Guest Recipe: Smokey Weber Grilled Baby Back Ribs

My friend Sean is pretty much the Weber grill master.  Anything that can be grilled, he tries it.  Here is his recipe for baby back ribs.  Warning: these take a lot of time, but they are definitely worth it.  Thanks, Sean!

Smokey Weber Baby Back Ribs

Smoking ribs on a Weber grill is my favorite thing to do on a grill. It seems no matter how tried and true your recipe or process is, it always challenges you more than cooking any other piece of meat. From finding and applying the right rub, maintaining grill temperature between 250 – 300 degrees throughout the process, removing the ribs and applying the mop every hour, and ultimately taking the ribs off the grill to the delight of all your starving guests, it’s a lot of work, and a lot of fun.

The process is fairly simple:

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Get a drip pan and fill it completely full of hickory chips. I have had the same ole’ bag of chips for years and they don’t cost much. If you use them a few times they will more than pay for themselves. A great add to the Weber pro’s toolbelt. Fill the drip pan completely full of water and set aside. You will need them to soak for at least 30 minutes, and as long as possible while you prep your ribs.

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In an empty sink, cut open each rack of ribs from the plastic wrap they come in long ways. You do this in the sink because each rack has a lot of bloody juice inside of it and it will splatter.

Turn the ribs meat side down and take a knife along the less meaty side and poke the white membrane away from the bone. Being extremely careful, slowly rip away the membrane in one piece away from the bone until fully removed. At the end, it gets pretty fatty, simply remove the excess fat with the knife. It’s extremely important to get this right in one fell swoop, or the process can take a lot longer and you will become frustrated. In order to ‘rip it right’ I always wash my hands completely before each rack so that my hands aren’t’ as slippery and I can do it right each time.

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Get your rub on. Measure and drop all the rub ingredients in a small sauce cup and mix with a teaspoon until the mixture is consistent. With your good hand, sprinkle a little at a time on each rack, 80% on the meaty side and 20% on the boney side. It’s really important to have an equal amount on each rack so switch between them on each sprinkle. The next step is important. Don’t rub in the rub! If you rub your hands all over the ribs, the rub will ‘clot’ and it won’t adhere to the ribs. Instead, with clean damp hands, “press” in the rub gently, and the rub will adhere perfectly. Set the ribs aside for at least 30 minutes so everything has time to settle in.

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Measure and mix all of the sauce ingredients and cook over medium heat for 5-10 minutes. If it starts to bubble, turn down the heat and simmer.

While the initial sauce ingredients are cooking, take one slice of pineapple, and five cloves of garlic and mix together in a food processor as thin as possible. Place ingredients in the sauce mixture. Set aside the fully cooked sauce in a plastic resealable container so you can keep the extra for another day! I usually refrigerate it immediately to help it stand up a bit and get thicker.

Get the grill ready. If you don’t have a chimney starter, get one. I am a Weber fanboy, and I like to make the process as easy as possible. So I use a quick start nugget, and place the chimney starter on the grill bottom after removing the grates and setting aside. The chimney starter will light the coals right away, and after about 15 minutes you will notice the briquettes at the top have lit because they will be grey along the edges. At that point, dump all the charcoal onto one side if the grill and go inside and get your wood chips.

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Sprinkle the wood chips all over the briquettes. On the other side of the grill, fill up a drip pan with water and a few loose chips and place it inside the grill. At this point, you can put the grill grates back on, and close the grill lid and close the hole completely to get the heat down to grilling temperature.

You may be asking why we dump the charcoal on only one side of the grill. The reason is that we need to produce indirect low heat. In this situation, indirect is the key aspect. Regardless of temperature, using indirect (non right above the coals) will allow the grill to be used as an oven without directly burning your meat. Remember, you will have this meat on the grill for over  three hours so you must protect your meat as much as possible. Even 20 minutes with direct contact to the heat could burn your ribs so be careful. Secondarily, the target temperature for smoking is between 250 and 300 degrees. If you are like me you usually get above this temperature. If you use a rib rack and use indirect heat, the cooking time is between 3 and 4 total hours.
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Take the rack out to the grill. Place the rack on the indirect side of the grill. The official weber rib rack is a little unstable so don’t put the ribs in each slot until you get it on the grill. For the first hour of cooking, place the ribs in the rack bone side down all facing the same way. Close the grill, and set your timer for one hour. No matter what happens, have faith, and do not open the lid.

