Saturday, September 12, 2015

Labor Day Ribbing

Labor Day, and didn't have the cash to buy steaks, so what did I do when confronted with M & M Meats' glass display counter at Jim's Farmer's Market downtown?

Bought ribs. 

Not just any rib, beef ribs. Megasized contusion-forming-when-swung-at-head ribs. Meaty mighty megalomanically massive ribs. Of beef.

And cheap, around $3.49 a pound; bought over ten pounds (not going to tell you exactly how many) so the counterman gave them to me at $3.25 a pound. 

Hadn't the slightest idea what to do with them (Grill em? Braise em? Boil em?) so I did a little online research: rubbed some Hitching Post Magic Dust (my approximation of it, which turned out to be pretty paprika) into the meat, left them in a fridge overnight.

Next day threw em on a grill Michael Ruhlman style (used his first method--seared over a fiery charcoal grill, move to cooler side, cook for three hours covered, turning every hour. Added soaked hickory chips for extra flavor).

Meanwhile the natives got restless so to pacify em I offered nuts as appetizer. Not just any nuts but bar nuts Union Square style: toasted in a 350 degree oven for ten minutes then tossed in fresh rosemary, butter, brown sugar, cayenne, kosher salt. 

Please note: recipe proudly boasts of having won the New York Press Award for 'best bar nuts in New York;' nice, but I went for better than Union Square: instead of kosher salt, added Maggi's Seasoning. 

Weird and wonderful stuff, Maggi's. Popular in Asia, was an omnipresent bright-yellow-capped bottle in my grandmother's kitchen, was often added (either by my grandmother or myself) to everything from fish to roast chicken to cream of mushroom soup. The seasoning strangely enough isn't even Asian--was apparently developed in Switzerland, by one Julius Maggi (and here I was thinking it was a woman's brand!). 

Think soy sauce only sweeter, with a sharp dark umami flavor; think filets of fish and sides of pork, fermented by lasers into a shadowy brew, brought to fruition by ancient shamans chanting cabalistic spells.

Kosher salt didn't stand a chance. 

If you're Filipino (or Chinese, or Vietnamese, or whatever) you know what I'm talking about; if you've never even heard of the seasoning, it's one of Andrew Zimmern's favorite condiments. Bottles can be purchased at Asian stores, the closest to me being Darrell Enterprises Asian Market in Hagerstown, Maryland. 

The natives were more than pacified, they were delighted; finished the pound off in minutes. 
By way of vegetables, I roasted green and red peppers (see above grill photo), sliced em, tossed em in kosher salt, fresh-cracked pepper, extra-virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a teaspoon of minced raw garlic. Simple and easy to make, the still-crisp peppers in tangy-sweet balsamic a nice counterpoint to all that meat.

Then did my organic carrots in an orange juice and ginger glaze (got to keep doing it; if I don't the natives rise up and express their displeausure). 

To accompany the ribs Luz bought 40/50 sized head-on shrimp from La Union International Markets, marinated them for three hours in pineapple juice, calamansi lime, garlic powder, onion powder, that dark divine Maggi's Seasoning. After about a minute (or less) on the grill we got this:

To eat: pull off the head and--like a cup filled with precious wine--bring head carefully to lips, suck all the garlicky Maggical fat and brains out. 

No, really; the tail is just-turned pink, almost translucent, and crisp in its firm freshness, unbelievably sweetly so, but it's nothing--nothing--compared to the shrimp head. That head is like a hit of pure ocean; like if Moby Dick were sauteed in butter and rendered down to a single red-orange globule of pure flavor. Proud of my ribs but when I think of Luz's quick-grilled shrimp (actual cooking time round three to four minutes) I find myself helplessly drooling--droooooling. 

As for the ribs after three hours of low-temperature grilling, this is what I got:

For sauce used what I found here, basically a sweet dip made of ketchup, honey, half a can of crushed pineapple and its juices, dried herbs--only when I ran out of oregano substituted some fancy-schmancy Italian seasoning

Used too much, couldn't get the taste of rosemary out, so doubled the honey, doubled the crushed pineapple, splashed in some orange juice, then out of sheer desperation poured half a liter of Coca-Cola into the pot. Boiled till reduced by almost half. 

The beef ribs as Ruhlman had warned were chewier than pork--but the size! The flavor! Dipped in La Brea Tar Pit sauce! You could take the rib and whack your guest unconscious with it, or offer it dunked in sauce (which the way it's sticking must add several pounds to the meat, easy) and just send him into a food coma. Either way he's not going to come out of this healthy, much less alive.

Labor day! For a holiday meant to give workers a day of rest, why does cooking for it involve so much labor?

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