Cleaning out my Cabinets: Oven-Cooked Ribs and Apple Pie Cookies

In the midst of all the recent odd meals and random meat butchering, I did need to cook some things that make people want to return to our apartment occasionally.  Those meals are generally the ones that end up in these posts; anything new I attempted that came out pretty well.  As per usual, the meals were born out of having too much of something and needing to get rid of it.

Lets start with the rack of ribs that’s been in our freezer since August.

Leftover from a 3-rack-pack purchased at Costco for Little Compton. Needed to be rearranged in the freezer every few days to make sure the door would close

After a day to thaw and some recommendations from blog villain Brother Tim (a slightly better barbecue cook than me) I got started by preheating the oven to 250F.

Since I think it’s hard to top Tim’s ribs (jerk), I decided to give him a wide berth and instead go with something more similar to a Chinese spare rib.  I mixed together a dry rub of Chinese five spice, salt, cayenne, garlic, onion, brown sugar, and a little dried mustard and amply applied to the meat.

I refuse to let even a small sliver of pork go uncovered with rub when cooking ribs or shoulder. I figure they're self conscious about their exposed flesh like me

These went into a large pyrex with a dark beer, a couple dashes of liquid smoke,a few cloves, and crushed red pepper in the base of the dish for flavor.

Not sure how I would apply this approach to multiple racks of ribs, but guessing I will have to figure it out sometime soon

Cover tightly with aluminum foil, and send into the preheated 250F oven for 3 hours.  I spent that time bugging Kristi with my opinions on cooking debates she was unaware of, watching sports, and letting Janet play with my teeth and chin(s).  Eventually, this came out of the oven:

The exposed rib ends are a big no-no in the BBQ world, but I rarely claim to do anything correctly. However, I insist that you do whatever it is you are doing my way

At this point the oven gets switched over to grilling mode; oven rack at (or near) the top placement and set to high broil.  The ribs were transferred to a broiling pan with a little additional rub sprinkled over the top and broiled a few inches from the heat with the door slightly open to make sure the oven stays on.  After about 5-7 minutes they were sizzling, crispy, and starting to brown a bit so I pulled the pan out of the oven.

Started glazing the one on the right before remembering to take a picture. Kristi's priorities have been way out of whack recently when it comes to this blog. Since when is Janet's dinner more important than my action shots?!?!

Although I generally don’t like saucing ribs before they’re finished cooking, I wanted these to have a sticky Chinese spare rib-style glaze.  The glaze was equal parts traditional Sweet Baby Rays and soy sauce with a little sesame oil blended in as well.  I brushed on a thin layer and then put the ribs back into the oven under the broiler for another minute or so, keeping the pan moving constantly with a mitted hand to avoid burning (ribs and hand).

I hate saucy ribs and consider them a sign of a restaurant that has no idea what they are doing. I have lots of opinions!

The short time under the broiler turned the glaze from a sauce into a sticky crust on the ribs.  The meat was tender, juicy, and the steaming time made the meat extremely tender and fall off the bone.  The combination of the rub and the glaze gave the pork some good saltiness and a little contrasting sweet spiciness.

You do miss out on the nice pink bark that comes from smoker or grill cooked ribs, but it was 20 degrees out and I didn't have to freeze my a-hole off to make these

Pretty decent for a first attempt at ribs that never touch a grill.  Would definitely do them again.

Now onto the Apple Pie Cookies.  The two ingredients that led to this one were apples, which Kristi consistently buys then forgets to eat, and a bunch of maple candies.  The maple candies were made by Kristi’s Aunt Sue and Uncle Crocky as a wedding favor for their daughter Casey’s wedding last July.  They made a ton of them, and they were delicious, but even I couldn’t eat as many as they sent me home with.  Plus, they melted a bit en route due to the absurd summer heat.

Fast forward a few months and they’re still sitting in my freezer, so on the night that I made the tortillas and carnitas, I decided to use them for something.

You can see the shapes they used to be in before I left them in the car for a half hour on the hottest weekend of the summer. We took a family photo at the wedding and since my pit stains had met in the center and soaked my arms, it looks like I am wearing a solid dark blue shirt. I changed before the reception. It was that bad

The maple candies headed into the oven to bake for an hour and dry up a bit since I planned to use them as a sugar substitute for the cookies.  What came out of the oven was easy to crumble and had a texture similar to brown sugar.

Looked like sugar and smelled like maple. pretty much what I was hoping for

The rest of the process was very close to my recipe for oatmeal raisin cookies.  The maple sugar was supplemented with an equal amount of white sugar to approximate the total amount of sugars in that recipe.  Along with the sugar, I used the same proportions of butter, flour, eggs, baking soda, salt, and oats.  The only difference was using twice as much cinnamon and vanilla extract for this recipe and substituting cubed apples for the raisins.

I think this is only one apple but it might have been two, but I can't really remember

Mix the apples in with the hand mixer, stir in the oats and drop in blobs on a cookie sheet for baking a 375F for 10-12 minutes.  Once they deflated and had just started browning, I pulled them out and transferred to a rack for cooling.

They look pretty much like oatmeal cookies. Tough to make cookies look exciting and different

These were really good and tasted pretty similar to apple pie with hints of maple.  Since I used fresh apples, there was a lot of liquid that cooked into the cookies during baking and was absorbed by the oats and dough.  Because of all the extra moisture, they fell apart pretty easily when eating and weren’t nearly as good on day 2.  Still, worth giving a shot to if you are bored with cookie tube or regular oatmeal raisin.

