Since my dear friend missed the first round of ribs – through no fault of her own, I might add, as outside influences conspired to keep her away – and since they were such a hit the last time around, I decided that Saturday would be a good day to go another round with the smoker, and see if the previous success could be recreated.
As faithful readers would know, in our last rib episode, we had ribs and zucchini gratin. Those menu items were repeated today. I made a few tweaks to the rib rub to incorporate slightly less of the chili powder and add some ginger and allspice instead. Llikewise, I made a couple of tweaks to the gratin to make the sauce a bit thicker and experimented with a larger grating of the gruyere – the sauce was a winner, but I liked the look of the microplane grated cheese versus the box grater, so the next time I’ll return to that.
In the meantime, one sister, who has been dictating the menus, is going to be wrapped up in her two jobs and church (Catholic, you know) until after Easter, so I am taking requests from others within the fam and the immediate circle for items to include on the menu. Filet mignon came up while we were sitting around the table talking in the after-eating portion of the dinner program. That will probably make an appearance on the next cooking day, once I decide what to serve with it. Heck, it might even be nice to have some lump crab in a beurre blanc with the steak itself. You never know. But what sides? Main dishes are so much easier to come up with that suitable sides for them, for some reason. Why is that?
Not for nefarious purposes. For food purposes, naturally, as if thought of anything else manages to penetrate this thick skull.
For awhile now – probably from just before I had to stop eating solid food – I’ve wanted to make my own sausage. Commercial sausage isn’t horrible in most cases, and the store-made sausage from Publix is generally better, but there’s just something special about making something from scratch on your own. It’s the same reason I bake and the same reason I have a (vegetable) garden when I have the chance: it’s about having something grow under your ministrations, as careful with your new creation, as tender (or firm) with it as you would be with a child. The goal is the same: to raise something – or someone – of which you can be justifiably proud, that will serve to nourish others in a variety of ways, both bodily and mentally.
But back to the sausage. Really, it isn’t difficult to do this on your own. A bit time-consuming, to be sure, and temperature control of the meat is important so as not to have the finished product separate into grainy bits when cooked. Casings aren’t even strictly necessary, since the meat can be formed into patties instead. Since we want to have the full experience, however, and since we do have a grinder/stuffer attachment for the trusty KitchenAid, we’ll be giving it a go and stuffing casings with whatever mixture appears on our radar. My mom loves sweet Italian sausage, so I’ve put that first on my list. Other variations will no doubt follow, and I have a sense that I’ll be foisting sausages off on random strangers just to get them out of the house.
If you’ve any interest in sausage, curing, or smoking, I’d highly recommend the book Charcuterie, published late last year. I ran across a mention of it on the eGullet forums about two weeks ago and finally broke down and ordered it last week. It’s a cookbook, how could I resist? An excellent addition to the library.
I decided to deviate from my sister’s request list for Thursday night. Not out of disagreement with anything she would like to see on her plate, of course. Only because while I was picking up a prescription at Publix, I decided to wander past the seafood case. Shrimp scampi with angel hair pasta and bruschetta popped into my mind while I was looking, and since I’m easily swayed by menu suggestions at the moment, I got a couple pounds of shrimp. When I told my sister – the same one tossing out the “can you make that”, the same one who refuses to eat any sort of meat on the bone – she informed me that she doesn’t eat shrimp with pasta. No problem, says I, ever amenable and flexible, we’ll just serve them separately, and you can have the shrimp by itself. Can’t eat it, she says. Too much butter. She also won’t eat bread because she’s trying to watch her carbs for the upcoming swimuit season. This from a girl who has an athlete’s body and weighs maybe 117 soaking wet.
So it will be something else for her. I just need to figure it out. In the meantime, my mom and my other sister will happily share the main dish, and if my brother wasn’t such a rube, he’d be here to enjoy it as well.
The problem with not being able to eat is not being able to taste this stuff. When no one is around or immediately available, it’s impossible to get a victim to taste test it before anyone else eats it.
The ribs came off the smoker after about 4.5 hours.
The meat has pulled away from the bone.
I pulled a portion to look at before everyone was home/awake, to see how the first time rib smoking worked out for me. It worked: nice smoke ring.
More cuts, as the fam began arriving.
Nice and juicy.
And did I mention the zucchini gratin? Still bubbling, right out of the oven.
Today is smoking day. While the ribs will have a rub, there’s always the issue of sauces. For this, sauces go on the side, and whoever wants some can pour their own. For some people, that means out of a bottle from the store. For us, that means some homemade sauce. I had intended to make several different kinds, but the cupboard conspired against me. The sweet/smoky sauce is the winner in this race.
Some ingredients, but not all.
The beginning, before the ketchup goes in.
After the ketchup, and a few minutes simmering:
The sauce is sweet to start, and then finishes with a bite. I actually tasted it – the first tomato-based anything I’ve tasted in more than six months. No tongue burn (hooray) and I got exactly the sensation my mother did when she tasted it (hooray again). Progress.