Monday, February 20, 2012

15 Bean & Rib Soup / Stew!

The weekend before last here on Long Island the cookout day was downright COLD - temps in the 20's were tough, but we dealt with them and cooked outdoors. This past weekend the weather did bestow upon us sunny skies and temperatures in the 40's. The winter to spring change is in the air and 'unsettled' will be the forecast for a couple of weeks.

On Saturday I decided to do some more cooking with the new wood burning stove we are getting set up in the back. So far this has been a real good yard sale purchase. Not a bad way to let go of 20 bucks.

On the menu for the day was 15 bean soup. I had score a package at the store, because 15 beans sounded like a good number to me at the time. After watching a 15 bean video over at JB's YouTube Channel, I new I had to have a go at some bean soup. This was just any bean soup mind you, there were all sorts of other ingredients to add to this pot of goodness. I think it ended up being more of a stew than a soup. It's all good though, the aroma of this concoction was surely wafting about the neighborhood and everyone just wanted a bowl.

The main addition to the dish was cubed BBQ rib meat. Last weekend I smoked three racks of ribs, two of which went that night. The third one was saved for a future meal. This is that meal. Some places such as Restaurant Depot and BJ's Wholesale sell baby back ribs in three packs, cryovacced together. You really can't thaw out just one or two racks, you are pretty well committed to bbqing all three. Not a problem, left over rule!

Here are the ingredients: 

1 Package Hurst's® 15 Bean Soup
1 lb. Cooked Baby Back Rib Meat / large cubes
1 Large Russet Potato / large dice & skin on
2 Cups Parsnips / skinned & diced
1 Large Yellow Onion / rough chopped
1 Red Bell Pepper / chopped
2 Large Jalapeno / sliced
2 TBS Tango Spice Sante Fe Seasoning

Soaking - Rinse beans once or twice, then place in a large pot, cover with 2 quarts of water. Allow beans to soak overnight, or at least 8 hours.
After soaking, drain excess water, and add 2 quarts of fresh water.
Bring to a rolling boil, reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 2 hours.
After two hours, add the cooked rib meat and diced potatoes.
Keep and eye on the water level.
After adding the meat, in a separate pan saute parsnips, onion, bell pepper and jalapeno, saute for 5 or so minutes.
Add parsnip mixture, to the beans & simmer for 30 minutes.
At this time add the Sante Fe Seasoning and simmer for an additional 30 minutes.
Taste for seasoning, adding more Sante Fe - just because it is so good!

There you have it. The new stove is working out really well and this soup turned out very darn tasty! It really was a 'go for seconds' type of bowl. I will be trying this again, adding some garlic and maybe using some red onion instead of the yellow. Next time I will also try a different spice blend, just because.

As Always, Thank You For Reading!

Here is the action packed video - enjoy!

3-2-1 Ribs!

This post has to begin with this admission - By no means am I a rib master. Though I have been practicing bbqing and grilling ribs for a while now, I am not there, yet.. Someday, with enough ribs 'under my belt' I will be able to say I bbq some of the best ribs around. Always hold out hope!

As you look around the internet for 'bbq ribs' there are literally thousands of recipes and videos out there of the 'great rib method'. Some of them you can tell right away that it is best to pass them by, but there are many others which pique the interest and get the taste buds attention. One such method is simply named the 3-2-1 Method. I am not going to be able say this is the best way to do them, as I need to try all other way s too. This is one way which wanted to give a try try. To be honest, I have heard the foil portion of this method called 'the crutch'. For me, the end result is what tells the tale. If you end up with the best ribs you have ever eaten it's all good.

The basic premise for 3-2-1, from what I have read, is the following. This is a low & slow cook.
BBQ the prepared ribs for 3 hours
Place ribs & a little liquid in foil, put back in bbq for 2 hours
Remove from the foil, slather with sauce and back in bbq for 1 hour

This is the breakdown of how these ribs went from fridge to plate.
I started the smoker at about 8:15, heading for a temperature of 225 degrees by 9 am. This was tricky as it was only around 22 degrees outside. Just glad there was no wind. Of course, the trickiness was taken down a notch by using the propane option on the Brinkman offset. Have to say that having the option of going from stick burning to propane and back is very cool.
I prepped the ribs by first removing the membrane from the back then coating both sides with spicy mustard. After that a nice coating of our Tango Spice  Chik N' Rib Rub. Of course, any mustard and rub will do, but Tango is better than most - if I do say so myself. As the bbq came up to temp I  left the ribs out on the counter, covered with plastic wrap so they come to room temp before being placed in the smoker.
Once the smoker is at the desired temperature place the racks on the grates, bone side down. These I let go for just about 2 1/2 hours with the temp hovering between 220 & 225 degrees.
During this initial cook time I used a spray bottle and gave the ribs a good hosing with 100% apple juice every thirty minutes.
As the 2.5 hour time neared I ripped off three large pieces of foil, opened a bottle of Long Ireland Black Friday Imperial Stout. Placing a rack on each piece of foil, I formed a sort of bowl and added around a quarter of a cup of stout to each. Sealed the foil, but did not make it too tight. These were then placed back in the Brinkman.
The 'original method' calls for leaving them foiled for 2 hours but I decided to unfoil them after just 90 minutes. Some of the naysayers I had read voiced complaints about the ribs over-cooking, possibly turning out a bit mushy. So, to ere on the side of caution I had been cutting back a bit on the times. 
At the 90 minute mark the ribs were removed from the foil, put back in the smoker and coated with a generous helping of bbq sauce.
Here I did leave them to bbq for the entire 1 hour - again @ 220 degrees. At that point I took them off, placed them in a chaffing pan and covered with foil. Turn the smoker off and get ready to slice into these racks of goodness. The entire cook time was scented with the wondrous aroma of bBQ and by this time I had a mighty hunger.

