Cherry Smoked Pork Ribs and Food Fails

I debated about whether or not to post this recipe, because well…it didn’t really turn out the way I’d hoped.  My first inclination was not to post it, because who wants to read about a failed recipe?  But then I realized that the best way to improve is to learn from my mistakes.  And the best way to learn is by sharing my  mistakes with all of you.  🙂

I recently found a blog called Smoked N Grilled on Pinterest; it’s a site devoted to recipes for all things smoked and grilled (hence the name).  You should really check it out if you’re into grilling or smoking meats-there’s some fantastic recipes!  Anyway, as I was looking through the recipes, I got inspired.  I’ve always been a huge fan of Grillin’ and BBQ’in, but I’ve never really delved into smoking meats; mostly because I don’t have a smoker and I’m not sure I’d use one enough to warrant the cost of buying one.  But these recipes looked tasty, so I thought to myself… I can totally  do that!

So, I used the power of Google to find tips on using my gas grill as a smoker.  I’m sure all you hard core grillers out there will scoff at this idea, but I really wanted to try my hand at smoking meat, so I decided to give it a go.  And I have this great recipe for Cherry Cola Glazed Ribs, so I thought, HEY! I could try the Cherry Cola Ribs smoked on my makeshift smoker and smoke them with cherry wood!  Sounds like a fantastic idea, right?!   It was a fantastic idea!  But implementation…well…therein lies the fail.

Here’s a list of my Recipe Fail Lessons Learned:

Fail #1-I Googled  “How to smoke meat on a gas grill”, and in my meat smoking haste, I read the first one I came across. It seemed reasonable, so I didn’t  look around any further. Turns out it wasn’t the best resource after all-there weren’t enough details and the instructions were incorrect.  Lesson Learned: Take the Time…Do Your Research.

Fail #2-I I found a great recipe for smoked ribs from the before-mentioned website Smoked N Grilled and I used it as my guide for smoking my Cherry Cola Ribs.   The problem is,  I didn’t read the recipe completely.  I just skimmed through it. I neglected to notice that the ribs would take approximately 4 1/2 hours to complete-a fact I would have noticed had I reviewed the entire recipe.  I read “two hours” and stopped there.  Two hours is actually the point at which you first check on your smoking meat.  Apparently I thought I was some sort of expert because I learned everything there is to know about smoking meat from reading one reference from Google. (see Fail #1).  As a result I started this process entirely too late in the day.  Epic Fail.  Lesson Learned: Read the recipe, especially when you don’t know what you’re doing.

Fail #3-Because I started this process too late, I became impatient, so I ended up increasing the heat, which of course caused the meat to cook too fast.  The whole point of smoking meats is to cook it slooowwwlllyyyy (you’d think I would have caught on to that when I was reading the recipe…oh wait…I didn’t read the whole recipe…go figure).  As a result, the meat was not the fall-off-the-bone varietal I’ve come to know and love. Uber Fail.  Lesson Learned:  Patience is a virtue (as I often tell ChefPickyKid), and understanding the process is helpful too.

Fail #4-Now for this one, in my defense, I was sure I had one of these.  I always have one.  Who doesn’t have one?? Well apparently, I didn’t.  What is this magical item, you ask?? Wait for it…. a meat thermometer. The most important tool you’ll need for smoking meat besides the grill.   And I didn’t have one.  Are you kidding me??   And by the time I realized I didn’t have one, it was too late for me to get one.  And of course, being the One Google Resource Expert that I am, I decided I didn’t need one. Which of course led the meat to being overcooked.  Massive Fail.   Lesson Learned: Be sure you have the right tools for the job-before the job begins.

Now, all fails considered, the ribs really didn’t turn out all that bad.  The marinade/glaze was great, and the cherry wood smoked with the ribs left a wonderful flavor.  They just didn’t turn out the way I envisioned them to be; they were over cooked and a little tough.  But, I know that I have learned from my fails , and next time this recipe will be even better.

 

Cherry Smoked Pork Ribs

See my recipe for Cherry Cola Glazed Ribs for the ingredients for this recipe. For the smoked ribs I doubled the ingredients (not the meat, just everything else)  and divided it.  I marinated the ribs in the same ingredients as the glaze, and then created the glaze to finish the ribs.

Combine all the ingredients from the glaze recipe in a large glass pan or large bowl (don’t cook it over the stove as the recipe mentions; just mix the ingredients together-you’ll make the glaze later)  Marinate the ribs, refrigerated, overnight.

Remove the ribs from the marinade about 1/2 hour before you’re ready to begin cooking.  Pat the meat dry and rub it generously with your favorite meat rub.  I’ve made many homemade spice rub recipes, but for this one I used a pre-made Chicken and Pork Rub from a local company called Penzey’s Spices .  Leave the meat out of the refrigerator so it can come to room temperature (or close to it) before you begin smoking it.

I’m not going to describe how I smoked the meat on my gas grill (see Fail #1), but I did find another resource that has very helpful information on using your gas grill as a smoker.  I’m going to try this method next time.

