Gulf Coast Cooking

Barbecued ribs, anyone? You don't have to be an expert to cook your own barbecue ribs

Who doesn't love barbecued ribs?

There is something satisfying about picking up a big delicious rib, biting into the meat that is almost falling off the bone, and sauce getting all over the place. Somehow, we just don't care. But there better be a roll of paper towels handy.

If you know barbecue, you know how difficult it is to make really good barbecue. Most people won't even try. You need a grill or smoker, and that can be expensive. You have to know a thing or two about what type of wood to use, or even combinations of wood, and how to start the fire without using a toxic accelerant (Who wants ribs that taste like gasoline?). You can't just throw the ribs on the grill unadorned, so you have to have your own secret rub, and a homemade sauce, right? Man, is this complicated or what?

But it doesn't have to be. First you must accept the fact ribs can be delicious when cooked in ways other than using a big outside smoker or grill. The texture and flavor will be different, but still delicious and falling apart tender.

The first way is to buy a stove-top smoker. You can smoke lots of other things in it, too, like salmon, bacon, or even pecans, so it's not an investment that you will be using only when ribs are on your mind. You will need to have a stove top that is well-vented, or a powerful house fan installed in the kitchen window. A stove-top smoker produces minimal amounts of smoke, but it will make your whole house smell like a barbecue joint.

The second option is to braise your ribs. We love braised short ribs, and the cooking process will do just as good a job with baby back ribs or spare ribs. This cooking process also allows you to make your own sauce as the ribs are slowly cooked. It can still be barbecue sauce based, but it also allows you to fortify the sauce with vegetables and other seasonings that will make a hearty and rich.

Give these recipes a try and you just might be surprised at the rib master you have become.

EASY INSIDE RIBS

This is a great way to prepare ribs, but you have got to have a good kitchen vent over your stove and a stove top smoker. The smokers can be had for less than $50, and will make a great addition to your cool kitchen toy collection.

1 rack of ribs

Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning

Freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup wood chips

1 bottle beer

Barbecue sauce of your choice

Dry then season the ribs aggressively. Place the wood chips (they do not have to be soaked in water first) in the bottom of the smoker, add the rack then the pan, and put the ribs on top. It may be necessary to cut the rack into two or three pieces. Slid the lid on, and place over a hot stove (yes, gas is always preferable!). When the smoke really starts to seep out of the edges, turn the heat down, but make

sure it keeps smoking. Smoke the ribs for 20 minutes. Carefully slide the top open and pour all of the beer into the bottom of the smoker. Close it up tight again and steam the ribs until falling apart tender. About 20 minutes. Remove, top with barbecue sauce and serve with your favorite sides.

Don't forget ribs can be pulled or deboned and made into a delicious sandwich, just like brisket or pork shoulder.

BRAISED RIBS

This is another short cut recipe. You can use short ribs, if you like, but you will have to increase the cooking time accordingly.

1 rack ribs (baby backs work well, too)

1 chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped carrot

4-6 cloves chopped garlic

Salt and pepper

Red pepper flakes

1 cup barbecue sauce

1/2 cup beef stock

1 cup red wine

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Make sure you have a 2- or 4 inch-deep hotel pan, with enough heavy duty tin foil to tightly cover. Season the ribs aggressively. Place the ribs and the vegetables in the pan, then combine the wet ingredients and pour over the top. Seal the ribs in the pan, make sure it is nice and tight.

Place in the oven and braise for 1 hour at 350 degrees, then reduce the oven to 250 degrees and cook for 2 more hours. Carefully remove from the oven, remove the ribs and use an immersion blender to make the sauce smooth.

If the sauce is not thick enough, reduce it till it easily covers the back of a spoon. Cover the ribs with the sauce and serve at once.

CHEATING RIBS

As a last resort, if you just can't make yourself smoke your own ribs, (this is cheating in a major way) go to your favorite barbeque place and buy a rack or two. But don't be satisfied with just serving them as they are.

Why not pull them, remove the meat from the bone, and make a great barbecue sandwich? Add some diced jalapeños, slaw or potato salad, and your favorite barbecue sauce, and you will have a sandwich your friends and family will rave about.

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