Next week will be another post that will drive my sister in-law Jen further away from readership.  I feel like I ruined her winter with that Goat Head Cheese post.

Pete’s Recipes: Pulled Chicken

As any reader of this blog can tell, I use a lot of guessing when cooking and tend to make it up as I go along.  Along those lines, I don’t have that many recipes that I use consistently but there are a few.  In the interest of mixing up the content of the blog, and with Super Bowl parties coming up, here’s an easy recipe for pulled chicken.  I think its delicious and it tends to be a decent crowd pleaser.

Total prep time is around 15 minutes, cooking time is three+ hours (though you’re only actively cooking for 20 minutes of those three hours).

Here’s what you’ll need:
6 pounds of boneless chicken breasts and thighs
16 oz. apple juice
2 oz. apple cider vinegar
12 oz. beer
32 oz. chicken broth
6 oz. V-8 (optional)

Dry rub:
3 tablespoons paprika
3 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon dry ground mustard
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon black pepper

That dry rub is a take on a Food Network recipe I have been using on my pulled pork for a couple years now.  I’ve experimented with adding cumin, onion powder, and chili powder at different times but the rub noted above is the best variation, I think.  First step is to combine the dry rub ingredients in a bowl and make sure they are well mixed.

For the chicken, I like using 2/3 breast meat, 1/3 thigh meat but it’s totally up to the cook.  I think thigh meat tastes a little funky in leftovers which is why I like using less of it.  Trim all excess fat off of each piece of chicken and place the meat in a bowl.  Add the dry rub and make sure it coats all of the meat.

The paprika makes this meal look 10-15% more appetizing

The prep part of the cooking can be done 24 hours in advance which is what I usually like to do.  The meat takes on the flavors of the rub a little better when I’ve done that.  However, if you didn’t plan ahead it can be done 5 minutes before cooking; 6 pounds fits nicely into a gallon freezer bag for storage if you do go the 24 hour route.

Once you’re ready to start cooking the chicken, preheat the oven to 300F and put a large heavy pot on the cooktop over medium/high heat.  I use my Le Creuset dutch oven which, coincidentally, makes every person between the ages of 10 and 40 giggle like they are ten years old when it is referred to by name.  Once the pot is heated up, add your chicken and brown it for 5-10 minutes.  You can use a little cooking spray or a tablespoon of olive oil on the bottom of the pot to keep the chicken from sticking.

The smell from this is strong due to the spices in the rub. It woke people up from a New Years day nap when I cooked it most recently

While the chicken is browning, get the braising ingredients ready to go.  Here’s the lineup:

Those little cans of V-8 are great to keep around for cooking purposes

For the beer, I like to use any non-light beer that is in the fridge.  Or, in this case, the least desirable non-light beer in the fridge.  That Michelob Winter Bourbon Cask Ale was disgusting as a beverage.  Beer goes in first, cooks for a minute or so, then the 16 ounces of apple juice, 2 ounces of cider vinegar, 6 ounces of V-8, and the quart of chicken broth.  Heat the pot on the stovetop until it gets to a near boil.

The smell becomes less strong and quite nice at this point

Now place the lid on the pot and put it in the 300F degree oven for 3 hours.  I like to spend this time napping, stressing about whether the chicken will cook correctly and badgering friends into being on time for when it comes out of the oven.  After three hours, take the pot out of the oven and here is what you’ll have:

Best thing about Le Creusets is how easily all of the charred sugars on the sides cleans off in the sink

Transfer all of the chicken to a clean dish, preferably oven safe so you can keep it warm if not eating right away.  Although I am using tongs, a large slotted spoon is better since the chicken will be falling apart when you move it.

The chicken ends up very tender

Once all the chicken is transferred, use two forks to shred it.  If everything has gone right, this should be very easy and you can get through all six pounds in about five minutes leaving you with this:

Very similar looking to pulled pork. Flavor is close too

After the chicken is shredded I like to pour a couple ladles of the braising liquid over the top for flavor and moisture then cover with tin foil until its time to eat.

The liquid adds some of the sweetness from the apple juice to the finished product

For garnishes, its mostly up to the cook.  I like to serve with dill pickle slices and a red onion relish.  The red onion relish (which you can kind of see in the background above) is a chopped red onion caramelized for a bit before adding crushed red pepper, light brown sugar, a splash of apple cider vinegar, and a little salt.  Turn the heat up after adding the spices and cook until the liquid has cooked off and it looks relish-like.  Whatever that means.

For the BBQ sauce, I let everyone put their own on their sandwich since everyone likes a different amount.  You really can’t go wrong with any of the Sweet Baby Ray’s sauces (Hickory Brown Sugar is my fave thing) but if you want to make something a little less traditional, here are my two go-tos:

Putting your sauce in mason jars makes you feel like a real chef. Then putting Classico tomato sauce lids on the jars makes you feel less-so

The one on the left is a Tim Ryan recommendation that has some Asian flavors due to the use of rice vinegar and soy sauce (which I recommend over the Worcestershire sauce option noted in the recipe).  Recipe can be found here.

The one on the right is a mustard-based sauce that is very strong and best when combined on a sandwich with a little honey BBQ sauce.  Combine the ingredients below and heat over low heat on a stove top for 10-15 minutes whisking occasionally.

1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1 cup yellow mustard
1/2 cup ketchup
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Final tip: always serve your pulled chicken on Martin’s Potato Rolls.  Everyone likes them and even if they don’t like the chicken or sauce they will enjoy the sandwich just because of the roll.  Good luck!