How to Smoke Meat on a Gas Grill

I based my smoking time and method on a recipe I found on SmokedNGrilled.com.  This recipe is for Peach Smoked Ribs; I didn’t use the ingredients, just the smoking time and temperature (well, I should have, but I didn’t-See Fail 2) .  I used cherry wood chips for my recipe because I thought it would taste great with the Cherry Cola Glazed Ribs.

While my ribs smoked on the grill, I prepared the Cherry Cola Glaze according to the original recipe.  When the ribs were about 10 minutes from removing from the grill, I basted them with the Cherry Cola Glaze and served the remaining glaze on the side.

 

I’m not sure this was a recipe so much as it was a kitchen confession, but I hope that while you were laughing at me  with me, you learned a little something, or at least had a laugh over your own Food Fails.

 

Carne Asada

This is the second installment of Mexican Food Mania.  If you had a chance to check out my last post for Chicken Enchiladas, you know that this labor day weekend was one filled with Mexican dishes; four days worth, to be exact.

I prepared Carne Asada for dinner with friends on Saturday night. I love Carne Asada; it’s so easy to make, and very difficult to mess up.  I’ve tried many variations of marinades, and all of them have been fantastic.  You really can’t go wrong.

What I have learned from the many times I’ve made this dish is that the longer the meat marinates, the tastier and more tender it will be!  I recommend marinating overnight whenever possible.

Here’s my latest version of Carne Asada.  I’m just posting the recipe for the meat, so you can decide what you’d like to serve with it.  I usually serve it with tortillas (corn and flour),Pico de Gallo, cilantro, and some avocado or fresh guacamole.  You can also serve with sour cream and/or cheese, but to be honest, the meat is so good that a lot of extra stuff on it will really mask the flavors and adds a lot of empty calories.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t need any extra calories!

Here’s what you’ll need for the Carne Asada

2-3 pounds of flank or skirt steak.  This will serve 6 with plenty of leftovers.  Sometimes flank and skirt steak can be a little expensive, so if you are a chef on a budget, you can also use thin cut top round steak.  The top round steak will be a little less tender than the other steak, but still just as flavorful.  I used the top round for the Carne Asada in this recipe’s photo.

1/2 yellow onion, chopped

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

About 1 cup of chopped cilantro; I usually use 2 big handfuls of cilantro

1 jalapeno pepper, diced

1/2 cup olive oil

1 Mexican style beer; I use Negro Modelo

Juice  and zest of one orange

Juice and zest of two limes

Salt and Pepper

Directions: 

Whisk all ingredients together in a large bowl and season with a little salt and pepper.  Place steak in a 9X13 baking dish and pour  the marinade into the dish.  Cover with foil and marinate for at least 4-6 hours.  If you can marinate overnight, that would be even better.

Heat a grill over high heat and grill for 5 minutes on each side. Remove from the grill and allow the meat to rest for about 5 minutes before chopping or slicing.

Enjoy!!

Meltdown Macaroni Salad

My family and I moved to Arizona two years ago this month. Before living in Arizona, we were born and raised California residents.  While we miss our family and friends in California, it’s been fun exploring a new city and all the amenities it has to offer (like lots of restaurants!).

We really enjoy the Phoenix area. The weather is beautiful 9 months out of the year!  But, the other three months…well….it’s hot.  Really hot.  I mean, really, really hot.  We’ve adjusted to the heat over the last two years, but no matter how adjusted we are, 118 degrees is stifling.

There is a payoff for heat endurance. In December, when it’s supposed to be cold, rainy  and  grey(at least that’s what it was like in my home town), I’m wearing flip-flops and short sleeved shirts as I enjoy 75 degree weather. But although I know the blistering heat is reaching it’s yearly end and  beautiful weather awaits, a late summer meltdown occurs.  It’s happened every year since we’ve been here.  I reach a point at which my brain can no longer bear the sizzling heat, and I enter into a heat-induced rage.  It happened this year at the end of July.

Several of my friends that have moved here to Arizona also experience such a meltdown. But this year we decided to celebrate our meltdown, rather than lamenting it.  There’s nothing we can do about the heat, so why not embrace it?  So, to celebrate our love/hate relationship with the desert sun, we had a Summer Meltdown Party.

This meltdown party consisted mainly of tasty BBQ and summer sides, along with delicious cocktails (see Pear Martini), and swimming to cool off (at night, of course, because right now, it’s too hot to swim during the day).  One of those summer sides was the Meltdown Macaroni Salad.  This salad got its name because of the day it was made, and it’s a great way to chill out after a meltdown.  Enjoy!

Meltdown Macaroni Salad

1 Package of Small Salad Macaroni or Elbow Macaroni-I prefer salad macaroni

2-3 Hardboiled Eggs, chopped, (depending on how much egg you like in your salad)

2 Stalks Celery, Chopped

1 Carrot, Shredded

1 Medium Sized Onion, Finely Chopped

3/4 Cup Frozen Peas, Thawed

1 Small Can Sliced Olives, Drained (optional, I usually add olives, but didn’t add it this time because I forgot the olives)

1 Cup Mayonnaise

1/4 Cup Sugar

1/4 Cup  White Vinegar

1 Tablespoon Yellow Mustard

1 Tablespoon Dill Pickle Relish

1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder

1/2 Teaspoon Seasoned Salt

1  Teaspoons Salt

1/2 Teaspoon Fresh Ground Black Pepper

About 1  Teaspoon Paprika

Additional Salt and Pepper, to Taste

Fresh or Dried Dill for Garnish

Cook macaroni al dente, according to package directions.

