Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em

With the warmer weather (leaving aside the inconvenient truth that it snowed today) comes the urge to light fires and char large pieces of animal on them, or at least let said slabs of flesh languish in hot proximity to the fire, bathing in the fragrant smoke until tender and orgiastically satisfying.

So on a lovely, sunny (if chilly) yesterday I got the smoker going and mixed up a batch of the magic espresso rub for a side of ribs. They went in the chamber for about three and a half hours, getting regular moppage with the even more magical tamarind-cider-tomato-maple-wine-soy-etc. barbecue sauce for which I am justifiably known in these here parts. To accompany, I made a couple of most healthy dishes: kale slow-cooked with leeks in bacon phở and whey (you know, like Grandma used to make) and black radishes cooked in beer with tamari. Both of these methods are highly recommended; whey especially is an underutilized cooking medium. The reason I have whey on hand will be the subject of a future post.

At the appointed hour (three being the very minimum required to get ribs tender) the picture above had been transformed by the magic of smoke, rub, and sauce into this Flintstonian masterpiece:

I cut them apart and put them on plates with the vegetables and the little bit of extra sauce left in the pot.

They were every bit as stroketacular as they appear. It had been an age since we had ribs, and absence made the heart very fond. These were actually made by request for the boy and the excitement was palpable:

I found a bottle of 2003 Beaux Frères Pinot, which was actually a decent match for this food. It’s not wine I like at all by itself (and don’t even get me started on its part-owner) but in this instance the fat, jammy, high-alcohol caricature of real Pinot Noir had what was needed to compete even a little with the insanely greasy and spicy ribs (some killer Japanese hot sauce went in this batch, too). Beer of course would be the logical choice, but if you have any luridly overblown Cali reds that need drinking, grab some pork, fire up the smoker and hit that spice rack like it deserves it.

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I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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