Saturday afternoon, the temperature hit 57 degrees and I fired up the grill for the second time this year. Only 49 days till spring and until then, I keep curing my winter blues with white hot coals and Plum wood chunks. Determined to snub winter, I slipped into my comfiest flip-flops, unapologetically ignoring the chilly wind nipping at my toes, and slapped a rack of baby backs on my Stok grill. As the sun set, the wind chill factor slipped down too low to enjoy hanging out barefoot around the firepit like last time, but I relished being out on the deck all evening slathered in smoke nonetheless.
And at the risk of sounding humble, I was very pleased with the results of these latest grilling recipes of mine and will definitely be replicating them in the near future. The ribs had a great sweet, smoky flavor and were incredibly juicy and tender! The charred potato salad was a first time try for me and OMG I don’t think I’ll eat potato salad any other way now! The Brussels sprouts had a hint of smoke, just enough to compliment the herbaceous fennel flavor, and since I left them whole they had a subtle bitter bite to them, which was an excellent pairing with the creamy potato salad. This ex Texas gal is getting pretty damn good at manning her grill and smoke, if I do say so myself!
So, if you’re combating cabin fever this winter season as badly as I am, give these recipes a try and see if they can bring a little summertime back into your life.
Smoked Baby Back Ribs
1 full rack Baby Back Ribs
4 to 6 chunks of Plum Wood, soaked
2 large pieces Aluminum Foil
1 cup Water, plus more to submerge the ribs
1 tbsp Hickory Smoked Salt
1 tbsp Maple Syrup
1 tsp Honey
6 Juniper Berries
1 tsp Pickling Spice
1 dried Guajillo Chili
1 dried Ancho Chili
2 dried Chile de Arbol
2 Oranges, quartered
2 cloves Garlic, left whole and smashed
2 Fresh or Dehydrated Grapefruit slices
6 Dehydrated Cinnamon Granny Smith Apple slices
1 tbsp Dried Cherries
1 tsp Dehydrated Grapes, or Raisins
1 tbsp Liquid Smoke
1 tsp Black Peppercorns
1/4 cup Zatarain’s Creole Mustard
1 tbsp Brown Sugar
1 tbsp Smoked Paprika
1/4 tsp Hickory Smoked Salt
1/2 tsp Tony Chachere’s Spicy Creole Seasoning
1/4 tsp Cracked Black Pepper
1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp Mexican Oregano
1 tsp Penzeys Vietnamese Ground Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Grapeseed oil, reserved
1 tbsp Honey, reserved
1 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar, reserved
The night before you intend to smoke the ribs, prepare the brine. Bring one cup of water to a boil in a small saucepan. Once boiling, turn off the flame and stir in the salt, maple syrup, liquid smoke, and honey until completely dissolved. Add in the Juniper berries, garlic cloves, dried chilies, and black peppercorns. Set aside and allow the brine to completely cool.
Meanwhile, in a brining bucket or bag add the sliced oranges, dehydrated grapefruit and apples, the dried cherries and grapes, and pickling spice. When the brining liquid has cooled, add it to the brining bucket. Next add the rack of ribs and then pour in enough water to completely submerge the ribs. Cover with a lid and brine overnight in the fridge.
Prepare a charcoal grill by layering charcoals on one side of the grill to set up an direct heat area and an indirect heat area. While the coals are getting hot, remove the ribs from the brine and discard the brine. Set the ribs on a large serving platter and prepare the rub.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the mustard, smoked paprika, brown sugar, salt, pepper, cinnamon, Creole seasoning and garlic powder until well combined. Slather the rub evenly on both sides of the ribs. Place the ribs on a double layer of oiled aluminum foil. Set aside.
Once the coals are white hot, add the soaked wood chunks to the indirect heat area of the grill, just close enough to the coals to heat them to smoking. Place the grill grate back on and add the ribs to the indirect cooking area above the wood chunks. Cover and adjust airflow to maintain a temp between 325 – 400 degrees. Smoke the ribs four to six hours, depending on the temperature of your grill, or until an internal temperature of 160 – 170 degrees is reached.
In the last 15 – 20 minutes of cooking time, baste the ribs with the Apple Cider Vinegar and drizzle on the tbsp of Honey. Cover the grill and allow the ribs to finish cooking. Once cooked through, remove the ribs and allow to rest at least 5 minutes. Slice into individual portions and serve immediately with your favorite bbq sides.
Charred Potato Salad
2 Red Potatoes, washed, skins left on and thick sliced
1 tsp Grapeseed Oil
4 Celery Stalks, diced
1/2 a Red Bell Pepper, diced
4 Claussen Dill Pickle Sandwich slices, diced
1/4 cup Mayo, or to taste
Salt and Pepper to taste
Toss the red potato slices in the Grapeseed oil and coat with a pinch of salt and pepper. Grill the potatoes over direct heat, flipping as needed, until char lines are formed on both sides. Transfer to indirect heat and continue to grill until just fork tender. Remove from the grill and set aside to cool. Once cool enough to handle, cube the charred potato slices.
Add the cubed potato and all remaining ingredients to a mixing bowl and gently stir until well combined. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Transfer to a storage container and chill the potato salad in the fridge at least 30 minutes to a few hours before serving. Leftovers taste even more amazing the next day so this recipe can be made the night before as well.
Fennel Dusted Brussels Sprouts
2 cups Brussels Sprouts, trimmed and left whole
1 tbsp crushed toasted Fennel Seeds
2 tbsp Grapeseed oil
Salt and Pepper
In a cast iron skillet, toss the Brussels in the oil, salt and pepper then evenly layer the Brussels around the cast iron skillet, trimmed edge down. Sprinkle over the toasted fennel dust. Place over direct heat on the grill and cook covered until tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Serve immediately.