Remove the lid after the first hour and check your progress. You will see that you have made a lot! You will also see that some of the ribs have cooked more than others, so remember where the hot spots were.

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Take all the ribs off the grill and place them on a long dish and glop them on both sides with the mop generously. I usually use almost half the mop after the first hour. The vinegar in the mop will provide a great deal of acidity to the ribs, which has the effect of loosening the tendons in the meat, helping to provide the ‘fall of the bone’ you will need and expect when eating amazing ribs. Repeat the same steps the second hour, preparing the ribs for the key final hour of cooking.

While executing the process of mopping and rearranging the ribs in the rack a few key things to note:

  • Flip the ribs each time. First on the boney side then on the meaty side.
  • Note the hot spots and there will be hot spots. Put the more cooked ribs away from those slots and switch them with the less cooked ribs. If you do this, by the end, all the ribs should be cooked close to evenly
  • You should add 6 – 8 briquettes to the fire while you are mopping. Leave the lid off so that the coals get maximum air and the coals light while you are mopping.
  • Try to keep this process under 5 minutes. It’s kind of a production so if your ribs aren’t being cooked for 10 minutes that’s not idea.

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After the third hour, you ribs might be cooked. The way I test this is by grabbing an entire half rack with tongs in the middle of the rack. If the ribs start to tear away they are ready. Also, they should be coming off the bone almost a half of an inch. If they aren’t cooked, keep em on for up to one more hour. As you can see in the picture above you could be looking like barbeque happiness at this point. It’s fun. If so, its grill achievement unlocked.

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Now it’s time to take the ribs off the grill and apply the “texas crutch”.  Take the ribs off and bring them inside. You should have a large strip of foil ready for each rack. Place each rack in the foil one at a time and apply the sauce. Wrap them up and set aside for thirty minutes. This will do three things:

  • The cooking process will finish up
  • The sauce will settle in
  • It will give you time to prepare your sides and cook your veggies on the grill

Now, time to enjoy!

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Now, time to enjoy!!!

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Lazy Post: Favorite Chicken and Quinoa Casserole

Summer is here, people. While I am easing into summer break (i.e., reading as many books as possible and not doing much else), I am currently baking my favorite quinoa casserole. It is not one of my own recipes, but you should all check it out here. This Mexican-style chicken and quinoa casserole is amazing and lasts all week long. Boyfriend does not even complain about it. 

Pro tip: top it with a little diced avocado if you really want to love your life. 

I will hopefully get some book reviews up this week! 

Caramel Apple Salad

Since we have discussed my fear of mayonnaise-based salads, we should probably talk about marshmallows in salads. Naturally, this reminds me of every episode of How I Met Your Mother that involves Marshall’s mother, and I do agree with Lily that creamy salads are maybe not really salads. Similarly, marshmallows in salads are generally weird. Except in this one. It is another summertime dessert staple and honestly, maybe I will stop calling it a “salad” in an attempt to remove the weird stigma that may only exist in my very strange mind. We’ll see how motivated I am this summer. 

But hey, bonus – this dessert has under 100 calories (89, to be exact) per serving! 

 
Caramel Apple Salad

Serves 8-10

  • 3 c. chopped apples (I have zero patience for peeling so I don’t. Also, any kind of apple works but Granny Smith is delightful in my opinion.)
  • 8 oz. crushed pineapple in juice (do not drain)
  • 1 package fat free, sugar free instant butterscotch pudding
  • 1 c. mini marshmallows
  • 8 oz. fat free Cool Whip

In a large bowl, combine apples and pineapple and its juice. Once apples are covered in juice, sprinkle pudding mix over them and stir to coat. Fold in Cool Whip, and the fold in marshmallows. Refrigerate until you are ready to serve. 

 

The Only Potato Salad I Will Eat

It is barbecue season! Potato salad is pretty much a staple this time of year, but I missed out on it for the first twenty-some years of my life. Why? Mayonnaise-based salads generally weird me out. They generally look mushy and pretty gross. You are also taking a big chance when you eat them, because some deranged person may have used Miracle Whip, i.e., the Devil’s condiment, in the salad. [I obviously have strong opinions about mayonnaise.] Anyway. I did not try any potato salad until I was probably in my mid-twenties. Little did I know, my mom and grandmother make the world’s best potato salad. I have been spending the last few years eating as much of this stuff as I can to make up for lost time. 

