it up.

First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Then grab a couple baking sheets, and line one of them with parchment paper.

Now, your pile of gross looking skin that will turn into fatty crispy goodness.  Separate them and cut them into about 3 inch squares, or something close.  This isn’t a French Laundry dish, no one is going to look down on you if they end up looking like rectangles or trapezoids or Dom DeLuise.

Place the squartanglzoidLuises on the parchment paper, and flatten them out as best you can.  Then you shower them with salt and pepper.  A lot.  More than you think you need.  How you do it is up to you.  I prefer to throw it in the air like I just won the lottery and asked for the cash payout in quarters, so I can swim around in it and splash them around…or just sprinkle it on, whichever.

Once you’ve made it rain on the skin, cover it with another sheet of parchment paper, and put the other baking sheet on top of it so they don’t curl up into sad little balls.  Then put them in the oven for 1 hour.

SEMI-PRO-TIP: Open a window or two, or run the fan.  These get smoky and will leave a kind of unpleasant smell behind if you don’t.

Once you pull them out of the oven, they will look browned and smell like absolute heaven.  Your best move is to let them sit for a bit to come to room temperature, and then snack on them over a long football Saturday or Sunday.  You probably won’t be able to resist, and just start eating them right there, which will burn your tongue, but you were going to do that on a slice of pizza anyways, so go for it.

Alternatively, you could chop them up into strips and use them as a garnish on a delicate chicken dish, as a texture enhancement.

Nah, you’re going to just eat them whole.  And that’s ok too.  I give you permission.

Miso Chicken Ramen, because you deserve more than just the packet

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Several years ago, I was talking with one of my friends (yes, I have more than one…usually) about food, and they were telling me about how ramen noodles had become a big thing.  Here’s a brief recollection of how that went:

 

THEM: You really need to try this new place, they do some amazing ramen noodle bowls.

ME: Wait, ramen noodles?  That’s like 20 cents a packet, why would I pay good money to get that?  I haven’t eaten that since high school, one time I cut up a hot dog and put it in the bowl, I thought I was some serious hot shit.

THEM: No, it’s nothing like tha…

ME: HOT DOG RAMEN IS THE BEST!!!

 

Fast forward about a year.  I was in Honolulu on the tail end of a long vacation.  I was exhausted from multiple days of hiking and sightseeing.  I was suffering from a mild staph infection, for which I had to convince the doctor to prescribe me anti-biotics for, and then had to wait in line at the pharmacy behind a woman that was reading the riot act to the pharmacist because they didn’t have her prescription ready and they made her late to work which seemed odd since she was wearing a bikini top and short shorts.

So I had very little energy to do much of anything, but I seriously needed some food.  And I’d heard a lot about this ramen place down the street, so I figured I should go see what they were doing that was so much better than my elegant hot dog ramen.

When I got to the restaurant, I saw this sign outside of it:

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I suppose some of those are hot dog ramen in some sense, but that is NOT what I bargained for.  But, I was tired and didn’t feel like finding a new restaurant, so I went forward to try the non-porn ramen.

I ordered whatever bowl of noodles and broth, and got some fried things along with it.

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Obviously they have different ramen packets over there.  But the noodles were thick and chewy, and the broth was super-meaty and perfectly seasoned.  Again, different packets.

Once I got home, I decided that I had to try and make it myself.  But, every recipe for the broth required you to boil bones for 12 hours or throw some crazy ingredients in like East Asian Yak Tail.  And I couldn’t find dry Asian noodles that were close to what I had in Hawaii, and there is no way I was going to make them from scratch (I will never understand home cooks that make their own pasta.  Yeah, it’s going to be better than the dry stuff, but the joy/pain ratio of making you own over the dry is extremely low.  It’s like building your own watch instead of buying one from a store…if anyone still wears watches…)

As I increased my ramen knowledge, I found that you can actually have thin noodle good ramen, which was helpful.  And, after seeing a recipe on Tasty, I found that you can use the instant ramen noodles in good recipes – you just have to throw away the packet.  Which, sometimes is very good to use, but it’s just a MSG bomb, and we can do better than that.

