There are, arguably, many ways to do or say anything; Point A to point B has many paths, and cooking basics are no exception. Take for instance, “classic” potato salad. It can vary drastically depending on where you live or how you were taught to prepare it. Even “Mom’s Classic” potato salad will be different at Mr Roger’s house than it will be at the Casto residence.
With egg or without, celery or pickles, or cornichon perhaps? Are there green onions?Mayonnaise versus Miracle Whip (yikes!). One thing is for certain, potato salad is classic barbecue fare and even if it is not Tom’s favorite, it will always have a place at our table (albeit mostly in front of me).
Then, of course, there are the ribs.! I can’t image a Memorial weekend or Fourth of July without them. There are some people who are really serious about their ribs; I mean really seriously loyal; to their region, culture and craft-kind of rib-eating and making; serious business. Usually it involves that perfect mix of spice, a particular cut of meat, a lot of smoke mixed with a low amount of heat, hangin’ out for a long period of time under cover. Time can be our enemy, but it can also be our friend!
For those of us that just enjoy the succulent, meaty flavor of tender, tear-off-the-bone meat and are willing to forgo (or simply don’t have) the 18 hours, the proper tools, patience or know-how to do otherwise (a category that I am willing to be a part of), our ribs can be ‘fridge to fork in approximately 3 hours…or less!
They can be rubbed, par-boiled, marinated, or all three. Grilled, broiled, smoked or baked.
Spicy, smokey, sweet.
Saucy, dry, meaty or lean.
Depending on your region, there is certainly, a predisposition for the proper method, spice and cut. In my local region, which I consider to be wherever my dinner plate sits, I am happy to indulge myself, greedily, to any of the aforementioned methods and even some of the unmentioned ones.
I love ribs, period! I have a special affection of the pig-provided kind. Throw in a plate of potato salad, made using hard-cooked eggs (my only rule) and I am eating my own little happy meal.
When I am the cook, my go-to ribs are usually par-boiled in a flavorful liquid, then dry rubbed and slathered with home-made (or even bottled if tight on time) barbecue sauce. This is all done usually hours, or days, before I plan to eat them because as they sit, they become even more flavorful. This makes them a very forgiving treat.
They are slathered and stored on a foil-lined baking pan. When we are nearing dinner time, I light a grill and sit the ribs out on the counter to come up to room temperature. They take a 10 minute sauna in the grill with the lid down as the corn (yes, I usually have corn on the cob) cooks too.
After they are heated through, I remove them from the foil, move the corn to the top grate so they are not on direct heat and put the ribs, top down, on the hot, lower rack to brown. When they have grill marks, I turn them over and brush with more sauce and let sit just a few minutes until I can get everything plated to eat. More sauce on the side if you like, and Tom does! It is hard to go wrong, as long as you don’t let them burn, too much, that is.
When I was young, my Mom’s go-to ribs were cooked solely in the oven, uncovered and slathered in peanut butter barbecue sauce (home-made). They were often not on the bone, also known as country spareribs, which meant, more meat, less bone. It was a recipe from my Great Grandma Brown. I could eat piles of them!!
As they were cooking, I used to peak my head in the oven, willing the aroma to encompass me. Mom would shout out for the oven to be kept closed, so the heat didn’t escape.
I waited and waited, enjoying every moment that I was able to drink in the smell. I would peak into the oven with the oven light turned on. I watched as they transformed from pale paisley to a rich, burnished brown. The peanut butter wasn’t an overly obvious flavor but the depth and richness it offered permeated the meat.
Ironically, I don’t cook my ribs that way, even though if I did, I am sure I would be hooked once again. Maybe if my Mom sees this, she will make them for me, next time she is in town?
Needless to say, color me happy is what the (somewhat) recent weekend was about! Heading off for a short visit with my in-laws during Memorial weekend, I was eagerly anticipating Lois’ ribs; the same she had made for us last year, adapted from Ree Drummand’s, “Spicy Chili Pork Ree-Yubs”.
Sun-soaked, fresh-air delivered, we had come in from the waterfront after kayaking off Alderbrook Resort on the Hood Canal; even Buddy was in tow (of course). Ginger, not being a water breed, stayed on shore with Grandma keeping guard of the lounge chairs (a very important task).
Two, or in our case, 3 hours in the oven are about the sweet-spot for these ribs that Lois made us on our return. We passed our time well, back at the cabin, out in the gazebo, fireplace blazing, while munching on smoked trout-filled endive and deviled egg nosh.
It is now sometime between Memorial Day and the Fourth of July; more specifically, it is Father’s Day (Love to all our Dad’s…Kent (my Dad), Tom (Tom’s Dad), John & Bill (our other Dads), Mark, Scott and Jeff (our brothers who are also Dads)…and so on…Uncle Corky, Grandpa George, Tom C. (my Dad-in-law on my brother’s side) and Joe Gildner (our good friend and newly married-off-oldest daughter Dad) and Piotr (our good friend and a really good Dad)…
Oh, and a Happy Father’s Day to my love, the daddy of our furry kids (I’m talking to you, my Tom)!
On the menu tonight is, you guessed it: Ribs, corn and potato salad.
Don’t worry, the potato salad isn’t for (my) Tom, it is for all you other Dad’s out there that actually enjoy a good potato salad! Tom will be taken care of too, no worries there, for those of you that are worried. He does alright.
So, rain or clouds be damn, fire up the grill and let’s get this party started!
“Castoway’s” Classic Potato Salad – Courtesy of Lois (Bender) Casto
“2# potatoes (I used Russet, but have also used red, skinned ), 3 hard-boiled eggs, 3 rbs celery, 4 green onions. Dressing: 1/2 cup mayo, 1-1/2 Tbsp white wine vinegar, 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard, salt and pepper to taste. If too tart I add a sprnkle of granulated sugar. I boil the potatoes whole, then peel and cube, but you can peel and cube before cooking too. Either works. It’s just a basic recipe.”
I will vouch for this one and basic as it is, the simplicity makes it delicious. Think of it as a little black dress; it can be gussied up, accessorized and taken out on the town or worn on it’s own, in which case, it will stand up for itself!