  

The Only Potato Salad I Will Eat

As always, quantities are an estimate. Adjust to your taste.

  • 6 large Russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2 Tbsp bacon grease (If you skip this, I can’t even.)
  • 2 Tbsp. white vinegar
  • 2-3 hard boiled eggs
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 3 Tbsp finely chopped green onions
  • Enough mayonnaise to make everything stick together (I used lite mayo and add spoonfuls until I like the consistency

Boil potatoes until tender. Drain, then add to a bowl. Pour bacon grease and white vinegar over the potatoes and season with salt and pepper (and a dash of garlic powder if you’re feeling wild). Let sit for a few minutes (at least 10). Add remaining ingredients, folding in mayonnaise until you like the consistency. Season more if necessary. 

Fun fact: this is delightful while it is still warm. 

You’re welcome. 

Best Ever Cilantro Lime Dressing

Hey guys! I’m alive! With one more full week of school before summer break, I can see the light. I did a ton of meal prep today and decided to go with a salad for my lunches most of the week. I am using a dressing that I adapted from Nordstrom. I always forget how great this dressing is and when I do make it I wonder why I don’t keep it sound more. So, here you go: 

  
Best Ever Cilantro Lime Dressing

Good for 4-6 entree salads, I think

  • 1/4 c. seasoned rice vinegar
  • 3 T lime juice (add more to taste at the end of you would like)
  • 1 small clove of fresh garlic
  • 1 T honey
  • 1/4 c. canola or vegetable oil (I still don’t know the difference between the two)
  • 3/4 c. roughly chopped cilantro
  • Pinch each of salt, pepper, and ground chipotle chili pepper (do not confuse this with crushed red pepper)

In a small food processor, blend rice vinegar, lime juice, garlic and honey. Add oil in a thin stream (If your mini food processor isn’t fancy enough to have an opening for this, you can add the oil all at once. The world won’t end, I checked.) Add spices and cilantro, pulsing until the cilantro is blended to your liking. Add to everything in sight and enjoy. 🙂 

Recipe: Breakfast Rice Bowl

Sunday mornings are for cleaning out the refrigerator around here.  Today I threw a few things together to make a super delicious, very healthy rice breakfast bowl.  As always, you could use just about any kind of produce.

Breakfast Rice Bowl

Serves 2

  • 1 c. brown rice, cooked
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 small onion, diced
  • 1/2 c. chopped baby spinach
  • Italian seasoning
  • 4 large eggs
  • Sriracha (optional, but highly recommended)

Spray two medium/large skillets with cooking spray.  Heat one on medium-high heat, and saute peppers and onions for approximately 3-4 minutes or until soft.  While that is happening, heat the other skillet over medium heat.  Crack the eggs into the new skillet and season with salt and pepper. While the eggs cook, add rice, spinach, and a sprinkle of Italian seasoning to the peppers and onions.  Flip the eggs after the whites are set and finish cooking for another minute or so.  Serve two eggs over half the rice and vegetable mixture.  Add a little Sriracha for extra awesomeness.

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Recipe: Crustless Ham and Spinach Quiche

You guys know I am all about the quiche.  I am also all about finding creative ways to use leftover produce in my refrigerator.  When I was cleaning it out today, this little beauty was born.  This recipe would also be perfect for leftover Easter ham!  

Crustless Ham and Spinach Quiche

Serves 6

  • 4 slices deli ham
  • 3 eggs + 3 egg whites
  • 3/4 c chopped spinach 
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped shallots (onion works too)
  • 3/4 c unsweetened plain almond milk (use regular cow’s milk if that’s your thing)
  • 1/3-1/2 c shredded Havarti cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray pie plate with cooking spray. Lay ham slices in the bottom of the plate, like a crust. 

  

Sauté shallots until soft, about 2 min. Meanwhile, whisk eggs, egg whites, and almond milk in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in shallots, spinach, and cheese. Pour on top of ham.

 

Bake for 40 minutes, or until set. Let cool for 10 minutes before cutting into 6 wedges. Enjoy! 