I’m not going to lie, though.  This is not a quick and easy recipe.  It won’t take as long as making your own broth, but there are a lot of elements to it, and you’re going to have to use some good time managements skills.  But, you will be rewarded with a restaurant quality ramen bowl in a fraction of the time they take to cook theirs.

This is a basic template, you can add and subtract however you’d like.  Don’t like corn?  Throw some bamboo shoots in!  Have some extra mushrooms around?  Slice ’em up and toss them in at the end!  Want to go the extra mile and marinate your eggs?  Do it!

 

Miso Chicken Ramen

Makes 2 bowls

Ingredients

1 T butter

1 c corn kernels, fresh or frozen and thawed

2 eggs

2 c baby spinach

4 c chicken stock

2 cloves garlic, smashed

1 3 inch piece of ginger, sliced into small coins

3 scallions, chopped

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 T miso paste

2 blocks of instant ramen noodles, packets discarded

Additional scallions for garnish

Directions

 

Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl.

In a large Dutch oven or stockpot, add the chicken broth, garlic, ginger, and scallions.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.  Add the chicken breasts, return the broth to a simmer, and cook for 20 minutes.  Remove the chicken and set aside.

While the broth is coming to a simmer and cooking, in a large skillet, melt the butter over medium high heat.  Add corn and saute until warmed through and just starting to brown.  Move to a bowl and set aside.

In a large saucepan, bring just enough water to cover two eggs to a boil.  Heat to high.  Once boiling, add eggs to the pot.  Boil for six minutes, then remove the eggs with a slotted spoon and carefully place in the ice bath.

Add spinach to boiling water and blanch until the spinach is just wilted.  Remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl and set aside.

Strain the broth of all solids, and return to the stockpot.  Stir in the miso paste, and simmer for a few minutes.

Shred the reserved chicken with two forks.

In a medium saucepan, cook the noodles according to the packet directions.  Drain the noodles and set aside.

Once the eggs are cool to the touch, remove the shells from the eggs.

To serve, add half the noodles to each bowl.  Ladle the broth over the noodles, and garnish with the spinach, corn, reserved scallions, and chicken.  Cut the eggs in half, and place on top of soup.

Bloody Mary marinated flank steak, because you can do better than Guy Fieri, and make a great drink at the same time

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Last weekend, my lady and I spent some time in New Orleans, and over the course of a few days we consumed somewhere between four and eleventy billion Bloody Marys.  And a few hurricanes.  And one of those hand grenade drinks that comes in those yard glasses that advertise it as the strongest drink on Bourbon Street which was not that strong oh my god I remember very little of that night after consuming it but the two are totally not correlated.

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We made it home in one piece, and I decided that I wanted to incorporate the Bloody Mary into something I cooked, without taking the easy way out and just making some peel-and-eat shrimp with cocktail sauce.

(Sidenote: a Bloody Mary is basically cocktail sauce, with tomato juice instead of ketchup.  But it’s cool, because cocktail sauce is delicious, and really, are peel-and-eat shrimp anything more than a sauce delivery vehicle?  I’ve had maybe three shrimp in my life that made me say, oh this doesn’t taste like watery rubber, I would eat these on their own.)

I figured for something like this, a flank steak would work best.  Chicken would be overwhelmed by the tomato mixture, and fish would break down if I left it to sit long enough for the marinade to penetrate it.  So I went to the internet to look up recipes and see if anyone has ever done this before, to at least make sure that no one has ever tried it and said, do not make this, it turned my steak into mush and the marinade exploded and left huge stains on my ceiling, and when we tried to sell our house we had to put in the description “pay no attention to the red stains in the kitchen from the great Bloody Mary incident of 2006.

One recipe came back.  And I clicked on it, and saw that the author was…

Guy Fieri.

Guy.

Fucking.

Fieri.

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No.

No, no, no, no, no.  We do not travel to Flavortown in this house, we make nothing that is righteous, and everything is in bounds and on the hook.

(BTW, I had to look all those expressions up.  Some of them.  Maybe.)

