Saturday, May 30, 2009

Baby Back Ribs with Guava Barbecue Sauce

Recently, we've talked about things you like and swear you don't. We've also talked about things you love but forget. Now, let's introduce the topic of things you love and forget you can actually make. Anyone who reads this blog knows I love barbecue something fierce. Yet without a grill I forget that, like life, barbecue still goes on. That is until I started to thumb through a Cuban cookbook I've had in a box to get rid of for ages. Funny how that happens.

A recipe for baby back ribs with guava barbecue sauce immediately caught my eye. Upon reading that you bake them, I had a pen in my hand before I could blink and started making up my shopping list. Oh yeah, I have a very fast turnaround when I can make my dreams a reality.

Of course, the only snag (and there's always a snag with me) was that I couldn't find baby back ribs at my normal grocery store. Instead of running around town like I wanted to, I just threw in a rack of spare ribs and decided to make due. Yeah... I don't really like spare ribs. Too much fat to meat and they're harder to eat than baby back. Also, my foil "tent" for cooking was less than spectacular because of my baking set up. I don't have a roasting pan, why I have no idea. So I used a casserole dish with a cooling rack placed on top. Great idea with plenty of room for the onions underneath, but not so good for crimping the foil around. End result: the ribs were okay.

Despite my meh attitude on the actual meal, I have been flouting the sauce to anyone who will listen since I made it. Seriously ya'll, this sauce is the shit. A big hunk of guava paste simmered down with tomato paste and spices and RUM and how could you really not love something like that? It made my whole kitchen smell like some kind of mouthwatering savory cocktail. I've been making quesadillas (something else I love and forget exists) just so I can dip them in copious amounts of leftover sauce. Even better, it inspires a few more barbecue sauce ideas that I think will be better.

Pictures to come when I can find my camera.

Baby Back Ribs with Guava Barbecue Sauce
Miami Spice by Steven Raichlen

Serves 4

For boiling:
3 lbs baby back ribs
1 onion, quartered
2 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
1 tsp ground cumin

Guava BBQ Sauce:
1 c guava paste
6 T cider vinegar
1/4 c dark rum
1/4 c tomato paste
1/4 c fresh lime juice
1 T soy sauce
2 tsp ketchup
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 T minced fresh onion
1 T fresh minced ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 to 1/2 scotch bonnet pepper or other hot chili pepper, seeded and minced
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For baking:
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp vegetable oil
3 T fresh lime juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1) In a large pot, combine ribs with boiling ingredients and cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil for 5 mins. Drain ribs and rinse well.

2) Meanwhile, combine all sauce ingredients in a nonreactive heavy saucepan. Simmer until slightly thickened and richly flavored, about 5 mins. Correct seasonings and add salt and pepper to taste.

3) Preheat oven to 250F.

4) Put baking onions in the bottom of a nonreactive roasting pan. Add 1 inch of water. Place roasting rack on top and brush rack with oil. Sprinkle the ribs with lime juice and salt and pepper. Brush BBQ sauce on both sides. Tightly tent ribs with aluminum foil. (Fold foil in half, then open and put over pan. Curl edges of foil under lip of pan with airspace over ribs.) Bake ribs until very tender, about 2 hours (mine took 3 because they were thicker). The recipe can be prepared several hours ahead to this stage.

5) Preheat a BBQ grill until very hot or preheat broiler with tray 3 inches from the heat.

6) Just before serving, grill or broil ribs until crusty and brown, 2-3 mins per side, brushing with the remaining sauce.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Chocolate Black Pepper Cookies

It is high time I had something sweet around this apartment. I was looking for a recipe that had no eggs or milk, since I didn't have any laying around. This fit the bill. However, if you follow the link, you'll see that it's not very descriptive. I had to convert all the measurements and play it by ear. I used half salted and half unsalted butter because I like a little salt in my sweet, but not too much. But here's where it got funky.

It's an icebox type cookie, but it's equal parts butter and flour, something I didn't think about until it came time to bake. At room temperature, the dough is like pudding. Straight from the refrigerator, it's rock hard. Rolling became an issue. Still, with a bit of waxed paper I managed to get something log-like.

However, I was afraid that the heat from the oven would melt the batter and start another lovely oven fire. Let's all be happy that didn't happen. Still, the cooking time got reduced to less than 9 minutes when they spread so thin that the edges were burning. These are very greasy and so delicate that they'll break if you look at them wrong. Since I like pepper in my chocolate, and these had a really good flavor, I'm willing to give them a second shot in the future. I would probably half the butter or nearly double the flour if I tried again. I'm not very good at the science behind baking, so if anyone else has suggestions, shoot them my way.

At least these were sweet, chocolaty, and nice with my tea. I could have done worse, though hopefully next time I'll do better.

Here's the conversions in case anyone is interested. Note: these are not exact, but close approximations.

1 cup butter
7 Tablespoons powdered sugar
1 cup flour
3 1/2 Tablespoons cocoa powder

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Yellow Squash and Corn Cassarole

Sometimes it's those little things in life that make you happy enough to get through the day. Sometimes it's the simple things that just turn out to be special. Sometimes we're idiots and forget what these things are.

