Friday, January 16, 2009

Beef Ribs and Asian Noodle Salad

I left a small detail out of my last post. I spent so much energy focusing on the events surrounding my visit from The Food Network and my celebrity guests that I never discussed the food. Whoops. This is a food blog after all. I got as little self absorbed. Sorry.

Beef ribs were to be the theme of the shoot. That decision had been made by Food Network weeks in advance. I even questioned the producer asking if she was sure she wanted beef ribs. They are little discussed in the food community because in the grand scheme of things there isn’t a lot of meat to a rib. She told me that was the idea. Something new, she said. Well, I tell you honestly, I don’t ever recall working with beef ribs. Still, I am used to slow cooking large pieces of meat and these slab qualify.

Since I had family and friends coming over for a BBQ theme, I settled on about 25 lbs of ribs. These are not easy to come by. I had to have a couple of stores put them off to the side as steaks were cut from them. These filled 2 large roasting pans. Cooking them was going to be a problem too because my little tin-can-style $40 Wal-Mart grill was not going to handle 25 lbs of ribs. I was going to need to cook these in the oven then somehow incorporate that limitation into a show about BBQ. I concocted a plan. After 5-6 hours of slow oven roasting, I was going to use my grill to finish off each slab of ribs, one at a time, with about 15 minutes of smoking.

We also needed a couple of sides but since these wouldn’t even be featured, I wasn’t too stressed about that. I had seen Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa, make an Asian noodle salad that looked intriguing. I thought I’d try that from memory and the rest was store bought. The plan was hatched. Time to execute.

There is no art to rubbing ribs. It’s just messy. There is a lot to say about rubs though. While I’ve said in previous posts that store bought rubs are a fine choice, I decided to make my own for this. I had an idea about the flavor I was shooting for here. I wanted a little edge; something unique. I wanted that what-is-that-flavor reaction (in a good way, of course). To achieve this goal I made a slightly spicy rub but added just a hint of nutmeg. That’s different. And to top THAT, I used some fresh picked Oranges to squeeze over the trays of meat while in the oven.

Our prep began the night before. Olivia and I rolled up our sleeves and got to rubbing. We worked those things like they were Paris Hilton at a Beverly Hills spa massage. I heard them sigh at the end. The next morning, I had the ribs in a 250 degree oven by 6 AM. Pasta Salad time. Ina used regular thin spaghetti. I copied that idea. The dressing was a basic Asian dressing with soy, sesame oil, and other wonderful Thai and pan-Asian flavors. Combined with strips of crisp red bell pepper and just blanched snow peas, this was a hit amongst the crew as well as the guests. I tried to look up the original recipe, but it has fallen from the Food Network’s site already. My version was close and may in fact be identical if my memory serves me. Either way, this is just spectacular. I got as many compliments on this as anything and I thought it was better the next day making it the perfect “prepare the night before” side dish.

So how did the feaux-smoked ribs taste? Well we got a little side tracked. Turns out, as I was smoking the first slab and doing the demo for the cameras, they unleashed their surprise on me with the Neelys arriving by boat. In the end ALL the rest of my ribs were only oven done. But the taste? Unbelievable! Succulent! I am still shocked to say that these were as good as grilled (I’m sure there’s a Texan or 2 that will argue that). They were perfectly tender and very easy to eat. The rub had heat and flavor and my mouth waters just thinking back to them. What really made me feel good was the cooking staff for the Food Network loved them. I couldn’t get a better compliment.

So here they are. You will love these right out of the oven. If you do chose to smoke them, use a non smoked paprika and you can smoke on the grill for the same amount of time as the oven.

Slow Roasted Beef Ribs with Spiced Rub

2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp dried mustard
2 tsp cardamom
1 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp nutmeg
4 tsp salt
10 lbs beef ribs
2 large oranges, quartered

Combine all dry ingredients. Rub the meat generously with spice mix and refrigerate overnight. The following day, preheat oven to 250 degrees. Place the ribs in a large roasting pan and squeeze the oranges over the meat. Put into the oven. Roast for 5-6 hours. After a couple of hours, baste the meat with the drippings then every hour until done.

Allow to rest for 10-15 minutes before parting the ribs and serving.

Asian Pasta Salad
Adapted from Ina Garten

With so much activity in my home, I never photographed this. I wish I had because it was lovely and an integral part of the day. This was be even better on day 2 so make a day in advance if you like.


1 cup canola oil
½ cup soy sauce
¼ cup rice wine vinegar (mine is infused with some peppers –I like the heat)
2 tbsp sriracha sauce (Hot sauce used in Asian cooking but if unavailable, use any Asian hot sauce from you grocery aisle. This is milder than most hot sauces I think.)
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp oyster sauce
2 cloves garlic finely minced
Salt and pepper to taste (careful with the salt since soy sauce is salty but I found I did need to add some)

Blend all ingredients together and wish vigorously. Set aside.

For the pasta

4 tbsp sesame seeds
1 ½ cup snow peas, unshucked
1 lb thin spaghetti
1 red bell pepper, thinly julienned
1 cup cilantro leaves, no stems. I preferred unchopped

Toast the sesame seeds. Place in a dry sauté pan over very low heat until just fragrant, approximately 2-3 minutes. The margin between toasted and bitterly burned is narrow so keep an eye on it.
Blanch the snow peas. Place in pot of boiling water for 1 minute then quickly remove with a slotted spoon and place in ice water bath. This stops the cooking leaving the snow peas vibrantly green and crisp. In the same boiling water, add the spaghetti and cook till al dente, usually 7-8 minutes. Remove and drain. Refrigerate.
I like to add a touch of salt and drizzle of olive oil to just drained and still steaming spaghetti but that’s just me.
Place spaghetti in serving dish and toss in the dressing and sesame seeds. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Once cooled through completely, toss in the remainder of the ingredients and refrigerate a bit longer so that all flavors can blend. The longer the better.

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