Tuesday, June 19

Who Loves Ya Alton Brown?

The day after tomorrow some of my very dear friends will leave to summer on Long Island. Okay, it isn't as fancy as it sounds...but I AM starting to have some issues with the various members of my circle who leave town for weeks on end in the summer. Yes, I'm talking to YOU - JamiLynn, Jacob, Jack, Trudy, Brandon, Jennifer... and probably a few more that I just haven't realized are running away. But I digress...

Since they are leaving - we decided to have dinner at the river to send them off. Actually, we had pizza tonight to send them off...but they decided to spend another day, so we get to do it again tomorrow night. So began our traditional pondering: what are we going to fix to eat? We had hot dogs all weekend, it is too hot for pasta, none of them really like seafood (their largest shortcoming...). Finally I thought "ribs". And not just any ribs...Alton Brown's ribs. (well, his recipe...cannibalism is frowned upon, even in the Methodist church)

I grew up not liking ribs very much...it always seemed like I was gnawing on the bone to get the meat off. And not getting very much off. Then I had some super-slow smoked ribs that fell off the bone...and I understood why people loved them. But I could never replicate that myself. Until one day I watched Alton Brown's Good Eats on the Food Network...the episode is called "Who Loves Ya Baby Back". And it changed my culinary world. 

Alton Brown is like the Mr. Wizard of cooking. It isn't just recipes and demonstrations...it's KNOWLEDGE!! The why and how, not just the what and when. I have seen every episode of Good Eats (at least once) and my very favorite is the de-mystifying of rib cooking. Notice, I have not mentioned barbecuing anywhere in here...these are not smoked (a key component of BBQ), they are braised. And the process is so simple that from the time we decided to make ribs (8:50pm) until the FOUR racks were prepped and ready to cook was one hour and ten minutes. And that included the drive to Food Lion (and the five minute wait for the express line checkout).

I have made these a few times - the first time was a weekend that I decided to clean the freezer. If you think Dad can't find anything in the fridge...you should experience sending him to find something in the freezer!! But since the frost was taking more space than the food...it was time. While I was unloading, I was sorting various meats into coolers and cold bags...and a few things I could tell were just too freezer-burned to possibly taste good. Then I found a rack of ribs.

Even though I was pretty sure they too had gone past their prime - I just HAD to try out this recipe from AB. So I put it all together (skipping all the resting time...) and put them in the oven. And when the time was up, I twisted a bone to see if they were done...and the bone TURNED! They were indeed incredibly tender and fell-off-the-bone. The only tragic part was that there was no amount of sauce in the world that could cover up the freezer burn. But even though I did not have successful flavor - I did have successful process.

Last fall we made a few racks - somebody's birthday, I think. We followed the process, allowing them to marinate overnight...and turned on the oven just before we left for church. Mom and I came to the house to retrieve them for eating at the river. "Problem" #1 - we couldn't cut them into bone sections because they were too tender! I didn't even really need a knife, I could have portioned them with the side of my hand. "Problem" #2 - we discovered that some of the smaller bones had actually gelatinized. They had lost their bone-like structure and were actually bendable. The biggest "Problem" was #3 - us. We couldn't stop eating them! Several times we suggested to each other that we tell the people they had fallen to the floor or burned up or were otherwise inedible. But we behaved ourselves and shared.

So, tomorrow - as I leave for work - I will turn the oven on 225 and 2.5 hours later Mom will turn it off. And we will be geniuses once again. Thank you Alton!

Oh...want the recipe? Go here. I would cut and paste, but I don't want to be sued by the network I love!!

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