I've been rediscovering a few of these things lately. Some of you have followed me long enough to watch me battle against my food biases like onions. You may also remember the rebirth of the sandwich. Or eggs. Or any number of things I tend to forget about. However, there is a special category of good food that I always miss. It's the food that I actually like, KNOW I like, and then insist I don't. I have no idea why, really.

For example, I am completely biased towards cinnamon. I like cinnamon. It complements so many flavors, but if I see it worm its way too prominently into a recipe, I may just skip it. This tended to slip my notice until I read about these espresso chocolate cinnamon cookies that rocked every one's world. Duh. But admitting you have a problem is the first step and I try not to let my knee-jerk reaction keep me from something so obviously good.

Which brings us to corn. Sweet or salty, it has been a staple food since who cares when. Nutritious and versatile it has a plethora of uses. And I like it. I just don't seem to understand that for some reason. Until my recent camping trip, I couldn't even tell you how long it had been since I'd spooned up a serving. Like cinnamon, I tended to go out of my way to avoid it even knowing I generally liked it.

On this camping trip, a simple meal went a long way. Tomatoes, black beans, and corn warmed on a camp flame and slopped on a tortilla was the healthiest thing I had managed to eat due to a schedule from Crazyland. And the corn was delicious.

With a newly opened mind, I tried to think of corn in a more forgiving light. Hell, I even recreated the camping burritos at home because they were so good. Now enter yellow squash season. Yellow squash is something i know I like. I'll eat it every day if you give me the chance. So, on a mission to find another squash casserole, I came across this recipe. I followed some of the tips and used this recipe as a base guide.

Now prepare to be amazed: I used fresh corn. I know. The recipe called for a can of creamed corn, but I said no! I shall use fresh! In hind sight, it would have been better with the canned, but it's the thought that counts, right? And the extra effort made it taste better.

Changes made: used fresh corn (2 cobs), sauteed vegetables in butter, used minced dried onions instead of fresh, used a little over 3 cups of squash, added cheddar on top, halved sugar and doubled garlic.

Next time I'll: Saute vegetables longer, use creamed corn, use more squash, top with more cheese.

Yellow Squash and Corn Casserole

2 eggs
2 cobs fresh sweet corn
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoons white sugar
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped onions (or 1/8 c dried)
3 cups sliced yellow squash
1/2 cup biscuit baking mix
1/2 cup grated cheddar

Boil water for corn and throw in a bit of sugar if desired. Cook corn until done and put aside to cool. Once it's cool enough to work with, slice off kernels. Melt a knob or so of butter in a skillet and saute corn, onions, and squash until soft or even until onions are slightly caramelized if you prefer.

Preheat oven to 350F and grease 9x9 casserole dish.

Whisk eggs in a large bowl until smooth. Stir in Parmesan cheese, oil, sugar, garlic, pepper, and biscuit mix. Fold in onions, squash, and corn. Pour into prepared baking pan. Bake for 30-40 minutes, adding cheddar to the top of casserole during the last 5-10 minutes.

Monday, May 11, 2009

King Cake with Cream Cheese Filling

Alright guys. I'm not dead. It has been an unforgiveably long time since I've posted, but I have many good excuses. The first being that I've hardly cooked anything. Then there was a long line of traveling. Spring break in Colorado, a business conference/competition in Dayton, Ohio, camping at Providence Canyon, etc etc. If you're intersted, I'll start talking about my trips at my craft blog soon. Plus all the making up of school and house work that comes along with that kind of crap. I'm still picking up the loose ends of my life, but my workload is steadily getting more under control. Oh, not to mention that I now FINALLY have a job. Oh yes, I will be money having. Or I will after I pay off all the traveling. Anywho. I'm posting this right now, without the recipe or any pictures so that I'll be forced to finish this and not put it off any longer. Hah! Done.

Remember Mardi Gras? Oh so long ago now, it seems. Me and two friends decided to have a get together to hang out and eat some good old Louisiana cooking. While they whipped up a tasty chicken and shrimp jambalaya, I set my heart on king cake. A leavened cake with a delicious baby inside? I'm in. Then I found an Emeril recipe with cream cheese filling. Sounds like heaven right? Well, not if I'm cooking it.

See, I let the dough rise overnight in the refrigerator. I don't think this would have been a problem if I hadn't been so rushed the next day. The dough was taking so long to thaw, let alone rise a second time, that I had to just go ahead and bake it. Well, since it rolled so thick (still cold), I really had to stretch to get enough. Plus, I have very little counter space so I had to roll in sections. Ugh. This turned the cake into something resembling a dense pastry. Drier and harder than I really wanted, but with the filling, it tasted like something I would like with coffee. Still tasty, but not king cake. Plus, I couldn't find a baby to sacrifice so I used a piece of candied ginger.

Notice the powdered sugar fiasco. I lost so much of it to a mixing distaster that I ran out of it and had to make a sugar "wash" as opposed to icing. Proof:

Considering that neither of my friends had ever had it, and one had never even heard of it, I think this was a poor introduction. However, we all enjoyed it for what it was and I have more confidence for next year.

King Cake