What’s For Dinner? Slow-Cooked Smoked Babyback Ribs


SlowCookedSmokedBabybackRibs

UPC’s Slow-Cooked Smoked Babyback Ribs

I’ve been slowly but surely refining my basic process for cooking up a “Smoked” meat dish, in the comfort of your own home using a slow-cooker or crock pot. I consider these ribs to be the final proof of the process for that. So the good news (other than that I had a delicious dinner, and loved every minute of it) is that I can finally document my “Slow-Cooker Smoked” process and start to build some recipes around it. Keep your eyes peeled for this in the future as I intend to be sharing many of these recipes with you!

As far as this recipe is concerned, you could do this using the “Smoked” process which I will document separately, or you could do these in a more “traditional” slow-cooker process. In fact, this recipe will work well for a grilled meal as well. All you would do is change this recipe slightly to do the final cooking on the grill rather than in a slow-cooker. Also, since a grill is quite a bit hotter than a slow-cooker, the cook time for grilling these will be somewhere in the neighborhood of between 20 and 40 minutes, depending on the temperature you use. A higher cook-time will give you a faster turn around. It will also sear the outside of the ribs more, which may be preferable. A lower temperature and longer cook time will encourage the use of sauces and other flavors to change the flavor of the ribs.

Slow-Cooked Smoked Babyback Ribs; What you’ll need:

  • 1 large rack Babyback Ribs
  • 1/2 cup Olive Oil
  • 1/2 cup Balsamic Vinegar (you can use a flavored one too, if you have one)
  • 1 cup water (filtered, please!)
  • Spices: Turmeric, Sage, Sea Salt

Serves: 2 (depending on the size of the rib rack; and how good it is!)
Cook and Prep time: 1.5 days.

1. In a pan or on a griddle, thoroughly brown the ribs on both sides. Do this using high heat – you want the outside to be browned, but you don’t want to cook the meat on the inside much, if any.

BabybackRibs_Browning

See the red showing on the edge of the ribs? Brown the outside quickly, but don’t cook the slab of ribs.

2. Put the ribs, spices, and oil and vinegar in a marinating container and put it away for a day.

3. About 6-8 hours before meal time, dump the ribs and marinade all in to a slow cooker or crock pot and turn it on to low.

4. Serve and enjoy!!

BabybackRibs_Spiced

For Grilling:
Instead of slow-cooking for 6-8 hours, slow cook for 1 hour. Then finish cooking on the grill on high heat for 20-40 minutes, brushing the marinade onto the ribs to keep them moist.

To do the “Smoked Slow-Cooked” Version:

  1. BabybackRibs_SmokingPlatformSave the bones from your last ribs in the freezer (or you can buy some bones from your local butcher – most have some for sale; If you buy, I’d cook these up at least once for some Bone Broth first!).
  2. Follow the slow-cooker instructions steps 1 and 2 above.
  3. Before above step 3: Thaw and arrange the bones across the bottom of the slow-cooker so that the meat will be lifted up above the marinade liquid.
  4. Return to the slow-cooker step 3 instructions, though this time drizzle the marinade over the top of the meat several times during the 8-hours of cook time.

This is a fascinating idea that I’ve been playing around with since this post, many months ago. What happens is the marinade will heat up, evaporating the liquids, and will effectively steam the meat slab suspended above it. If that were all that happened, this would be somewhat different than it ends up being. At the same time, the oils in the marinade allow the slow-cooker to over-cook the bones that were left in the bottom of the pan, letting them caramelize and smoke the meat above it. The intentional overcooking of the bones making the smoke, along with the flavors in the marinade, combine to create the same effect as using a smoker, while allowing you to do the whole thing relatively safely in your own kitchen.
As a note on this: I did recently find a crack in my crock pot, and it’s entirely possible that it was doing this that ruined it. Even using the Low heat setting will result in a lot of heat being funneled in to the slow-cooker, and since there’s not a lot of liquid in there to absorb the heat (that’s kind of our intention) it will end up causing the pot itself to heat up quite a lot. Of course, the benefit to this is that the bones on the bottom, since they’re touching the pot, will heat up a lot and smoke the meat. And it’s delicious! On the other hand, I suggest paying extra attention to the crock pot; keep it away from walls and potentially flammable stuff on the counter, and only do this when you’re home to monitor it regularly.

Questions:

  • Do you like smoked/cured meat?
  • Have you ever smoked your own meat?
  • Will you be trying the slow-cooker smoked meat steps/process that I’ve outlined above?
  • What kinds of meat would you be most interested in smoking?
  • Do you have a smoker? How often do you use it?
  • What kinds of sides would you serve with this meal?
  • What kind of dessert would you serve with this meal?

What’s For Lunch? – A “Rich” Spring Salad


SpringSalad-Rich

My wife will cry when she sees this photo – there’s something about the plastic containers that just drive her aesthetic senses mad! Despite that, this is not the first time I’ve posted a plastic container on one of my photos. Nor, likely, will it be the last time. To be perfectly honest, I think it helps to illustrate an important part of our daily lives which is far too often brushed in to the background: healthy food for lunch. See I make breakfast and lunch every day for myself and my wife, and we take them with us in – you guessed it – plastic containers. I understand her reticence to encourage me to take pictures of our plastic containers. They’re not exactly stunning pictures! But they’re every bit as important as the meals where she helps me to take the stunning photos that you’ve seen here. A healthy lunch is not to be ignored!