I did take a look at the method he used, and it lined up with what I had planned to do, so I went about creating my own recipe that would not only make a good marinade, but also the base for a great drink.  Not to toot my own horn, but I think I knocked it out of the park.

A few notes before I get to the recipe:

  • This is my recipe, any similarity to an existing recipe is completely coincidental, so there will be no attribution.
  • I served this with a simple salad and brown rice with lots of herbs – that recipe will come in a later mini-post.
  • You could use a bottled mix, and get pretty good results.  Don’t.  It doesn’t take more than a few minutes, you’ll use the ingredients in other recipes, and you can modify it as you like.
    • Caveat: if you’re going to use bottled lemon juice and not fresh squeezed, then go ahead and use the bottled.  It’s not going to taste nearly as good.

This does call for using a cast-iron skillet.  I know that scares a lot of people off, because they think it takes so much time to maintain it, and if you mess one thing up then it becomes totally useless.  I used to think so too, but it’s pretty easy – I bought one at a flea market a couple years ago, and after a little cleanup it’s slicker than a non-stick skillet.  Here’s a great primer on how to bring an old one back to life.

Bloody Mary Marinated Flank Steak

Serves 4, plus makes enough base for 2 Bloody Marys

Ingredients

1 1 1/2 lb flank or skirt steak

2 5.5 oz cans Spicy Hot V-8 juice

1 11.5 oz can tomato juice

2 1/2 T fresh squeezed lemon juice

2 T Worcestershire sauce

2 T prepared horseradish

1/2 T Sriracha

1/2 t soy sauce

1/4 t garlic powder

1/4 t salt

1/4 t black pepper

2 T canola oil

Directions

Place steak in a large Ziploc bag.  Mix remaining ingredients, except for oil.  Pour half of the mixture into the bag – save the rest for drinks.

Press as much air out of the bag as you can, then seal the bag.  Place in the refrigerator on top of a dish or paper towels, in case the bag leaks.  Marinate for 8 hours, flipping every couple hours to ensure even marinating.

Heat a large cast-iron skillet on high heat.  Add oil to the pan, and heat until smoking.  Place the steak into the pan fat side down, turn the heat down to medium-high, and cook for 3 minutes on each side until well browned on each side.

Remove the steak and place on a cutting board.  Let the steak rest for 10 minutes.  Slice thinly against the grain.

 

Bacon Fat Tortillas, because you do not want to live in black and white

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There are few things that I like more than commercials for “as seen on TV” products.  Especially for products that solve a problem that you didn’t even know you had.  Like putting on your socks, or opening a jar, or breathing (you try and try, but you just can’t take in oxygen and convert it to carbon dioxide, and WHO HAS TIME TO LEARN HOW TO DO IT??)  And even more so when the first part is in black and white, and shows just how complicated life is, and then it switches to color to show how much better it is when you’ve solved the not-problem-problem.

Here’s my favorite one:

Before she discovered the green pan, this woman had no concept of how cooking worked – she probably thought if you banged two rocks together, a stir fry popped out.  But now that she has the green pan, she’s all, oh look at me, I’m Emeril Batali, come check out my 13 new restaurants that are opening this week, Iron Chef just called, they want me to be on their East Japanese Shark Fin Powder episode.

Anyways, this is a long winded way to say that I’ve discovered that the same way of thinking could apply to tortillas.  Store-bought tortillas are black and white, but homemade tortillas…that is living in space age technicolor.

Did you know that tortillas puff up when they’re cooked?  I didn’t until I made these.  You could treat these as little pita pockets if you wanted to, except these would actually taste good, instead of tasting like semi-pliable cardboard.

Did you know that tortillas are supposed to be tender yet chewy?  I didn’t either.  Check that, I kind of did, since Houston has amazing fajita restaurants, but I didn’t think you could make those kind at home.

This does take a little bit of work, but with some good planning it’s very doable.  IT.  IS.  NOT.  HARD.

(Also, this recipe will piss off the Whole30 people, and that’s a good thing.)

