Wednesday, April 13, 2011

In the Kitchen: Grandma's BBQ Ribs (and other Brilliant BBQ Ideas)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Grandma's BBQ Pork Ribs

My friends and I had our first spring barbeque about two weeks ago by the river Rhein, and it was absolutely fantastic. Not just the food, but also the lovely river, the beautiful sun, the company and the little dog that harassed us in the most adorable way. The truth is, I was pretty obsessed when we were planning for it. I searched the web high and low for the best marinades by the best chefs (and painstakingly chose among them), brainstormed in my free time what we could possibly add to the barbecue, even brainstormed for dessert (cause we ought to end it on a sweet note, right?)... you get the idea. The only recipe I didn't get from the web was a barbecue sauce for ribs that my friend passed to me (scribbled on a piece of paper) and insisted we used. If he didn't, I would have found something on the web by some famous chef, corroborated by multiple sources, top-rated, etc. But boy, am I glad he did. The recipe, as you may have guessed from the rather straightforward title, came from a lovely Grandma, but not exactly his. He did an overseas exchange to US a few years ago, made this with his host Grandma, and scribbled the recipe down on a piece of paper because it was too good to forget. And it really is worth scribbling on a piece of paper. As it is, I scribbled the recipe down on another piece of paper, and am only typing it out now because it was the star of our barbecue (which was full of other amazing food) and I need to share it with you. The sauce was amazing and the ribs were falling off the bone. They were irresistible, really. Every time a batch was ready, the ribs were snatched up like hotcakes. It was such a sharp reminder that basic, down to earth recipes can often triumph many dressed-up, fancy ones out there.

Vodka Watermelon Punch
Bacon Wrapped Mushroom
Warm Mushroom Salad

Other ideas that turned out fantastic - a watermelon and lemon vodka punch, mustard marinated pork kebabs with apples, bacon wrapped mushrooms, bacon wrapped white asparagus, and a warm mushroom salad to contrast with all the meat. Oh, and marshmallows! Sure, we made a Tiramisu with Irish Cream that was polished up in seconds, but we could have done without it, you know? But a barbecue without roasted marshmallows? That's just wrong. The watermelon and lemon vodka punch was more like a dessert since there wasn't nearly enough punch to go around, but it was an amazing drink. The inspiration came from my mum, who used to make watermelon punch for dinner parties, except she didn't use vodka (my sister and I and all the other kids were far too under-aged). The mustard marinade was one of those I got off the web - it made the pork surprisingly juicy. The bacon wrapped things were an inspiration drawn from Japanese kushiyaki restaurants. I used white asparagus instead of green since it's an European specialty. It turned out fantastic! Extremely juicy (since white asparagus is generally thicker) and smoky from the bacon. The simple salad was put together to make everyone feel better about having so much meat, but it was surprisingly well-received. I'm guessing it's the Italian salad dressing. It was really nothing more than lettuce, cherry tomatoes, hard-boiled egg, sautéed mushrooms and a liberal drizzle of home-made Italian salad dressing. Oh, one last tip before I leave you with the recipes. If you've done your marinade research, you'll find many suggestions about Italian salad dressing. Look, you don't have to get it from the supermarket. I made one using this recipe without the parmesan cheese and it was still very good. And very useful since it served as both marinade, as well as an actual dressing.

P.s. We also had the usual chicken wings and beef kebabs but they weren't as great... Any suggestions for good marinades?

Grandma's BBQ Sauce for Ribs
More than enough for 1.5kg of ribs

2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of mashed and minced garlic
1/2 cup of cider vinegar
1/4 cup of soy sauce
1 cups of ketchup
1 cups of honey
1 demitasse cup of expresso (or strong coffee)
sea, kosher or grey salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 162 degrees Celsius. Mix the ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.

Place the ribs in the oven (I used pork ribs), spreading them out and making sure they don't overlap. Turn the ribs every 30 minutes for 2 hours. (Initially I was skeptical that we didn't have to marinade the ribs before baking them in the oven, and that we didn't have to bake the ribs with the sauce. But once I tried the end result I was sold. The next day, I baked the ribs with the sauce, and it was actually much drier, not at all like the juicy, fall off the bone ribs we had for the bbq)

On the grill, brush the sauce and turn frequently.

Watermelon and Lemon Vodka Punch

1 watermelon
4 lemon (to taste)
Vodka to taste

Squeeze the lemon juice and set aside. Slice the watermelon either at the top, for one big watermelon "container", or in half for 2 watermelon "container" halves. I did the latter, but I would prefer the former since it would be easier to transport (though harder to remove the watermelon flesh). Remove the watermelon flesh. If you care about aesthetics, remove the flesh in balls using an ice-cream scoop and place on a plate. If aesthetics don't matter that much, just use normal spoons and try your best to scoop the flesh in balls.

If you want to remove the seeds, this is the time to do it. If not, pour the watermelon balls back into the watermelon container(s), along with the juice that has gathered on the plate. Pour in the lemon juice to taste. Pour in the vodka to taste next, and pour in more lemon juice if required. The resulting punch should be a refreshing delight, with just enough alcohol to lift your spirits.

Bacon Wrapped Mushroom and Bacon Wrapped White Asparagus

I won't provide a recipe for the bacon wrapped things, since I didn't even have to season anything, but I thought I would share some useful tips. I found that if you're using button mushrooms (no canned ones, please!) it was best to slice the mushroom in three, stem up, so that two of the parts will be "stem-less", so to speak, and only the centre part retains the stem. This way, it's much easier to wrap the bacon around the mushrooms. I would have used Enoki mushrooms too, if I could get my hands on them.

For the asparagus, if you're using the white variety, which is thicker, I would highly suggest blanching the asparagus in boiling water for 2-3 minutes to soften it before wrapping it in bacon and putting it out on the grill.

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