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Fourth of July
Saturday, 2007 July 7 - 12:43 am
A brief recap.

Instead of going out to Cary like I usually do for the Fourth of July, we stayed home and had a few folks over. Guess what? When you're twenty feet away from your neighbor's impressively less-than-legal fireworks display, that's just about as good as being two hundred feet away from a professional show. I see what I'm up against here... next year, I'm going to have to have a computer-controlled fireworks performance synchronized to "Ride of the Valkyries". Oh yeah, it's ON.

During the day, we had some people come over to hang out, go to the neighborhood pool, and eat. Did I mention that we got a new gas grill? I have officially joined the Suburban Dudes club.

The menu included burgers, bratwurst, chicken, and ribs. Let me tell you something about ribs: I am a rib snob. I have had too many dry, chewy ribs in restaurants that supposedly specialize in them. Chili's? You are dead to me because of your baby back ribs. (And if you'll allow me to be petty for a minute: GunGirl once made me slap-dash fifteen-minute ribs that were like leather, and it's a dang good thing I didn't settle for that for the rest of my life.)

Here's the right way to make ribs:

1. Cook with liquids. If you don't use any liquids, the ribs will dry out. Some people just put a pan of water inside their grill or oven while cooking the ribs. But my favorite method is one I learned from Alton Brown on the Food Network: seal the ribs in an envelope of aluminum foil, with a little bit of liquid inside. And I use beer instead of water, which adds flavor and increases tenderness. You don't want to boil the ribs; that leaches the flavor back out of the meat. You only need a small amount of beer. We had about six pounds of ribs and I only used about half a can of beer.

2. Low and slow is the rule. "Low" as in low heat, as in 200 degrees. "Slow" as in six hours or more of cooking time. The long cooking time is necessary to break down the toughness of the rib meat. If the heat is too high, the meat dries out and gets tough.

3. Don't season with salt before cooking. Salt will also draw moisture out of the meat. (See the pattern? Dry = Bad.) I use black pepper and cumin before cooking, and that's all.

4. Don't put sauce on the ribs until the very end. Most bottled barbecue sauces have sugar (or worse, corn syrup). Sugar will carmelize or burn, and that can give the ribs an unpleasant taste. However, many sauces need a little bit of cooking time to get rid of the tomato-y tartness.

If I do say so, my all-day falling-off-the-bone ribs were a big hit. Our friend Jake ate so many ribs that he got the meat sweats.

By the way, the consensus opinion was that "Meat Sweats" would be a good name for a heavy metal band. Or a gay bar.

Happy belated 4th of July, everyone.
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Posted by Ken in: foodlife

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