As the name suggests, you’re going to need bacon fat.  To do this, you’re going to need to cook some bacon to render the fat.  I should not need to convince you to do this – if I have to, get the hell off of my blog.

As a rule, whenever you cook bacon, you should be saving the fat.  It tastes much better than butter, and it keeps forever.  You’ll be passing the fat container down from generation to generation.

(Also, please don’t do that, I just made that up, it’s probably not true.)

(Also, make sure the fat cools for a bit before you pour it into a plastic container.  I learned this from experience.)

These are going to be thicker than your typical store-bought tortilla, but they’ll still be pliable.  If you want to get them super thin, you’ll need to invest in a tortilla press, which will set you back $15-20, and will take up a little space in your kitchen.

Also, these are going to cook best in a cast-iron pan.  If you don’t have one, you could use a non-stick or stainless pan, but it’s not going to get as hot as cast-iron, and you need the high heat to get the blister marks on the outside.  Get a cast-iron pan.  Chances are your grandma has one hidden away somewhere, and you can make sure she meets an untimely deat…I mean, ask to borrow it and never give it back.  I got mine at a flea market for $20, and it is so useful, and isn’t nearly as hard to maintain as people make it out to be.

 

Bacon Fat Tortillas

Makes 16 tacos

From Bon Appetit

Ingredients

8 ounces thin-cut smoked bacon

2 tablespoons, plus ½ teaspoon, vegetable oil

1 1/4 cups whole milk, divided into 3/4 cup and 1/2 cup

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface

 

 

 

 

 

 

Directions

 

Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Place the bacon in the skillet and cook until brown and crisp, 8–10 minutes.  Transfer bacon to a plate, and use in the taco filling, or save for another use.  Pour off 2 tablespoons of the fat from skillet, and set aside for making tortillas. Save the rest for another use.

In a medium bowl, whisk to combine, baking powder, salt, and 3 cups flour.

Bring the vegetable oil, ¾ cup milk, and reserved bacon fat to a simmer in a small saucepan (be careful not to boil).  Immediately remove from heat.

Pour hot milk mixture and remaining ½ cup milk into dry mixture bowl. Mix with your hands until a shaggy dough forms.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 4 minutes. Wrap in plastic and let rest at room temperature 1 hour to relax dough.

Divide the dough into 16 balls, about the size of a ping pong ball.  Cover the balls with a kitchen towel.

Working one at a time, roll out on a lightly floured surface into 6″ rounds.

Heat a clean large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Cook tortillas one at a time, reducing the heat if they are getting dark too quickly, until brown in spots on bottom sides and air bubbles form on surface, about 2 minutes. Poke large bubbles with a fork to release steam, flip tortillas, and cook until brown in spots on second sides, 1–2 minutes. Stack and wrap tortillas in a kitchen towel as you go.

Chipotle Glazed Ribs, because everything you know about ribs is wrong

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When people go to the grocery store (or as my lady likes to call it, the market, but extending the “a”, so it sounds like it’s being spoken by a 1930’s New York socialite on her third cigarette on one of those long smoker-thingies – oh daahling, would you be so kind as to fetch me a vodka soda, I can’t possibly enjoy my Virginia Slims without a drink…ummm…where was I…oh yeah, right), they go into the meat section and breeze right past the baby back ribs.

Ask a shopper why they pass by them, and they’ll probably give you any number of answers:

  • Waah, they’re too expensive!
  • Ewww, they’re so fatty!
  • Ugh, they’re such a pain to cook!
  • Yuck, they’re so messy!
  • Whatevs, I’m Taylor Swift and I have a personal shopper so I wouldn’t even be in your stupid market, and if I was I’d just be finding a guy to break up with so I can write a song about it!  Ohh, I could tell by the way you were looking at those mangoes, that you were going to cheat on me with some girl named Lila, so I smacked you on the face with a rack of ribs just so I could claim my man, and every time he goes to buy produce he’ll think twice before his eyes start straying!!!
    • I just sang that to myself, this isn’t the worst song I’ve heard this year.  Just sayin’, Nashville!

Some of those answers are true, some are bullshit, and some involve Taylor Swift.  But together, we’re going to debunk the bullshit, and ease your concerns about the truth.

