No re­gions, no rules, lots of in­no­va­tion

New gen­er­a­tion of pit­mas­ters is break­ing all the rules of bar­be­cu­ing

The Hamilton Spectator - - FOOD - JIM SHAHIN The Wash­ing­ton Post

One week­end last Oc­to­ber, some of the Amer­ica’s top young pit­mas­ters gath­ered on a pig farm just out­side Durham, North Carolina, to par­tic­i­pate in an event called the N.C. Bar­be­cue Re­vival.

On un­du­lat­ing farm­land, the cooks, veiled in wood smoke, tended their cre­ations while Duroc and Berk­shire pigs trun­dled freely in the sur­round­ing woods. With­out set­ting out to, these pit­mas­ters — they’re all in their thir­ties and opened their places in just the past few years — were mak­ing a state­ment: that the next gen­er­a­tion of bar­be­cue has ar­rived.

Tyson Ho of Brook­lyn’s Ar­ro­gant Swine slow smoked a lamb, which he would sea­son with fer­mented red chiles, fen­nel and Sichuan pep­per­corns. John Lewis of Lewis Bar­be­cue in Charleston, South Carolina, pre­pared gar­gan­tuan beef short ribs. Bryan Fur­man of B’s Crack­lin’ Bar­beque in At­lanta and Sa­van­nah, Ge­or­gia, kept a watch­ful eye on sev­eral glis­ten­ing beef briskets. In the past, such con­tri­bu­tions would be shunned as in­va­sive species in pork coun­try.

Mean­while, Sam Jones, the scion of a prom­i­nent North Carolina bar­be­cue fam­ily, and Wy­att Dick­son, who helped or­ga­nize the event, su­per­vised the cook­ing of a trench-cooked whole hog. The hog was a re­minder of where bar­be­cue had come from, while the other of­fer­ings showed where it was go­ing.

“There are less and less rules,” said El­liott Moss, a co-owner and pit­mas­ter at the retro-mod­ern Bux­ton Hall BBQ in Asheville, North Carolina.

It’s hard to imag­ine an older gen­er­a­tion of pit­mas­ters throw­ing around the word “umami.” But the Re­vival, so-named to re­claim a cui­sine once seen as dy­ing in the state, was in­tended to show­case the upand-com­ers, new lingo and all. (Full dis­clo­sure: I mod­er­ated a panel at the event.)

As re­cently as 10 years ago, pit­mas­ters used com­mod­ity pork and se­lect (the low­est) grade for beef. The next-gen pit­mas­ters grav­i­tate to­ward choice and even prime grades for beef and pas­ture-raised her­itage hogs for pork. Their ap­proach is marked by more cre­ative side dishes, a re­turn to all-wood smok­ing, eth­nic in­flu­ences, lo­cal sourc­ing, cheffy ex­per­i­men­ta­tion and pan-re­gion­al­ism. Even smoked tofu is pop­ping up on menus.

Cherry-Glazed Baby Back Ribs

In San An­to­nio, Texas, at Two Bros. BBQ, pit­mas­ter Laura Loomis serves baby back ribs in a cherry glaze; this recipe makes a cross be­tween a sauce and a glaze that can be served at the ta­ble. You’ll need 1 cup of ap­ple, pecan, oak or cherry wood chips or 6 fist-size chunks; re­plen­ish coals as nec­es­sary.

MAKE AHEAD: You’ll prob­a­bly have spice rub left over. It keeps well in a sealed con­tainer in the pantry for up to a month.

From Smoke Sig­nals colum­nist Jim Shahin.


For the rub and ribs

3 ta­ble­spoons sweet pa­prika

2 tbsp kosher salt

1 tbsp gran­u­lated gar­lic (gar­lic pow­der)

1 tbsp gran­u­lated onion

1 tbsp ground an­cho pep­per

1 tbsp light brown sugar

1 tea­spoon ground cayenne pep­per

1 tsp freshly ground black pep­per

1 tsp freshly ground white pep­per

1 rack (about 2½ pounds) baby back ribs For the glaze

1 cup cherry pre­serves

6 ounces tart cherry juice

½ tsp finely grated lemon zest and

2 tbsp juice (from 1 lemon)

1 tbsp Worces­ter­shire sauce

½ tsp ground cin­na­mon

2 tbsp un­salted but­ter

1 chipo­tle pep­per in adobo (from a can), diced

½ tsp kosher salt

¼ tsp freshly ground black pep­per

For the rub and meat: Whisk to­gether the pa­prika, salt, gran­u­lated gar­lic and onion, an­cho chili pep­per, light brown sugar, and the cayenne, black and white black pep­pers in a bowl, un­til lump-free. The yield is about 2/3 cup.

For the glaze: Com­bine the cherry pre­serves, cherry juice, lemon zest and juice, Worces­ter­shire sauce, cin­na­mon, but­ter, diced chipo­tle, salt and pep­per in a large pan over medium heat, stir­ring un­til well in­cor­po­rated. Once the mix­ture be­gins to bub­ble at the edges, re­duce the heat to low and cook for 15 min­utes, stir­ring oc­ca­sion­ally, to form a slightly thick­ened sauce.

Trans­fer to a food pro­ces­sor; purée un­til smooth. Pour into a bowl for use later to baste the ribs. The yield is about 2 cups.

Place the ribs on a rimmed bak­ing sheet, meat side down. You’ll see a thin mem­brane on the bone side; some say this pre­vents flavour from pen­e­trat­ing the meat and is pa­pery to chew on. But pulling it off can be a lit­tle tricky, and a lot of ribs are served with the mem­brane still on. The choice is yours. If you opt to re­move it, slide a small, sharp knife be­neath the mem­brane to cut it enough so that you can grab it with your hands and pull it off. The best place to in­sert the knife is in the mid­sec­tion, so that you can tear off one side and then the other.

Coat both sides of the ribs with the rub, work­ing it into the meat. (You may have some rub left over.)

Pre­pare the grill for in­di­rect heat. If us­ing a gas grill, turn the heat to high. Drain the chips and put them in a smoker box or foil packet poked with a few fork holes to re­lease the smoke; set it be­tween the grate and the bri­quettes, close to the flame. When you see smoke, re­duce the heat to medium (375 to 400 F). Turn off the burn­ers on one side.

If us­ing a char­coal grill, light the char­coal or bri­quettes; when the bri­quettes are ready, dis­trib­ute them on one side of the grill. For a medium fire, you should be able to hold your hand six inches above the coals for six or seven sec­onds. Drain the chips and scat­ter them over the coals. Have ready a spray wa­ter bot­tle for tam­ing any flames.

Set the rack of ribs meat side down di­rectly over the coals; grill for five min­utes, then turn them over (bone side down) and re­peat.

Move the ribs to the cool side of the grill, bone side down. Close the lid. Smoke the meat un­til it is browned and ten­der, 3 to 3½ hours.

In the fi­nal half-hour, baste the meat with the cherry glaze at least three times, or ev­ery seven to 10 min­utes.

Use tongs to trans­fer the ribs to a cut­ting board; let them rest for about 10 min­utes be­fore cut­ting them apart be­tween the bones.

Pile onto a plat­ter. Serve warm, driz­zled with more of the glaze.

Per serv­ing (based on 4, us­ing half the rub and glaze): 850 calo­ries, 55 grams pro­tein, 36 g car­bo­hy­drates, 53 g fat, 20 g sat­u­rated fat, 205 mil­ligrams choles­terol, 1,170 mg sodium, 2 g di­etary fi­bre, 24 g sugar


Cherry-Glazed Baby Back Ribs.

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