Sticky Fingers

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

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Its been a weekend of BBQ indulgence. As some of you many know I am engaged to a southern man and he just happens to come from a BBQ family. This past weekend we were in Washington, Georgia to celebrate his families 91st consecutive family reunion, one that is celebrated by cooking pork long and slow over hot coals on a humid August day. You get in line and you get pulled pork, slaw, stew, white bread, and sweet tea. “Seasoning” or bbq sauce is in a squeeze bottle on the table and dessert is in its own special room with the finest caramel cake, ambrosia, and banana pudding you will ever see. To say the least, I do not do much talking. I eat. I eat very well. Scroll to the bottom of the page for a few pictures from the weekend.

I did not know much about BBQ before moving to the South but I am happy to say I  have been a willing and eager student. This week’s recipe is  baby back ribs with a chipotle honey sauce. Its designed for the home cook, as any pit master would scoff at oven braising,  but it combines a little indoor cooking with a little outdoor cooking making for the right amount of  smoke, flavor, and bbq to help budding pit masters find their way.

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Barbecued Ribs with Honey-Chipotle

2 racks of pork baby back ribs
1 cup chicken stock
BBQ Spice Rub
Honey- Chipotle BBQ Sauce
About 2 cups of soaked hickory wood chips

BBQ Spice Rub

Yields 5 tablespoons or enough for 2 racks of ribs

2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoon brown sugar
2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon ground cayenne

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. Set aside. Will keep for up to a month.

Honey-Chipotle BBQ Sauce

Yields about 1.5 cups

¼ medium white onion, diced
1 medium garlic clove, diced
1 tablespoon bacon fat or olive oil
1 chipotle pepper, plus about 1 teaspoon worth of the adobo sauce from the can (I recommend Embasa brand)
¾ cup ketchup
¼ cup worcestershire sauce
¼ cup fresh squeezed orange juice
¼ cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
pinch of salt

In a small saucepot, heat the bacon fat or olive oil over low heat. Add in the onion and garlic and cook until soft, about 4 minutes. Place mixture into a blender and add remaining ingredients, puree until smooth. Pour mixture back into the saucepot and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat to low and cook for 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Taste the barbecue sauce and adjust with more honey (for sweetness) or chipotle (for heat) to your preference.

To Prepare the Ribs

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Season both of the racks of ribs with all of the BBQ rub. If you have time, season the night before to allow the spices and salt to penetrate into the meat, if not season them at least 1 hour before cooking. Place ribs into a pan that allows them to lie flat next to one another and that is at least 2 inches deep. Bring the chicken stock to a boil and pour into the pan with the ribs. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and place in the oven for 1 hour and 45 minutes. Remove pan from oven, discard the foil and let cool at room temperature. When cool enough to handle remove ribs from pan and brush with the Honey-Chipotle BBQ sauce using as little or as much as you would like. I recommend about ½ cup of sauce per rack.

Prepare a charcoal grill. Burn the charcoal down until it begins to turn white, about 30 minutes or so. Scatter the soaked wood chips over the coals, and place the ribs on the grill grates. Close all grill vents to trap as much of the smoke as possible. Cook the ribs for 15 minutes. Carefully remove the ribs from the grill as to not let them fall apart. Serve and enjoy.

Here are a few pictures from this weekends BBQ!

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Ratatouille for Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner!

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

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My inspiration for this recipe comes from two distinct places.

1. Bread. I love bread. I love good bread. I do not have a large family and when dealing with really good bread from a good bakery you have a small window of time in which to eat the bread. 2 days, maybe 3 and its time to make croutons. I wanted to make recipe that makes meal out of beautiful bread.

2. RATATOUILLE! Clearly the title of this post gives away my second reason. The first time I met Ratatouille, I was introduced by Chef Eric Leroy. Eric was the Chef and Owner of Toutatis in Oakland California. It was my very first restaurant job. A true gem. Eric was from Toulouse France and cooked Brittany style galettes (savory crepes made from buckwheat flour) and sweet crepes. I was the second person in a two man kitchen. Eric cooked family recipes, one of which was ratatouille. The galette was called La Baline. It had melted gruyere cheese and a sunny up egg, the crispy buckwheat flower galette was folded into a triangle, brushed with butter and toped with ratatouille. Ratatouille to the likes I have never seen done better. It was more of a stew, not badly chopped up sad looking vegetables (look up ratatouille images on google to see what I mean). I do my best to recreate what I saw so many years ago, but all I have is my memories to work from. I owe so much of what I know about cooking to Eric.