BULLSHIT #1: RIBS ARE REALLY BAD FOR YOU

No one will ever confuse baby back ribs with health food.  They’re not healthy, they’re fatty.  But no one said you have to eat 20 bones at every meal (though I would quickly become friends with anyone that did).

Here’s a picture of one cut rib:

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That’s a pretty good sized rib!  Put a few sides together, and you really don’t need more than three ribs to be satisfied.  Which helps keep the portions down and still gives you the satisfaction of cheating a little and crushing Dr. Oz’s dreams of eliminating fatty waste consumption.

Now you’re probably saying to yourself, “Adam, I eat the dino deluxe rack every time I go to a rib joint, how can I possibly eat just three ribs?”  Well,

  • a) do it
  • b) only eat ginormous racks of ribs when you’re on a business trip, because the calories don’t count, and neither do the hookers you pay for while you’re there (Bonus if you can find a way to roll the two together into a single line on your expense report!)

BULLSHIT #2: RIBS ARE REALLY EXPENSIVE

Yep, if you go to a BBQ restaurant (or if you’re in Cincinnati, Montgomery Inn because you have no concept of what actual BBQ is), a rack of ribs is going to set you back $25-30. If you buy a rack at the market, you’ll usually pay $2-2.50 a pound.  A 3.5-4 pound rack should easily feed a family of four (again, you’re only eating three ribs, not the Monday night super city slicker rib plate challenge at the restaurant down the road).

BULLSHITS #3-5: EVERYTHING THAT MAKES YOU THINK YOU CAN’T COOK RIBS AT HOME

Ok, so here’s where I have to be straight with you: you are going to have to make some compromises to make these easily at home.  And they will be very good, but they will not come out perfectly smoky like the ones you get at a true BBQ restaurant.

To walk through the various bullshits, I had to turn to resident BBQ expert Melvin “Little Mo Big Tex Smoke Daddy” Thomas Jr., owner of Bunkhouse Buck’s Big Boss BBQ, which has appeared a record 16 times on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-In’s, and Dives.  Let’s hear what he has to say:

Melvin Thomas Jr. : Every true BBQ pit boss knows that the only way you truly make yourself a slab of ribs is by smoking them over a hickory fire (or mesquite if you want to go it Northwest Memphis style) using the 3-2-1-2-3-4-1 method for 16 hours, until you get a pink smoke ring but not too deep or you’ve ruined them and have to start over.

Adam: If you’re in a planned community like us, forget about being able to smoke anything.  And even if you’re in a normal house, do you really have 16 hours to spend with your life smoking ribs (it’s really more like 6, but go with me on this)?  Sure, they’ll come out great, but unless your life’s goal is to compete in weekly BBQ contests all across the country, baking them is perfectly fine.

MTJ: And no self-respecting BBQ master would ever par boil his ribs.

Adam: Yeah, ok, but again, we have lives so we have to simmer them for a little bit to move the cooking process along.

MTJ: Now, the mark of a true BBQ champion is their spice rub, and if I do say so, mine is the best.  The blend is a secret, but you can buy my rub for just $14.99, on my website, Amazon, or Etsy.  And you never, ever, ever sauce your ribs.

Adam: Most likely, the secret blend is just a lot of salt and brown sugar.  For these ribs, we’re going to use some of both, but the majority of the seasoning is going to come from the glaze (not a sauce, because sauces are added towards the very end because the sugar would burn if it’s left on too long).

BULLSHIT #6: REMOVE THE MEMBRANE

Unless you’re seriously bugged by it, just leave it alone.  Yes, the glaze won’t penetrate the bottom of the ribs, but it is a complete pain in the ass to remove and ain’t nobody got time for that.

Now that we’ve gotten those out of the way…we’re going to give them flavor in two stages.  The first is through the par boiling, which we’ll use a lot of vinegar, garlic, and salt to let them simmer in for a while.  The second is through the glaze, which is this fantastic combination of sweet (maple syrup and brown sugar), spicy (chipotle peppers and Tabasco), and sour (adobo sauce).

