Sun Apr 29, 2007
It's been long, too long really, since I fired up the smoker and got things going again. Sure there were efforts put forth, but mainly laziness prevailed over good intentions and I have not produced any barbecue since October (gasp). I'm not sure this weekend would have changed that either if it were not for the thoughtfulness of my now ex-co-workers.
Friday was my last day at netomat, my place of employment for the last five years. I've never gotten any gifts from anyone at work, but never gave either, so what could I expect? What I was never expecting was any gifts for parting ways, but that's exactly what I got. I received two cookbooks, Weber%u2019s Charcoal Grilling and Killer Ribs, from two very thoughtful co-workers, and it's just what I needed to get my out and smoking again.
Picking a recipe to start was no easy task. While I've been longing for some home cooked barbecue (to me that means rubbed and sauced pork), I've also have spent so long getting one particular rib recipe right, that I've failed to branch out to other flavors. With the internet dead on my last day in the office, my final 8 hours ended up being split between playing Wii (I am proudly now the office Monkey Baseball champ, hitting a 911.84 ft home run) and reading every recipe in these two books, finally settling on something that would address my two desires with a Cherry-smoked Vietnamese ribs.
After drinking sorrows away with the co-workers, I stopped into the 24 hour grocery and picked up a rack of ribs and a couple ingredients. Having an Asian girlfriend came in handy with these ribs, since most of the less common ingredients I already had at home from cooking other Asian dishes. These ribs called for a marinade that was quick and easy to put together, something that I was able to accomplish being a little bit more than tipsy.
The morning came and I had to get up by 8 if I wanted these babies done for lunch. I'd like to blame the charcoal, and not myself, for having a hard time getting the fire started. I don't know if it's possible, but maybe spending 1/2 a year in a damp closet makes charcoal a little harder to light. So again, a fire that should have taken 15-30 mins to get going, took and hour because the charcoal decided to store itself in a damp place, totally not my fault.
Finally the fire was going and the smoker came down to 225 degrees, which is just where I like to barbecue. So the ribs went in, the lid shut, and I didn't touch them for about 2 1/2 hours. What was weird for me was that these ribs stayed pretty pale through most of the cooking process. I'm used to rubbing the ribs down, so they already look like barbecue before they start cooking.
For the second 2 1/2 hours of cooking, I basted the ribs about every 45 min with the marinade, and they very, very slowly started to look like something a little more appetizing. In the end I had a rack of ribs that had a pale red glaze, but still didn't look like anything I'd want to take a photo of for my very first recipe post here. So it was time to try save them!
I transfered the ribs to the broiler of my oven and poured the rest of the marinade all over them. In just a min or two, the ribs went from pale to a nice deep red. Then it was just quick rest and a sprinkle of cilantro before eating time.
I'm not sure I'd call these ribs "Vietnamese," as they tasted of a more general Asian flavor, but I was kinda expecting that from a Weber cookbook. That's not to say they weren't tasty, since I finished almost the entire rack myself.
Going back and doing this again, I might actually go a little heavier on the fish sauce (I watered mine down a little since it's not my favorite flavor in the world) and also use more cherry wood. I only used 3 chunks of wood, but it was not enough to give the ribs that nice smoky flavor. Since cherry is more subtle, I would think 5 chunks would be needed to really get the flavor that should have been there.
In the end I got the best of both worlds with this recipe, trying something new while starting the season by smoking ribs, but I still need my regular barbecue...and that can't be too far away now...
Cherry-Smoked Vietnamese Spareribs
Adapted from Weber%u2019s Charcoal Grilling, page 120
For the marinade
1/4 cup Vietnamese fish sauce
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon tamarind paste
2 teaspoons grate lime zest
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
2 racks spareribs
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
4-5 Cherry wood chunks
Mix together all of the marinade ingredients.
Trim the ribs, removing excess fat and the membrane from the back of each rack. Place the ribs in a ziplock bag and pour the marinade all over them. Press the air out of the bag and let the ribs marinate in the fridge overnight to 24 hours.
Remove the ribs from the fridge and prepare your smoker with charcoal and the cherry wood chunks. When the temperature reaches 225 degrees, place the ribs in the smoker and keep it at that temperature for the entire cooking time.
Pour the excess marinade into a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat and boil gently for 30 seconds, then remove from the heat.
Smoke the ribs untouched for 2 hours. Then baste the ribs ever hour with the marinade after that. The total cooking time will be around 5-6 hours.
When the ribs are done, remove from the grill and place in your oven's broiler. Baste with the remaining marinade and broil until it caramelizes lightly.
Let the ribs sit for 10-5 minutes to cool, then garnish with fresh cilantro, cut, and enjoy.
Makes 4-6 servings