I will say right up front that the ribs tasted awesome, but were far from the best I have ever cooked or had. They were cooked real well, but were just shy of the 'fall off the bone' that I enjoy. One thing I am thinking is that I could have done the entire 3-2-1 as it stood and not take 30 minutes off the starting 3 hours or 30 minutes off the foiled time.
So, this means that I really must bbq many, many more racks of ribs!
No Problem!

Also, I have to say the Long Ireland Black Friday Imperial Stout was Fantastic on the ribs and in the glass!

As Always, Thank You For Reading!

Check out the video of this tasty event!

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Ranch @ Los Colinas, Texas!

During my stay in Irving, Texas for Zest Fest 2012 I had the opportunity to dine at The Ranch. Being among so many folks who appreciate good food and the tastier side of life puts one in the mood for fine eating with just a bit of the 'out of the ordinary' fare.

I found The Ranch after checking the web, using the free wireless in to my room at ALoft. Doing a quick search for places nearby using three simple letters - 'BBQ' brought more than a few choices. Hey, this is Texas - if you can't find BBQ you are really not trying that hard. After looking at a few menus from several places I decided to head on over to The Ranch and have a bite.

As this was a Saturday night on the outskirts of Dallas the place was packed. Lucky for me I was traveling alone this trip and scoring a table for one was no big deal. Tried not to smirk as I past groups of folks waiting for tables. Got one of those high tables with the backed barstools with a great view of the place. People watching time.

Have to say a good word about the server, Brian. Super nice guy, always stopping by the table just when I needed something, yet never asking if everything was good just when I had a mouth full.

Sometimes when going to a new place I like to just get a few things listed on the appetizer menu to get a feel for the place. Here is a quick rundown of my first meal at The Ranch. I told Brian that I would be eating just a few 'starters' with a 'beer or two' and he said bringing the dishes out one at a time would be no problem. During the meal a couple of Texas brews were 'on tap' - yeah man! I just can't hang out at a bbq joint or a steak house without some of that amber goodness!

The first glass of beer was Rio Blanco Pale Ale. This fine beer is brewed by Real Ale Brewing in Blanco, TX. The write up said they use Czech Saaz hops. worked for me! Great flavor, served nice and cold, just the way I like it. The Pale Ale is a very clear beer not cloudy like some micro brews. The aroma is nice, not over-powering. Taste was not as 'hoppy' as some with a slight spicy bite to it. Most beer snobs may call it weak, but I liked it & I would highly recommend this beer.

First up on the appetizer parade: Venison Sausage Gumbo / This dish was nice and thick without being sticky. There was an underlying heat without being overly spicy. Though I am a spice guy, I like to taste the food and not just heat. In the bowl were lots of shrimp of the 31/40 size, nicely cooked and very crisp. The thin sliced sausage was smokey & had a nice meaty taste. I do not get to eat venison enough, and it sure is a treat to find that taste in this dish. The rice was not added as a filler and was thankfully not the center of the dish and the okra was fresh.

Round Two: Mini Kobe Beef Tacos / When the three tacos were placed in front of me I was surprised to see them filled with ground meat instead of cubed. This feeling turned aound as soon as I took the first bite. A snappy shell that did not completely crumble when bit into, nice! The beef ad an excellent taste, moist and full of beef flavor. Along with this was the warm heat of the spices, once again just right & not over done. This was not a plate of over sauced tacos that require a roll of paper towels to get through. The meat was really done well and was not dripping with sauce or grease that I have had in the past. Lightly topped with fresh tomatoes & onions which were snappy fresh. I could have gone for another plate!

The second glass of beer was a Fireman's 4 Blonde Ale, which is also brewed by Real Ale Brewery. Brian told me that this was the most popular brew in the house so I took his word for it and ordered one. Brian did say that if I was disappointed the glass would be 'on the house'. Sold. I could not lie and get a free beer, this was a nice brew. Had a good, clean taste. A clean & light taste which was very smooth. I could taste a hint of citrus in this well balanced beer. Yeah, two great brews from Real Ale!

Third Course: Smoked Brisket Stack / I had saved this for last and was glad I did. Three little sandwiches served on a mesquite log which made a real nice presentation. The brisket was sliced bbq perfection, tender and juicy ribbons of beef with just the right amount of smoke. The DrPepper sauce is something I would truly want to duplicate at home. There was just the right amount of sauce as well, it was a pleasure to eat without drenching myself. The slaw served on top was bright and tangy, and had a very big crunch to it, showing off it's freshness. All this was served on brioche buns, buttery & perfect for these sandwiches. I could have had two or three more helpings of these, they were so good.

Smoked Brisket Stacks w/ Fireman's #4 Ale

Good To The Last Bite!

In spite of the busyness of the night, there was not a rush to get me to get the meal done and get moving. Even though I was having items off of the appetizer menu Brian only brought the next one after the previous one was finished. That was really cool, and everything was steaming hot when I got to dig in.

One thing that was on the menu is something that I have been wanting to try for a long time but is a menu item I have yet to find at a restaurant. Chicken & Waffles! This is a combination that has always mystified me and from what I hear, is so darn good when done right. When I mentioned to Brian that I'd be in the following day for to try some more new things he told me that The Ranch was closed on Sundays! So, once again I was denied tasting for what has turned out to be the elusive Chicken & Waffles!

All in all, dinner at The Ranch was Very, Very Good. A happenin' place with a lively crowd. The staff was efficient and not at all pushy. Food and drink of the highest quality!

If you find yourself in the Dallas area, do yourself a favor and dine at The Ranch, just make sure you are not wanting a Sunday dinner.

As Always - Thank you for reading.