I made cornbread and green beans to go with this, but honestly, serve them with whatever you like; they’re going to taste great, and your family with judge you no matter what you serve them with.

 

Chipotle Glazed Ribs

Makes 4 servings

From Epicurious

Ingredients

Ribs:

10 1/2 cups water

2 cups white wine vinegar

1 yellow onion, peeled and quartered

1 head of garlic, halved

2 tablespoons salt

1 rack baby back ribs (about 3-4 pounds)

Glaze:

1 7-ounce can of chipotle chills in adobo sauce, diced small

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons onion flakes

1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

1 tablespoon salt

Directions

In a large stockpot, pour in the water, vinegar, onion, garlic, and salt, and bring to a boil. Add the ribs, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for 30-40 minutes, until the ribs start to pull away from the ends of the bones.

While the ribs are cooking, mix the glaze ingredients in a medium bowl.  If you want a smoother glaze, puree them in a blender or with an immersion stick.

When the ribs are tender, remove them from the pot and place them in a large sheet pan.  Pour some of the glaze evenly over the ribs to coat them.  Cover the ribs with loose plastic wrap, put them in the refrigerator, and let cool for at least 30 minutes (you can leave them overnight if needed).

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and place a cooling rack over the paper.  Lay the ribs on the rack, and place the sheet in the oven.  Cook for 20 minutes, brushing them with the glaze every 5 minutes.

Remove from the oven, place the ribs on a plate, and eat.

Mac and cheese, because it’s better than buying your mom a casket

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Here’s a summary of a couple related conversations that I was not in, but were tangentially related to me:

Mom (to my brother): So, I just want you to know that I’ve already purchased my casket, so you guys don’t need to worry about that.

Brother: Great, can you pass the mac and cheese?

Cousin: Don’t joke about that, it’s very good of her to take that off your mind.

Brother: It’s ok, Adam probably makes good mac and cheese.

WHEW, DUDE, SO YOUR MOM ISN’T DYING THEN??

No, that’ll be a much more drawn out process I’m sure.

Anyways, I do make a very good mac and cheese.  Which is good, because really, who doesn’t enjoy mac and cheese?  The world is divided into three types of people:

  • People that like mac and cheese
  • Lactose-intolerant people
  • Assholes

(This list doesn’t include vegans, because if you’re vegan and still reading this blog, that’s on you.)

So, the secret to a good mac and cheese is…well…it’s knowing where to steal a good recipe from.  I confess, I pretty much use Alton Brown’s recipe.  Why wouldn’t you trust this guy?

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But, his secret to a great mac and cheese is making the cheese sauce before you assemble the final product.  Which isn’t too hard, so long as you temper in the eggs and don’t let them scramble.

I used jack cheese for this version, since my lady doesn’t react well to orange and yellow cheeses, but cheddar is probably a better match for this dish.

As far as bread crumbs (which some people will probably kill you over if you don’t put them on top of your casserole), I’m ambivalent on them.  It’s kind of a pain in the ass for me, at least in this recipe, because you have to sauté them in butter separately, and that’s just another pan to clean.  Also, I forgot to get panko bread crumbs when I was at the grocery, so I didn’t use them.

 

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Makes 8 servings

From Alton Brown

Ingredients

1/2 pound elbow macaroni

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

1 tablespoon powdered mustard

3 cups milk

1/2 cup yellow onion, minced

1 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 large egg

12 ounces shredded cheddar cheese

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Fresh black pepper

3 tablespoons butter

1 cup panko bread crumbs

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the macaroni.

While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and mustard and whisk for about five minutes, making sure to break up any lumps. Stir in the milk, onion, bay leaf, and paprika. Simmer for ten minutes until thickened, and remove the bay leaf.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg.  Add a small amount of the milk sauce to the egg, and stir.  Slowly add more of the sauce to the egg until about a cup is mixed in with the egg.  Pour the mixture back in with the rest of the sauce.

Stir 3/4 of the cheese into the sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Fold the macaroni into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.

Melt the butter in a saute pan and toss the bread crumbs to coat. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.