Monday, 12 March 2012

"I'm Proud of You, Andrew"... for Making Ribs

My Maple, Grain Mustard and Thyme Ribs (top) and Ginger-Soy Ribs served at the potluck.
A few of my theatre buddies and I had bandied about the idea of a potluck a few times over the past year or two, but for some reason we never really took it up seriously.  However, discussion somehow turned to food (surprise, surprise!) during a rehearsal break a week before the Louis Riel Day weekend, and we all eventually agreed to have that potluck on Louis Riel Day after all.  As my discussion that precipitated this event involved ribs, and since I had recently bought two racks of pork side ribs, also known as spareribs, during a sale a few weeks beforehand, I was assigned the duty to make ribs for the potluck. I've previously made ribs, including the Maple, Grain Mustard and Thyme Ribs, but, realizing I had a full day off virtually at home before the potluck, I took advantage of the situation to try cooking ribs more slowly for the first time.  I also decided to use both racks of ribs I had in my freezer and marinate them differently.  One of them was a tweaked rendition of Maple, Grain Mustard and Thyme Ribs, while the other rack was given a ginger-soy marinade.
Maple, Grain Mustard and Thyme Ribs at the beginning of the marinating process.

Ginger-Soy Ribs at the beginning of the marinating process.
Once my ribs had completely thawed, I first had to cut them to half-racks in order to fit both in the marinating dishes and the oven.  I then marinated both ribs for 24 hours, starting with the meatier side facing up and flipping them upside-down after 12 hours.  To cook both ribs at the same time I also had to rotate them on different rack levels, switching them on every second flip of the ribs.  Because I used a fairly low temperature, none of the meat turned to charcoal (something I'll admit happened at some corners when I cooked under high heat), and yet the entire rack cooked just right.  A lot more moisture appeared to have been retained as well through the slow-cook method, which may also have been helped by the fact that I re-applied the marinades on the re-exposed surfaces after each flip.
Ginger-Soy Ribs
Maple, Grain Mustard and Thyme Rib
How did the ribs turn out in the end?  Pretty well, if I may say so.  My friends at the potluck concurred; as proof, I had no leftovers to bring home with me at the end of the potluck dinner!  I was potentially concerned that I didn't use enough sugar to counter the salty soy sauces and cooking wine, but it turned out that concern was unfounded.  I appreciated the visual contrast between the soy-marinated ribs, darkened by the dark soy sauce, and the comparatively paler maple-and-grain mustard ribs.
Some of the other partygoers' potluck contributions.  Clockwise from top: Mushroom and Bacon Risotto, Devilled Eggs (co-hosts'), Cheese, Sausage and Cracker Platter, and Devilled Eggs (fellow guests').  At centre are roasted chick peas.
Of course, with this being a potluck, I'd be remiss to neglect the other dishes and the plenty of laughs we had.  (Trust me, there were a lot of side-splitting laughs!)  We had two contributions of Devilled Eggs, but one can never have too much of a good thing, right?  The co-hosts made one batch with some Hungarian paprika, giving those eggs a slight twist compared to your typical Devilled Eggs.  Another guest brought a platter of cheddar, sausage and crackers as another starter, while another guest roasted and seasoned chick peas.  Our friend who roasted the chick peas also made the risotto.  Containing green peas, bacon, white and crimini mushrooms, she stated it was her first attempt, but we all certainly enjoyed it.
Slices of pomelo, with some slices already peeled open for easier eating.
She also brought a pomelo for us, one of my favourite citrus fruits, and apparently a popular one with this group as well after I introduced some of them to this fruit a few months ago.
Seasoned mashed potatoes and string beans
Our friends who brought the cheese and sausage platter also made a pot of mashed potatoes and string beans.  Good thing somebody thought of bringing a vegetable contribution to balance the amount of meat we collectively had.
Perogy pizza
One of our friends had to arrive late, but fortunately we still had room in our stomachs for more food.  She brought two items, the first one being apparently her favourite pizza, perogy pizza.  Homemade and topped with onions, cheddar, potatos and farmer's sausage, this was the first time I had kind of pizza, but it apparently worked quite well.
Pumpkin dip with cookies
She also brought, as a dessert item, a pumpkin dip.  Served with cookies, this dip was irresistible.
Pineapple-Strawberry Punch
The co-hosts also provided two other items.  All that eating made for thirsty work, so they made a punch which included pineapples, strawberries and ginger ale.
Chocolate Kahlua Cheesecake
One of them also made dessert, a Chocolate Kahlua Cheesecake.  Good Heavens, this was a decadent-tasting dessert; it was a pity I had no room for another slice!  I also brought my collection of SOMA hot chocolate mixes, and the majority voted to go with the Dark Side of the Mug... rich, dark hot chocolate at its finest to end the evening!

That was a successful and satisfying potluck dinner.  I'm looking forward to the next one that we can schedule!

(As I've cooked the Maple-Mustard Ribs differently this time, I'm reposting the recipe with the relevant changes.)

Maple, Grain Mustard and Thyme Ribs
One (1) rack of pork ribs (cut in half if due to space constraints)
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup (125mL) olive oil
2-3 tbsp. (30-45mL) grain mustard
1/4 cup (75mL) maple syrup
1/4 tsp. (1.25mL) dried thyme leaves
1-2 pinches salt and pepper each
  1. Place ribs in a large dish and combine with all other ingredients.  Rub until ribs are as evenly coated as possible.
  2. Leave ribs meaty-side up, cover and let marinate in refrigerator for a total of at least twenty-four (24) hours.  Flip them upside-down after marinating for twelve (12) hours.
  3. About 1-2 hours before cooking, bring ribs out of refrigerator and let rest at room temperature.
  4. Preheat oven or grill to 250F (120C).
  5. If using an oven, transfer ribs to an oven-safe dish and place in the middle of the oven.  If using a grill, place ribs in the middle of the grill.  Cover and let cook for forty (40) minutes.
  6. Transfer extra marinade into a microwave-safe bowl and heat for one (1) minute on high heat.  Set aside.
  7. After the ribs have been cooked for forty minutes:
    • If using an oven, remove ribs from oven and flip the ribs.  Ladle or brush the marinade on the newly-exposed side of the ribs, then return to the oven and let cook for another forty (40) minutes.
    • If using a grill, uncover ribs and flip them.  Ladle or brush the marinade on the newly-exposed side of the ribs, then cover and let cook for another forty (40) minutes.
  8.  Continue the cook-flip-marinade cycle for every forty (40) minutes' cooking time until the ribs have been cooked for 3-4 hours.  Continue cook and flip cycle even if you run out of marinade.
  9. After the ribs are cooked, remove from heat and let rest covered for ten (10) minutes.  Serve.
(These steps also apply to the Ginger-Soy Ribs below.)

Ginger-Soy Ribs
One (1) rack of pork ribs (cut in half if due to space constraints)

3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 tbsp. (15-30mL) ginger root, freshly grated
1/4 cup (75mL) sugar
1/4 cup (75mL) light soy sauce
1/4 cup (75mL) dark soy sauce
1/4 cup (75mL) Shaoxing cooking wine
Drizzle of sesame oil
1-2 pinches pepper

(Use the steps listed in the Maple, Grain Mustard and Thyme Ribs recipe above.)

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