Wordless Wednesdays

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

On confessions, redemption, and great ribs

I promised to report back on my attempt at homemade barbeque sauce, and even though this is ridiculously tardy, a promise is a promise, and I am a woman of my word.

Verdict: The Sauce is STILL the Boss. I MUST CONFESS, I hate having to eat a massive slice of humble pie on my blog. As the saying goes, confession is good for the soul and bad for the reputation. Or something. It's much more embarassing than I thought it would be, but I must be honest and man up. Or woman up. So here's my little tale of woe about mediocre pulled pork sandwiches and just plain nasty homemade barbeque sauce:

It was a beautiful day. The kind where you just knew that everything you set your hand to would be a glowing, vibrant, smashing success with no glitches whatsoever. At least, that was my general vibe as I swaggered into the kitchen that morning with a massive 7 lb. pork shoulder roast. I prepared the rub. Check. Rub adminstered to the dead pig. Check. Wrapped in plastic wrap to self-marinate all day. Check. Dashed off to handbell practice (with the obligatory once-a-week Starbucks stop on the way, of course). Check. Dashed home, removed plastic wrap, and stuck the roast into the oven. Check. Everything was going swimmingly. A little TOO swimmingly. The roast was supposed to take at least 6 hours to cook. Because I have an evil oven on steroids, it appeared we were going to eat dinner approximately 2.5 hours earlier than usual that evening. No biggie, I told myself. I'll just start the barbeque sauce now!! This was it, folks. The moment I had been waiting for all week!! I assembled all of the ingredients. It was time for some inspiration- yes! The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars was now blasting in my kitchen (David Bowie, I will always love you). Putting the sauce together was not difficult, even though the recipe totally LIED when it said I only needed a medium saucepan. After I finally pulled out the largest pot I own, I started to become a little bit...well, nervous. The roast was starting to smell a little more burnt as I worked the get the stupid sauce to simmer. As "Lady Stardust" blared in my ears, I cranked up the heat to high, pulled the roast out of the oven, and breathed a sigh of relief. The roast looked AWESOME, smelled great, and needed to sit a good 20 minutes before I could begin the process of "pulling". SO I fussed over the sauce for a few more minutes, and had a most disheartening epiphany: This was NOT the sauce I had been dreaming about. Not even close. It was not tangy-sweet; heck, it wasn't even close to sweet. It was too thin. And most importantly...IT DID NOT PASS THE NOSTRIL-TINGLING TEST!! I was not a happy camper at that point. Things were not looking good. All I had was an entire dutch oven filled with some fancy ketchup, and an upstart roast that just HAD to cook fast. Well, being the stubborn woman that I am, I was NOT to be daunted! Fine. So the sauce was just flat-out gross. Maybe it would magically transform upon my palate after it was combined with the pork! Yes! OF course. So, with great vigor, strength, and enthusiasm (and a little more David Bowie), I began the arduous process of what is known as "pulling" meat. I must pause here for a moment. What can truly be said about pulling meat? Allow me to enlighten you. PAY SOMEONE ELSE TO DO IT. That is all you need to know. Now, I thrive on making life as complicated as possible for myself; in fact, I love the aspects about my life that make other people run away screaming, "I would NEVER do that!!" (examples: cloth diapers, homemade baby food, and no cable TV. It's the TV part that usually gets 'em). So for me to make up my mind to never, ever, EVER attempt something of a culinary nature ever again, well; you just know it had to be AWFUL. Now, I must give credit where credit is due. The pork itself was delicious! And tender. And oh-so-flavorful. It truly was a great roast. Naturally, I went right ahead and destroyed it by adding the barbeque sauce, which was smugly simmering in the most mocking way as I poured it onto the shredded meat (1.5 hours of pulling, just in case you were wondering). Well, dinner totally stunk. The kids would have no part of the pork sandwiches after just one bite. Steve made a heroic effort. I couldn't even finish mine. I think we nuked some hotdogs for dinner. I actually can't remember. Or perhaps I just blocked it from my mind. At any rate, there is no need to prolong this confession any longer than necessary, especially since it's already too long. The one nice thing about confessions is that afterwards, there's usually a good story of redemption just around the corner. And that, my friends, is precisely where I intend to lead you.
So after my domestic disaster, I laid low for a few days and stuck with some basics. Bean and Cheese Burritos. Pasta and Texas Toast. Stir-fry. You get the idea. AND THEN...the day before Mother's Day, Steve turned to me during breakfast clean-up and said,"I'm going to make you ribs for Mother's Day." Just like that. I was slightly hesitant at first. Although we have long since mastered the art of ribbing, it is, and always will be, a most messy affair, and I wasn't quite sure I was up for the extreme mess only a week after I had my crash-and-burn session with the pulled pork. But after Steve literally BEGGED me, I finally gave in (after he assured me that he would clean up every single thing he touched during the prep process). So after a HORRIBLE Mother's Day lunch at Panera Bread, which culminated in both boys squirting nearly their entire yogurt tubes on themselves AND the floor and one child telling me he hated me, Steve set off for the butcher shop for some fresh baby-back ribs. I've got this thing about baby-back ribs: If you're going to spend that kind of money on meat, make it count. Go to a butcher. Get it fresh. Not this "Fresh-from-frozen" garbage. Anyway, after toodling around online for a few minutes to find just the right recipe for a rib rub (hee hee- that sounds hilarious), Steve went to work in the kitchen. The kids were napping, and so was I. I awoke to the most delightful aroma-isn't that one of the greatest sensory delights known to man?? Waking up to the delectable scent of two slabs of baby-back ribs (with a Kansas City rib rub) slowly cooking in the oven...mmm. Perfection. It was time. Steve fired up the grill, I steamed some broccoli and poured potato chips into a bowl for some sad excuses for side dishes, and the boys played happily in the yard while Daddy grilled and somehow managed not to mutilate each other. During the last 10 minutes of grilling, "The Sauce" came out. Let me just say this: I am more devoted to "The Sauce" than I ever have been. In the future, it's going to take alot more than a few longings for North Carolina to tempt me to try another homemade barbeque sauce. And that's for sure. Back to the grill! Steve proceeded to generously slather The Sauce (how else does one slather, other than generously??) all over the ribbies, and then it was show time. Well then. I have just one word to describe our dinner that night:


All was restored at that point. I no longer felt like an inept mother. We all ate until we could eat no more, and then I had just one more rib. I felt I could move past my culinary failures of the week before, and all because of the redemptive nature of our Mother's Day dinner. It's the small things, my friends. It's ALWAYS the small things. And although there's something sticky under my chair right now, and I am so pregnant that I can barely move, I think there's something to be said for attempts to redeem a lousy situation. Here's to never giving up trying to make things better, and here's a few recipes that you probably can't live without:

Ribs- recipe from my Mom, Deborah Skop
1 slab of fresh baby-back ribs
I can of sauerkraut
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Sweet Baby Ray's Original Barbeque Sauce

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread sauerkraut in a 9x13 pan; place ribs on top. Season generously with salt and pepper, place in oven, and bake for 1 hour. Take ribs out of oven, then grill for 15 minutes (medium heat). During the last 10 minutes, reduce heat slightly, and generously slather barbeque sauce onto ribs, and grill until hot and bubbly. Serve, and prepare to bask in many compliments. You may serve the sauerkraut as a side dish, or (as I do) be nice and wasteful and toss it. It's really more of a conduit for moist ribs more than anything else.


Ay, there's the rub...


A word of caution: DO NOT apply the entire rub to the ribs!! It will be chalky in texture. You will use about half the rub for two slabs of ribs. You may refrigerate the remaining rub for one month. Can great ribs really be so simple? Yes. The best and most beautiful things are always simple. :)