In a medium bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, mustard, pickle relish, garlic powder, seasoned salt, and salt and pepper.  

In a separate large bowl, combine macaroni, egg, celery, carrots, onion,  peas and olives (if you’re using them).  Mix the dressing in a little at a time to combine.  If you pour it in all at once, it will be hard to mix completely.  Once the salad has been mixed together, sprinkle with paprika, about 1 teaspoon, and mix the pasta with the paprika.

Chill the macaroni salad for at least three hours, or, if you can, chill overnight.  Sprinkle with a little fresh or dried dill, for garnish.  

Cherry Cola Glazed BBQ Ribs

First, a few fun facts about soda:

Coca Cola can help jellyfish stings.

Lithium was removed from 7UP over 50 years ago.

Pepsi advertised in China with the slogan “Come Alive with Pepsi”, but the Chinese translation was “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave”.

Dr Pepper does not contain prune juice.

Soda makes an excellent marinade because the acid tenderizes the meat.

Flat soda makes a wonderful sauce or glaze, especially for BBQ.

Soda is delicious. Especially Diet Dr. Pepper.

Okay, so all of the facts but the last are officially true.  But you can’t deny that soda is delicious. 🙂 Not the healthiest of beverage choices, but we all have our vices.

I have recently discovered soda as a cooking ingredient; I have always cooked with other beverage varietals in my recipes-beer, wine, liquor, but never really thought of using soda until now.  I initially thought that soda would make sauces and marinades too sweet, but as a marinade, it mainly just tenderizes the meat, and when mixed with the right ingredients, can make an amazing sauce or glaze.

I have cooked with cola, cherry cola, root beer, and of course, Dr. Pepper.  I don’t use diet soda, and from what I’ve read and heard, diet soda makes meat dry, because of the additives and sugar substitute.

Ribs are one of my favorite meats to grill, and I especially love to use new sauces and marinades when I make them. This is one of my favorites.  The glaze for the ribs are sweet and savory, and baking the ribs in cherry cola before grilling makes them ridiculously tender-I mean fall off the bone tender.

Here’s the Recipe!!

Cherry Cola Glazed BBQ RIbs

1 Two Liter Bottle Cherry Cola, Divided. 30 ounces of the cola should be FLAT.  The rest of the cherry cola will be used when you bake the ribs.  

**It’s important that the cola is flat before you make the glaze; if it isn’t, the glaze won’t be as thick. I usually let the cola sit out in a bowl at room temperature for at least 2 hours or more to be sure it’s flat.  If you’ve been keeping the cola cold, you’ll want to leave it out longer than 2 hours to be sure it flattens.

2 Racks Pork Baby Back Ribs (approximately 3-4 pounds)

1 12 OZ Cherry Jam or Preserves

1/4 Cup Dijon Mustard

1 Teaspoon Horseradish (I know, sounds scary, but trust me, it just adds a little spice to the sauce)

2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce

4 Teaspoons Apple Cider Vinegar

2 Teaspoons Hot Pepper Sauce

Salt and Pepper

Heat oven to 325 degrees.  Season and rub ribs with salt and pepper, and wrap tightly in foil.  Pour enough cherry cola to fill a rimmed baking sheet, and place foil wrapped ribs on the baking sheet.  Bake ribs for at least 2 hours. You can cook them a little longer if you want them extra special tender.  I’ve cooked them as much as 3 hours.  

Boil 30 OZ FLAT cherry cola in a large saucepan over medium heat until reduced to about 1 1/2 cups; it should take about 45 minutes.

Stir in the cherry jam or preserves, dijon, horseradish, soy sauce, cider vinegar and hot pepper sauce.  Reduce heat to a simmer and stir occasionally until the glaze is reduced to about 2 1/2 cups; this should take about 35 minutes.  Set aside one cup of glaze, and transfer the rest into a large bowl for coating the ribs. The glaze can cool while you wait for the ribs to finish baking.

Remove the ribs from the oven after at least 2 hours, and allow ribs to cool until you can handle the foil.  Once cooled enough to handle, remove ribs from foil and cut between the bones into single serving sizes (3-4 ribs per serving).

This is what the ribs look like when they are fresh out of the oven and cooled enough to remove the foil.

Prepare outdoor grill to medium-low heat.  Add ribs to the glaze in the bowl and toss to coat. Grill the ribs until the glaze has caramelized and browned, about five minutes total.  Be careful not to grill too long; the sugar in the glaze can cause the ribs to burn if cooked too long.  The ribs are only cooked on the grill to caramelize the glaze.  

Serve, passing the remaining one cup of reserved glaze separately.