This dish is worthy of being served for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The ratatouille takes a little time, but its well worth the effort. Its perfectly in season in the South right now.

Ratatouille

Yields 4 cups

½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 small bell peppers* (around 1 cup) deseeded finely diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 large eggplant, small diced
1 zucchini (around 1 ½ cups), small diced
2 cups fresh tomatoes, small diced
1 ½ cups tomato juice
½ teaspoon paprika
1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon fresh thyme, minced

In a large, heavy bottomed sauté pan heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium- low heat. Add in onion and sweat down for two minutes. Add in bell peppers. Saute for 4-5 minutes until fully sweated down, being careful not to brown. Add in garlic and sauté 1 more minute. Remove onion mix from the pan and set aside in a bowl. Place the pan over medium heat and add 6 tablespoons of olive oil. Add in eggplant. Make sure the pan is large enough for the eggplant to be a single layer on the bottom of the pan. Sauté for 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add in zucchini and sauté 5 minutes. Add in tomatoes. Sauté for 2 minutes. Add in tomato juice, paprika, salt, and thyme. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for 20 minutes.Can be cooled and said for up to 4 days in the refrigerator.

Breakfast, Lunch, or Dinner Ratatouille For One

1 thick slice of bread
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 egg
1 basil leaf torn
Ratatouille, as much or as little as you like

In a pan heat ½ tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add slice of bread. Heat until golden brown, flip and repeat. Set aside on a plate. Heat cast iron pan or non stick pan over medium low heat with ½ tablespoon olive oil. Add egg and cook to sunny up, around 4 minuets.

To plate spoon warmed ratatouille over bread. Top with sunny up egg and torn basil. Finish with a little drizzle of olive oil.

Bon Appetit!

 

 

My Favorite Tomato Salad

Sunday, August 2nd, 2015

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There is something about this salad. Every summer, this pops up on my menus. Little details about it might change, but I can not get enough of this salad once summertime roles around. It’s life did not start in a restaurant. This is one of those gems that was first made at home about 3 years ago. There is hardly any cooking needed… with the exception of the okra. The okra is sliced paper thin on a mandoline and then quickly fried. No slime remains, just perfectly crisp okra which works great with tomatoes. This is a technique worth learning.

Tomato & Okra Salad

Yields 4 Servings

10 oz fresh summer tomatoes*
2 oz feta cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon of benne seed or sesame seed, toasted
crispy okra
1/4 cup of yogurt dressing
arugula or watercress to garnish
sea salt to finish

For the Yogurt Dressing
Yields 2 cups
1# whole milk plain yogurt
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon paprika

In a bowl add yogurt, salt, coriander, cumin, and paprika. Whisk together. Can be saved for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.

For the Crispy Okra
Yields 4 portions
15 medium sized okra
1 qt neutral frying oil
¾ teaspoon kosher salt

In a small to medium sized pot heat the oil to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Trim the top pieces off of the okra. Carefully slice the okra long ways on a mandoline, one piece at a time, as thin as you can while keeping the pieces intact. It’s easiest if you hold the okra in place with just your index and middle finger and push the okra with the thicker cut end leading. It’s also a good idea to only slice about ¾ of the okra before moving to the next piece; this should keep your fingers a little safer. When all okra is sliced and oil is ready, carefully drop half of the okra into the oil and stir with a wire mesh strainer to prevent the okra from sticking to one another. The okra is done when the bubbles have subsided and the white part of the okra has turned golden brown, about 3 minutes. Scoop the okra out of the oil and allow it to drain for a few seconds, and place on a plate lined with paper towels. Repeat process with remaining okra. Season the okra with a pinch of salt. The okra will stay crispy for 2 days in an airtight container at room temperature.

To Assemble to Salad:
Spoon the yogurt dressing along the bottom of the plate. Arrange sliced tomatoes over the yogurt dressing. Season the tomatoes with a pinch of salt. Sprinkle the crumbled feta over the tomatoes. Layer a few leaves of arugula or watercress. Put a nice big pile of crispy okra over the top and finish with benne seed. Serve immediately.

*Any size works, big heirlooms sliced, sun golds cut in half. Just look for the best quality tomato in the peak of their season.