You’ve seen the “light and airy” spring salads that I’ve been displaying as my breakfast salads over the past couple of weeks, right? They’ve had things like baby kale, arugula, strawberries, kiwi, and turkey. They’ve been amazingly delicious, satisfying, and like every good breakfast, not leaving us full or in need of a nap. Well, with today’s lunch salad, I am going to take a bit of a different approach. Today’s lunch salad is all about the rich, strong flavors that can be used to make a really satisfying lunch. It’s not so much a spring salad, as it is a spring feel on a very summer salad!

What you’ll need:

  • 1 head Frisee
  • 4 Radishes, sliced
  • 1 Cucumber
  • 2 Carrots
  • 2 Kiwifruits
  • 3-4 Crimini Mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons sliced Almond
  • 1/2 lb Smoked Pork Loin
  • Olive Oil

Serves: 2

Start by putting the pork loin in a pan with some water and cooking it on medium heat, covered, while you make the salad. This salad is all about the rich, earthy flavor of radish, carrots and smoked pork loin. It would be easy to lose myself in just the smoked pork loin, the flavor is so rich and delicious. The scent of smoke rolls around my mouth languorously in the same way that the vapor of the chops wafted about my kitchen this morning.

Slice and chop the other vegetables, starting with the frisee and cucumber. While the flavor of the dish is all about the smoked pork loin, in order to be able to truly enjoy that flavor, it’s important to have some really delicious supporting vegetables to give that smoked pork loin it’s freedom. The frisee does that admirably, it’s light and crisp, as is the cucumber. Together, they provide the substance of the salad, while their light flavor stays out of the way of the rich smokey flavor of the pork.

Similarly, with such a powerful flavor like smoked pork loin, you need some additional flavors that actually detract slightly from the strength of the main portion of the dish. The radish and carrot both offer a balance for the smoked pork in that they are bright, strong flavors, but not rich in the same way as a smoked pork is rich.

The end result of the salad is something that you can sit down for lunch over, enjoy every bite of, and walk away with that deeply satisfied feeling that a steak could give you, but without the weight of a heavy meal. It’s just the right combination of light and rich, smokey and satisfying.

Questions:

  • What is your favorite lunch meal?
  • Do you bring your own lunch every day? Or at least, most days?
  • Are you a Salad for lunch kind of person? Soup? Steak?
  • When you’re eating out for lunch, what kinds of eating-out foods do you prefer?

Slow-Cooker Smoked Pork Roast


SlowCookerSmokedPork-Plated2

When does a horrible mistake turn out to be an astonishing success? Well, if I was hiking along, minding my own business, and fell down a small hole discovering an un-claimed gold mine, that would count, right? This time is different – but not that much!!! I set up my evening meal in the crock-pot this morning, before heading to work, as I often do. Upon returning home, I smelled the delightful smell of smoked meat as I approached my apartment. I thought to myself: “Huh, I wonder who ordered something smoked?” as I unlocked my door. Was I greeted with a cloud of thick, dark smoke, and my smoke alarm going off incessantly? No! Instead, I was greeted by the smell of freshly smoked meat, as though someone had smoked some pork for me, somewhere else, and brought it by 20 minutes earlier for me to enjoy!

SlowCookerSmokedPork-Sliced1

Don’t believe me? I don’t blame you!! I didn’t believe it myself!!! Now, don’t go rushing out to try this yourself. This requires a significant amount of “tweeking” before it will be a proper recipe, easily followed by the non-lucky. You thought I was going to call myself “good” didn’t you? Worry not – I give credit where credit is due. And in this case, credit is due to Lady Luck, and no one else!

SlowCookerSmokedPork-Plated

What I did:

In preparing my dinner for today, I decided that I wanted to have some of the wonderfully delicious pork roast which was sitting in the freezer waiting to be eaten. I pulled it out and dropped it on top of the Beef Short Rib bones left over from my recent Beef Short Ribs – Apple Pie Style. As a note: I rarely throw anything away. So if there is leftover anything from any of my recipes, I always find a way to use it!

So I dropped the pork on top of the ribs, planning to put some vegetables and some water and spices in as well, to cook it up like any other roast. While I was heating up the slow-cooker, I started breakfast, and completely lost track of the slow-cooker. Needless to say, I left the house without adding any of the vegetables or liquids to the mix.

SlowCookerSmokedPork-Sliced

How did it work out?

Well, your guess is perhaps as good as mine. I will definitely be trying to replicate this soon, and if it works, you will see a Recipe Post from me soon! Be that as it may, here is what I think happened: Since the slow cooker was on the lowest “cooking” temperature, I think that the pot heated up slowly enough not to crisp the bones. The pork juice dripped down on the bones, providing just enough moisture and oil/fat to over-cook the bones, but keeping the temperature enough under control to stop them from crisping (which would have caused the smoke alarm to go off, and all sorts of other not-so-fun things).

The Smoke flavor you expect from a smoker was provided, in large part, because the slow-cooker is a nominally contained environment, and the little bit of liquid provided by the pork was able to evaporate, carrying the very-over-cooked bones’ flavor up in to the pork.

What didn’t work: Because I didn’t plan for this, the meat was (while astonishingly delicious!!) overdone and dry. This is a problem that experienced smokers are familiar with, and have processes in place to make sure that it’s not a problem. So, I will be thinking about what vegetables and other additives (including location, and arrangement) to put in the crock pot to ensure that the meat is moist and delectable when it comes out!

I will most definitely be trying this again!

And if it works out (which I am REALLY hoping that it does!) I will be sharing it with all of you. Imagine: The “Urban Paleo Chef’s Guide to Crock-Pot Smoked Meat”! I can’t wait!!!

Feel free to post in thoughts, comments, and ideas! I am definitely interested in hearing what you all have to say, how you would recommend making sure that this works again, and what you all would try to make it happen!

SlowCookerSmokedPork-Plated1