For­get meat candy, try these le­mony smoked Greek ribs

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - CHICAGOLAN­D - John Kass [email protected]­bune.com Twit­ter @John_Kass

Can we stop fight­ing about pol­i­tics for a mo­ment and just ar­gue about ribs in­stead?

An over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans have be­come ad­dicted to sweet/spicy sauce. But what of the mi­nor­ity view? Not ev­ery­one loves meat candy.

Smok­ing ribs in your back­yard for hours, while drink­ing and smok­ing a fine maduro cigar, isn’t about po­lit­i­cal com­men­tary. Amer­ica’s Found­ing Fa­thers were tol­er­ant of dis­sent. Me too. It fol­lows, then, that I would never try to si­lence you sweet-sauce peo­ple, or mock you as sweet-saucists, or kick you to the mar­gins of ribs his­tory.

The Per­fect John Kass Greek Ribs are not sweet. They are le­mony and gar­licky. And they’re the best ribs I’ve ever made in my life.

And to­day, in my beloved Chicago Tribune, I give them to you, for am I not a river to my peo­ple?

They’re smoked low and slow, then driz­zled with an easy lemon aioli. Serve with sauteed baby Swiss chard, corn on the cob, and per­haps a light vinegar-based coleslaw to bal­ance the sweet corn. If the le­mony creami­ness of the aioli drib­bles off the ribs and onto the chard? That’s a ran­dom act of kind­ness.

A while ago, I made a ver­sion of these ribs for a video, but I wasn’t sat­is­fied. So I kept trying. Now, fi­nally, I’m sat­is­fied. The rea­son may be a fire management tech­nique I hadn’t used be­fore, a method that pro­duces con­sis­tent tem­per­a­tures for per­fect lowand-slow cook­ing in the We­ber Smokey Moun­tain Cooker.

These aren’t your fa­ther’s meat candy ribs. Nor are they your grand­fa­ther’s meat candy ribs. I don’t knock tra­di­tions, but I had to give up on su­gar. When you give up on sweet ketchup-based sauce, an amaz­ing thing happens. You can ac­tu­ally taste the fla­vor of the pork. You might blame these ribs on the first ques­tion of Amer­i­can ex­cep­tion­al­ism: What if?

What if you dropped the sweet stuff and picked up some lemon?

About a week or so ago, out on the deck and think­ing of per­fect­ing the ribs, I listened to an old Leonard Co­hen song, “The Sis­ters of Mercy,” which has a line in it that is critical to ev­ery discovery. “If your life is a leaf that the sea­sons tear off and con­demn/ They will bind you with love that is grace­ful and green as a stem.” Just then I told Zeus the Won­der Dog, “Eu­reka, I have found it!”

All I had to do was em­brace my inner min­ion.

To the old me, call­ing some­one a min­ion was to use fight­ing words. But the new green me is about be­ing as sup­ple as a stem. Jim Min­ion, of Fed­eral Way, Washington, de­vel­oped this tech­nique that I found on a great BBQ re­source, vir­tu­al­we­ber­bul­let.com.

I was once a stern fa­natic about us­ing only lump char­coal, but now when I’m cook­ing long and low and slow, I use the Min­ion method with bri­quettes. It’s eas­ier to keep the tem­per­a­ture at the de­sired 225-230 range. That pro­tects the meat from tem­per­a­ture fluc­tu­a­tions. Let’s be­gin.

For the paste (four full slabs of ribs): I use the an­cient “hoofta” mea­sure­ment, mean­ing the palm of your hand, which equals about 2 ta­ble­spoons. Com­bine 3 hoof­tas of chopped rosemary and oregano; the zest of three lemons; the juice of two lemons; 2 hoof­tas each of fresh cracked pep­per and kosher salt; a good sprin­kle of red pep­per flakes; and at least eight large pressed cloves of gar­lic. Add olive oil and mix to make your paste. You don’t want it too thin, so adjust ac­cord­ingly. You can mar­i­nate the ribs for hours if you wish. Be­fore you cook, make sure they’re at room tem­per­a­ture.

For the Min­ion Method: In the fire ring, you make what amounts to a dough­nut of un­lit coals, with a hole in the mid­dle. Just pour un­lit coals in the fire ring and dig a hole, push­ing the coals aside so you can see the fire grate be­low. Or, set them one by one along the edge of the ring, at least three coals wide and three coals high, bury­ing dry, un­lit chunks of ap­ple or pe­can wood among the un­lit coals. Then pour half a chim­ney starter of fully lit, ashed-over coals into the dough­nut hole.

As­sem­ble the smoker. Put wa­ter in the wa­ter pan and put your ribs on. Leave the bot­tom vents fully open un­til the tem­per­a­ture reaches be­tween 225 and 250, then adjust the vents as needed to hold the tem­per­a­ture. If you don’t have a ther­mome­ter, just leave the vents fully open for about 15 min­utes, then close them a bit.

Three and a half to four hours later, they should be per­fect.

For the Jimmy Banakis Lemon Aioli: My friend Jimmy, owner of the Juicy O’s restau­rants, crafted this lemon sauce for Betty and me. It’s per­fect on the ribs. In­gre­di­ents: The juice of 2 lemons and half of a grilled lemon ( just slice a lemon and put it face down on a grill for a few min­utes to bring out the sweet­ness); 1 egg; 1 ta­ble­spoon of wa­ter; 1 cup of ex­tra virgin olive oil; a tea­spoon of salt; a half-tea­spoon of cayenne pep­per, 1 hoofta of fine chopped herbs, pars­ley or cilantro or try your own idea.

Squeeze the lemon juice into a blender, add the salt, the egg and the ta­ble­spoon of wa­ter and blend at low to medium speed. Driz­zle the oil slowly into the top open­ing, and toss in your herbs. Put in the fridge to chill. Spoon it out on your Per­fect John Kass Greek Ribs.

I do hope you en­joy them.

Kali Orexi.

Lis­ten to “The Chicago Way” pod­cast with John Kass and Jeff Car­lin — at www.wgn­ra­dio.com/cat­e­gory/wgn­plus/thechicago­way.

JOHN KASS/CHICAGO TRIBUNE

Zeus the Won­der Dog watches over Greek-style ribs made on a char­coal grill.

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