Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Trifecta: Meat, Potatoes and Football

Unless there's something cool or important to do on a fall Saturday, I prefer to stay in and watch some good 'ol American football. I used to watch football while doing my nails. It's my way of making football girly. :º) But these days, I've been feeling the urge to cook and am getting inspired to make new dishes. When a feeling like this hits, you've just gotta go with it. So now, instead of doing my nails, I cook while watching football.

A week ago, I was cooking while watching football again and attempted some new dishes. Unfortunately, the pork spareribs I made were overcarmelized (burned). It just came down to my inexperience with a charcoal grill. I ate it anyway, but discarded the overcarmelized parts. I just felt so sad because I didn't do the pig whose ribs were bestowed upon me justice. It's such a shame to waste good food.

I must admit that I have a slight arrogance when it comes to food. I don't believe that there's anything that I can't do. It just takes time and practice. If I don't get it right the first time, I make it over and over again until I make it right. Naturally, I had no choice but to redo the spareribs. I applied my lessons learned from the first run to this one:

1) Hardwood briquettes take longer to light than charcoal
2) Hardwood briquettes burn hotter than charcoal
3) Filling the chimney starter with briquettes 3 layers deep is enough to cover half my Weber kettle grill in a single layer of briquettes
4) Subtle manipulation of the grill cover, cover vent and lower vent make a difference in the "oven" temperature of the grill. It just takes some vigilance to get the temperature right.
5) Don't trust the directions to "grill for 2 minutes, then turn the meat 90 degrees and grill for another 2 minutes". During this searing step, always stand by the grill and monitor the meat. DO NOT MULTITASK!!! (This was what caused my spareribs to be overcarmelized)

Armed with the lessons from my previous attempt, I set out to make my spareribs "right". First, I woke up in the morning, cut my spareribs into 3 rib pieces, made the rub (brown sugar, garlic powder, salt, red chili flakes, cayenne pepper, paprika and allspice), coated the spareribs, placed them on a lined cookie sheet, covered them and threw them into the refrigerator for the flavor to seep in.

After 6 hours, I took them out of the refrigerator and started to play with my grill. Admittedly, it was just incredibly difficult to get it started. I don't think I like these hardwood briquettes. I bought them because they burned longer and were all-natural. Charcoal has all sorts of chemicals mixed into it that aren't good for your body. These hardwood briquettes are so natural that the ashes could be used for compost, which is really cool for me too! It just took forever to get the briquettes started, but when I did, I stood around while the spareribs seared. This made a huge difference. Then I moved them over to the indirect heat portion of the grill and set my thermometer next to the meat, covered the lid and adjusted the vents until I got the temperature to 250 degrees and I maintained it for 2 hours.

The results? DELICIOUS! This time I nailed it. I got the sear and the oven temperature right. It took some work, but I think I've got it down now. The flavor was magnificent. The meat was tender and the rub had a sweet smokey flavor to it with an incredibly subtle hit of spice that's more for an awakening effect rather than for any significant source of heat. In fact, the only thing I wasn't pleased with was the fact that there wasn't enough of the flavor! Next time, I might turn the rub into a dipping sauce.

While my spareribs were marinating, I was working on my potato pavé. I got this recipe from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home. It was one of those things where you take a look at a picture and it's love at first sight. The moment I saw the picture of this dish, I knew I had to make it. It's essentially a scalloped potatoes dish that has been placed in the refrigerator to harden, then cut into square pieces and pan fried with oil, garlic and thyme until golden brown on either side. The results were stellar!

These are by far the best potatoes I have ever made in my life. The best thing is that they're really rather simple to make, but as with all of Keller's dishes, they take forever to make. It took all day to complete all the steps. I think these potatoes are exceptional thanks to my japanese ceramic mandoline. This heavenly device is ridiculously sharp and can cut super thin slices. When you eat it, the potato pavé flakes and my roommate said to me "Is this potato? It's almost like fish the way it flakes apart!" I really think the genius behind this dish is the uniform thin layers achieved by using the mandoline and frying the pavé.

After I baked the potatoes for about 2 hours, I let it cool for a little before I put some cans on top of it to weigh the potatoes down. I then put it in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours. This forms a more even surface and compresses the potato which will help in the later steps when the potato is cut and then fried. Yes, I'm so Asian. This picture reminds me that I haven't had grass jelly in forever. Time to open these cans up and make some chinese desserts. =)

After the eternal wait, I pulled the potatoes out, cut through the layers, formed even slices and pan fried them in oil with a lightly crushed garlic clove and a sprig of thyme. The end result? The potatoes were so delicious that my roommate and I had to stop ourselves before we ate the entire pan's worth of potatoes at 10pm. We wouldn't have done ourselves any favors by overeating this stuff. Even though I didn't finish it, I would think about it periodically throughout the next few days and how it's conveniently sitting in my refrigerator waiting to be fried and eaten.

Overall, I was pleased by my meal and I had a wonderful time eating and watching football. The teams I wanted to win won and I had an entertaining day doing the things I love. =)

1 comment:

  1. Those ribs and potatoes look awesome. I am looking forward to tailgating with you.