He’s the first born, the one his very young parents had no idea how to keep alive. When I went back to work after three weeks he came with me. He happily dangled in the doorway to the office from a Johnny jumper swing, took naps in one of the executive’s file drawers. At six months he accompanied me to all kinds of restaurants I was writing about. At ten he tried his hand at chili and buffalo wings. His sauce was blazing hot.
Then he became a teenager, devoured McDonald’s double quarter pounders and sneaked out past curfew to Cuban Chinese restaurants to hang with neighborhood troublemakers. He messed up my skillets and saute pans anytime he came home from college. Stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan as a Marine, he began to tinker with the idea of running a food truck then after graduate school and working for a few years as a social worker, he accomplished his dream until the hours and financial realities drained him and his partner.
He’s back being a social worker but still turning out one incredible dish after another. Since taking possession of a smoker he’s been experimenting with an array of meats. I’m very supportive of his efforts because he passes leftovers onto his parents.
It’s not without trepidation that I’m about to present some of his recipes. Meat packers shouldn’t risk their lives working in possibly highly contaminated plants just because the ingredients call for massive quantities of beef and pork.
What I’ll ask you to do is save these recipes until the time when no one has to worry about their jobs and health just so the meat aisle is once again stocked to the brim. We both promise they’ll be worth the wait.
Kansas Style Baby Back Ribs
(A traditional-based recipe liberally altered by us)
2 full back ribs
For meat rub
(We generally eyeball the ingredients’ measurements since the quantity you’ll need depends on how much meat you have. Below is for about 2 pounds.)
1 cup brown sugar packed
1 tablespoon yellow or brown mustard (he uses yellow; I use Dijon)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
Mix ingredients in a bowl and set aside
(This is my mom’s recipe. Add your own favorite spices or use your favorite bottled brand but it should be vinegary.)
2 cups ketchup
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon Westchestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 1/2 tablespoon vinager (or more to taste)
1 1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
Salt and pepper
Optional: 1/4 teaspoon Tabasco or Sriracha sauce
Mix the sauce ingredients in a small sauce pan and set aside.
Coat the ribs with the dry rub, pressing it lightly into the skin. Let sit for an hour or two.
Because you are using indirect heat to cook the ribs, pile the coals and wood to one side and light. On the other side, place a pan of water. Heat the smoker/grill to about 250/300 degrees.
Brush the ribs lightly with the sauce then place bone side down, directly over the pan of water, the thickest part of the ribs toward the coals. Cook for 30 minutes. Flip ribs and grill for another 30 minutes.
Flip the ribs back, bone side down. Thin the sauce–you want it to be just a slick over the meat. Baste the meat and cook for 10 minutes. Flip the ribs again, meat side down, baste the bones, cook for 10 minutes. Do this several times until the meat is easy to pull from the end of the bones. Turn the ribs to the meat side, baste once more and turn off the heat. Keep the lid closed for 10 more minutes for a final smoking.
All toll, cooking time should be about 2 hours.
Remove the meat from the grill. Cut into individual ribs and serve with the rest of the sauce.
Stuffed hamburgers for a crowd
Makes about 16 burgers
10 pounds of a mixture of chopped turkey (or chicken), beef, sweet Italian sausage with casing removed
1 sweet onion, minced
2 bell peppers, minced
3 jalapeño peppers seeded
Handful of cherry tomatoes, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon oregano
(If you wish, add 1/2 teaspoon of other herbs such as basil, tarragon, or thyme to taste)
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon Worchestershire sauce
1/3 cup steak sauce
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoons hot sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons virgin olive oil
2 handful blend of shredded cheese such as sharp cheddar, grated Parmesan, Munster, blue, Swiss, or horseradish cheese
2 tablespoons bourbon (optional)
1 egg, slightly beaten (optional)
In a large bowl mix the meat with all the ingredients. The meat should hold together. If not, mix in the egg. But be careful–you don’t want your meat to be soupy. If it does, add just enough breadcrumbs to hold together.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour. It’s best if overnight.
Take the mixture out of the refrigerator and make patties. Be sure they are the same size and thickness with all the ingredients packed in tight. Place on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate again while you prepare the smoker/grill.
When the coals are ready, lightly brush oil on the grill and sear burgers over direct heat. When a nice crust forms, flip them and cook over indirect heat until they’re fully cooked.
Serve on buns with your choice of toppings. Roasted vegetables are particularly great! Enjoy.