 

  

Recipe: Chicken and Roasted Vegetable Bowl with Tahini Sauce

Last week I was really in a lunch rut.  I was sick of my usual options (even quinoa, which is practically unheard of for me), so I made up this little dish.  It was THE BOMB.  Seriously.  You can use any vegetables that you like – really, anything that you need to use up in your refrigerator would work (carrots, bell peppers, onion, etc).  I used leftover roasted chicken from my chicken and broccoli pasta earlier in the week.

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Chicken and Roasted Vegetable Bowl with Tahini Sauce

Makes 2 servings

  • 2 c. broccoli florets
  • 2 c. cauliflower florets
  • 1-2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 2/3 c. chopped kale
  • 6 oz. sliced or shredded chicken, cooked
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. tahini
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • crushed red pepper, salt, and pepper to taste

Preheat over to 425.  Toss broccoli and cauliflower with minced garlic, 1 tsp. olive oil, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper.  Roast for 20-25 minutes, shaking halfway through.  While the vegetables are roasting, chop kale and chicken.

Go ahead and assemble these in your lunch containers of choice.  In each container, layer 1/3 c. kale, 1 c. roasted vegetables, and 3 oz. chicken.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, whisk together remaining olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, and a sprinkling of crushed red pepper.  Add a dash of salt and pepper and divide into two small dressing containers.

At lunchtime, heat chicken and vegetables and top with sauce.  Healthy and easy!

Recipe: Chicken and Broccoli Pasta

This pasta dish has long been a part of my weeknight rotation.  I generally either use a rotisserie chicken or bake the chicken ahead of time to help the meal come together quickly.  Add a side salad or some French bread and you’re set!  It also keeps well throughout the week for a grab-and-go lunch.

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Chicken and Broccoli Pasta

Serves 4

  • 8 oz. whole wheat angel hair pasta
  • 3-4 c. broccoli florets
  • 12 – 16 oz. cooked chicken (depending on how much you like chicken)
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves fresh garlic, minced (trust me, it isn’t the same if you use the bottled garlic)
  • 1/2 – 1 t. crushed red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  While you are waiting, cut a head or two or broccoli into florets (or use the pre-cut broccoli – I do that sometimes) and reheat chicken.  Then, prepare the “sauce”.

For the “sauce” (because it really isn’t sauce), heat garlic and olive oil in a small skillet.  When garlic begins to “speak” (as Rachael Ray calls it, meaning it just starts to sizzle), turn off heat and move skillet to a different (cold) burner.  Add crushed red pepper and let the flavors meld.  Do not turn burner back on.

When water is boiling, add pasta and cook according to package directions.  With about 3-4 minutes left in the cook time, add broccoli to the pot and cover.  Drain pasta and broccoli and then return to pot.  Add chicken, olive oil mixture, and salt and pepper to taste.  Garnish with a little shredded Parmesan cheese and enjoy!

*You may want to play around with garlic, red pepper, and olive oil amounts to your taste.

Recipe: Mexican Quinoa Salad

Quinoa salads are my lunch jam.  Lately I have gotten tired of my usual rotation, so I have started experimenting.  This week’s creation is not too shabby.

mexi quinoa salad

The picture really does not do it justice.  However, I also created an awesome quinoa salad last week and did not blog it because I didn’t think to take a picture of it.  Since I made this up directly in the plastic container I take to work, you are just going to have to deal with a not-so-pretty picture (I am quite sorry).

Mexican Quinoa Salad 

Makes 2 servings

  • 1 c. cooked quinoa
  • 2/3 c. black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 c. frozen corn, thawed (Trader Joe’s fire roasted corn is amazing)
  • 1/2 c. tomatoes, chopped (I just had grape tomatoes around so I used those)
  • 2 T. chopped green onions
  • 1 T. chopped cilantro
  • cumin and chili powder
  • 1/2 c. salsa (I used my own)

In a bowl, layer 1/2 c. quinoa, 1/3 c. black beans, 1/4 c. each corn and tomatoes, 1 T. chopped green onions, and 1/2 T. chopped cilantro.  Sprinkle with cumin and chili powder to taste, and top with 1/4 c. salsa.

Evidently, people eat these “salads” cold, but that weirds me out so I heat them up.  Eat it at whatever temperature you like!