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Monday, January 23, 2012

Dry Rubbed Country Ribs and Italian Bread

I love a good challenge. I am a person who readily accepts brain food in all forms, even seeks it out. I thrive when I multi-task, my mind needing exercise like an athlete needs conditioning. Because I certainly do not get that stimulation from my job, I look for it elsewhere. Learning and growing are things I accomplish by taking on new challenges and (hopefully) surmounting them! Those of you that know me know that I sew as well as cook and bake. Trying a new quilt technique, a new pattern, and new recipes or methods are the things that make me go wild. I will dedicate hours to figuring out something on my own instead of searching for help or a shortcut. That is, to me, what makes my accomplishments worthwhile.
Tonight I embarked on a mission I had only once before tried, with brick-like results. This challenge is BREAD. Italian bread to be exact, though I think that, in a loaf pan, it would have been sliceably sandwich-y. ANYWAY… Tonight’s dinner was bread, yes, but also country style ribs. Another challenge because I had never before used a dry rub. Shocking? But I will admit, these two simple sounding items are things I had shied away from for various reasons in the past. I will also admit that I conquered both of them tonight with gusto! I will be sharing both of these with you today.
The bread recipe I borrowed and adapted from The Illustrated Cookbook, a volume I inherited from my grandmother. It is over 30 years old, so some of the recipes need to be modified for a modern kitchen, but it worked remarkably well. I have a stand mixer (my most favorite appliance EVER) with a dough hook that I employed for this task. The result was bread that thumped when the crust was tapped and had a soft, light center. I can’t tell you how pleased I was with the result.

Italian Bread
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp non-iodized salt (sea or kosher)
2 packages active dry yeast
1 Tbsp butter
1 ¾ c water
About 5 cups flour
Cornmeal (optional)
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine sugar, salt, yeast, and 2 cups flour. In a microwave safe bowl, heat water and butter for about 1 minute until just warm but NOT hot, that will kill your yeast. (120 to 130 degrees if you want to be a nerd about it.) Set the mixer on low and gradually add the liquid to the dry ingredients. Increase speed to medium and beat 2 minutes. Add 1 cup flour to make a thick batter and beat 2 more minutes, occasionally scraping down sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Remove the paddle and fit the mixer with the dough hook. With mizer on low speed, slowly add enough additional flour until a soft dough forms, I used about 2 more cups. Knead with dough hook on low for 10 minutes. The dough will come away from the sides and become springy and elastic, but not sticky. If it is sticky, you need more flour. When you are done kneading, remove the hook from the dough and the bowl from the mixer. Cover the bowl with a towel and let stand in a warm place for 20 minutes. I set it on top of my stove while the oven was on (cooking the ribs). The dough will puff up considerably during this time.
Turn the dough out on to a floured surface and cut it in half. Pat the dough into two long rectangles and flatten it to ¾ to ½ inch. Roll the dough into a log that is no longer than your longest baking sheet (mine was a 12 X 18 I think) and pinch the seam shut. Do the same with the other loaf. Brush your baking sheet with oil or cover it with parchment. Sprinkle it with cornmeal (optional) and lay the loaves side by side. Brush with oil and cover with plastic wrap. Place the formed loaves, seam side down, in that same warm place for another 20 minutes. Preheat your oven to 425. Bake for 20-35 minutes until loaves are golden and sound hollow when tapped with a finger.

Country style ribs are a good meaty flavorful and CHEAP dinner option and you can do SO many things with them, anything you can do with other cuts of pork. I made the mistake, however of buying boneless this time instead of bone in. I am a bone girl. And before you make any lewd comments (yes I am talking to you) I mean in meat. OK that didn’t sound very good either. When buying cuts of meat from the grocery store, I ALWAYS prefer cuts that have bone. Bone can add so much flavor especially when roasting, and people overlook it, favoring the boneless options for the sake of convenience. I say Leave The Bones Alone!!! They are God’s gift of flavor to us, the lowly meat-eating peoples of this earth. Anyway, back to ribs. I always prefer the bone-in variety but, in a fit of grocery store madness I must have snatched up the wrong ones. C’est La Vie. I made do and they were yumm-alicious.
Here’s what I did:
For the dry rub –
3 tsp packed brown sugar
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 ½ tsp paprika
1 ½ tsp cumin
¼ tsp ancho chili powder (or cayenne, if you like it hotter, I think ancho has more flavor)
1 Tbsp kosher salt or sea salt (I had smoked sea salt lying around, it worked great)
½ tsp black pepper
A pinch of red pepper flakes
Combine all these ingredients and mix well. Make sure you break up any chunks of sugar. I used my hands to work it in to the spices until it has the texture of sand. Cover the meat in the spice mixture, rub it in, really work it in. Use your hands, it’s fun! Cover, and put the meat in the fridge for 2 hours, or overnight if you want. It will help the spices to get really deep into the meat. When you are ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350. Line a baking pan with heavy duty aluminum foil and put the meat in. Cover with another sheet of foil and crimp tight. Roast in the oven for 90 minutes. Meanwhile, make the basting sauce.
3 Tbsp packed brown sugar
¾ c cider vinegar
1 Tbsp ketchup
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
¼ tsp hot sauce (Tabasco, red hot, habanero, whatever you have, and more than this tiny little bit if you like it hot.)
½ tsp salt
I mixed mine in a pint jar so I could simply put a lid on and shake it all up to combine everything, and so I could save the leftover for another time. After the 1st go-round of meat roasting, remove the pan from the oven and baste the meat well. Re-cover the meat and roast for an additional 45 minutes. Baste two or three more times during this time. Turn the meat with tongs to keep it from drying out. Re-cover the pan with the aluminum foil each time. After the second roasting session is over, remove the meat from the oven and smear it with bbq sauce of your choosing. This time, leave the foil off and roast for just 10 more tiny minutes. It’s torture to smell it, but you will soon have the succulent meat on your plate, I promise. After the roasting is all done, take the meat out and tent with foil, let it rest for 10 minutes to allow the juices to re-distribute.
I know that 2 ½ hours seems like a long time for dinner, but it is well worth it, especially if it is a weekend and you have time to cook as well as people to feed. Give it a shot one day when you have the time, I promise it’s well worth the effort. Bon Apetit.

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