May, 2008 Archive

Friday, May 30, 2008

molly’s dry-rubbed ribs

molly's dry-rubbed ribs

[My friend Molly made the most amazing ribs on Memorial Day. Prior to Monday, I thought I liked mopped, or barbecue sauced-up ribs. I am now officially a dry rub convert, and begged her to let us know how she did it. Thanks Molly!--Deb]

I started making these ribs last summer. I got inspired by an amazing BBQ I attended in Bed-Stuy at my friend Antoine’s friend Pete’s house. Pete has six jumbo grills with attached smokers or something ridiculous like that. At that BBQ, I think he smoked so much meat in his backyard that he probably violated some kind of zoning ordinance. The buffet table in the backyard groaned under the weight of at least half a dozen BBQ competition trophies. Pete is a serious BBQ chef. It was the first truly delicious BBQ pork I’d eaten since I had moved to NYC after living in North Carolina for two years.

hard-working tongs

Now I must provide the obligatory rant on my BBQ predilections/prejudices: I enjoy a tangy red sauce as much as anyone else. I especially love Ina Garten’s Barbecue Sauce that Deb introduced me to: brushed on a chicken thigh over a charcoal fire, it’s wonderful. But in my opinion, tomato-containing sauce of any kind does not belong on pork BBQ. It took just two years in Orange County, NC, home of the Tar Heels and the inimitable Allen & Sons Barbecue, to convince me of this.

the smoker

There is only one way to do right by pork: cover it with a simple, spicy-sweet dry rub. Let it sit for a while. Slowly cook it in smoky, indirect heat, using a wood fire or natural charcoal, until the meat is tender enough to melt in your mouth. Then go hawg wild. It’s best to enjoy the meat without any sauce, at least at first. Sometimes, if I am in the mood, I will add a hot pepper vinegar to my pulled pork, but only after I eat some of it unsauced. I never add any sauce to ribs.

Continued after the jump »

Thursday, May 29, 2008

haricot vert with shallots

haricot vert, shallots, butter, lemon and tomatoes

Nearly a year ago, I told you about my favorite side dish. But what I failed to tell you is that these things change suddenly for no apparent reason. One day I’ll try something I’m certain sounds too uninteresting to be executed well–in that case, zucchini, almonds and a bit of parmesan, barely cooked–and the flavor blows my mind to the point that I must eat it that night, the next one and all the days that follow, then pausing for a couple weeks just to pick it up once more.

haricot vert, trimmed and tailed

Well, it has happened again. Two weeks ago, Alex and I got home late from the gym and decided to order salads from the French diner-ish place a couple blocks away, but I suddenly became worried that my salad would not be enough food and threw in a side of haricot vert, or those skinny French green beans I love so much. Nevertheless, my expectations were very low–I mean, you’ve got to cook these guys to a very specific point and then stop, and I failed to see how that would work when they needed to arrive warm.

haricot vert, drained

Yet here we are, two weeks later and this is the third or fourth time I’ve eaten them since. However, last night was the first time I got off my rump long enough to assemble it myself, which if you consider how ridiculously simple this is to make, is particularly sad.

Continued after the jump »

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

strawberry rhubarb pie

strawberry rhubarb pie

I usually try to shield you from examples of my various forms of Crazy, but in this case, it’s just too relevant not to own up to. You see, I’ve got all sorts of superstitions about pies, with each and every harebrained theory derived from some near or actual pie disaster in my past.

making pie doughpie dough pacmancannot resist the flutedunbaked lattice-top

There’s the theory that pies can smell fear; if you’re certain your pie will be a mess, it becomes something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Then there’s the theory about making anything but the simplest lidded pie in the summertime, as the heat and humidity defies any level of air conditioning and makes your pie dough melt apart, no matter how many times you chill the dough. I also believe that pie recipes can be curses, because not every apple has the same level of sweetness, tartness and liquid and it’s nearly impossible to come up with a core recipe that works each time.

strawberry rhubarb pie, unbaked

In short, my pie superstitions could be summed up as, “Shh. The pie can hear you.”

Continued after the jump »

Thursday, May 22, 2008

30 ways to be a good guest

classic coleslawblue cheese coleslawspicy radicchio slaw with pecansnapa cabbage and sesame seed slawpickled coleslawgreen onion slawroseanne cash's potato saladdilled potato and pickled cucumber potato saladblack bean confetti saladsalsa frescagreen bean and tomato saladspring panzanellaviennese cucumber saladgazpacho saladpasta primavera saladeasiest mac-and-cheesecreamiest mac-and-cheesefried chickenhot and smoky baked beanscheddar, chili and green onion corn breadhomemade bbq saucehoisin bbq saucetequila lime chickenpork ribletscherry cornmeal upside-down cakepineapple upside-down cakecaramel walnut upside down banana cakestrawberry-rhubarb crumblefresh strawberry tartmargarita cookies

As Alex and I go into yet another summer without a patio to house an outdoor grill and a dozen of our nearest and dearest, this means but one thing: doing our best to get ourselves invited to as many barbecues, pot-lucks and patio parties as we can. Nobody can say that we don’t have goals.

Of course, when trying to convince people that you’d be a welcome guest at their party and not, say, the type of person who will drink all of their sangria, teach their children off-color jokes and ultimately pass out in a chaise lounge in the shade, not to be found until long after the shindig has wound down, it helps to have a cooking blog–the kind you’d like to bring samples from.

In fact, I find that the number of invitations we receive correlates closely with the number of times I promise to arrive bearing slaw, sides or cake. Especially the cake. (And to think people said you couldn’t buy friends!)

As we gear up for a barbecue a day this holiday weekend, I have rounded up some of the things I’m considering bringing along, but I think we all know that what I’m really going to do is make all new things because I am allergic to cooking anything twice. But don’t let that stop you from considering one of the things below (and then drinking all of the sangria, because they’ll be so in love with your cooking, they’ll forgive you.)

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

semolina dumpling soup

semolina dumpling soup

My German grandmother never made mazto ball soup with chicken stock, or so my mother tells me. In fact, she never made chicken stock at all. Compared to beef stock, chicken stock’s flavor paled, she felt, so why use it?

forgot to buy celery

After our central European vacation, I can see that she’s not alone. We didn’t find one restaurant in Prague or Vienna that didn’t have some version of a beef consomme soup on the menu–all extremely dark and abundantly flavorful. I found this a great relief, as soup was a wonderful way to offset the heaviness of available cuisine, and also absurdly delicious, as I never knew that simple brothy soups could be so tasty.

bones and stuff

And you’ll have to bear with me, as I know it is probably not soup season where you are, but between New York’s rainy 55 degrees yesterday and the bad cold Alex and I have passed back and forth in the last eight days, it sure was needed here.

Continued after the jump »