This week, cooking took a major turn. Mikey assigned me a cook that pushed the limits of everything I have learned so far. To add a little stress in the game, this was also my anniversary and genuinely a very busy weekend, to begin with. Originally my plan was to cook on Saturday, the day before our anniversary and plan to go out for dinner on the anniversary. My wonderful children, however, would not allow that. Be it fate, or just luck, not only was I cooking a meal outside of my comfort zone but also was given the pressure of making this a meal worthy of my anniversary.
With a wedding anniversary which falls in the same week as my son's birthday and valentines day, we don't typically do much. At the same time, it is not a date to be ignored. It is a date to be celebrated and what better way to celebrate it then with a phenomenal meal. A phenomenal meal we have done and enjoyed...just never one which I prepared.
Now for the cook, Mikey assigned me Beef Short Ribs. So, I have never had them...ever, pretty sure I have never seen them on a plate. I truly have no idea what to expect or even what to buy. I researched a ton and was still clueless. Mikey sent me a pic of what I needed to buy, and it looked like something I had never seen before. Then, in chatting with him, he threw out the tidbit of "Make sure you get short ribs and not a plate of short ribs". Now I am completely unsure of what I am doing. So, I head to the butcher counter.
I made sure to remove my MMB hoodie (which if you haven't purchased yet you have to. They are amazing) before walking in. After all, the last thing I needed to do was tarnish the great MMB brand by acting like such a novice at the butcher counter. I walked in with Mikey's picture of meat on my phone and grabbed a number. After waiting my turn, I sheepishly asked for Beef Short Ribs. The butcher disappeared, not even waiting for my picture or my plea of not the plate short ribs or whatever. After a minute he came back empty handed and informed me they were in the cooler, pointing down the aisle. I handed over the phone and said, "Like these"? Annoyed he said, "Yes! like those, in the cooler!"
'Great', I thought, 'I didn't even need to make an ass out of myself. I could have anonymously just picked these up myself. Whatever!' So I scanned the cooler looking for something that looks like the photo until I found them. Damn, these didn't look a little like the photo, they looked exactly like the photo! Despite that, though, it looked like nothing I would expect beef short ribs to look like. Whatever they are, I had them and I would cook them!
Another great tip Mikey sent along, in his Mr. Miyagi way, was to mark the ash basket on my kettle with the different venting levels. The Webber One Touch system is awesome with the exception that there is no way to tell how much or how little your vents are open. I went out with a sharpie and made 5 marks. Fully closed, 1/4 open, half open, 3/4 open and fully open. This way I can have a better idea of where I am in adjusting the lower vent.
So onto the day of the cook we go. With Mikey's approval, I selected Lane's Brisket Rub. Without asking first, I cut away the 'silver skin' from the short ribs and then with a little olive oil applied the rub. It was time to fire up the kettle. With this, I was feeling a bit confident. I had a couple cooks under my belt where I had been able to kinda somewhat keep the right temp, so I thought I was good. I decided to use a basket for the coals so I set it up and placed in the coals. I fired up about 15 coals and dumped them on top. It looked like everything was going perfectly.
Once I hit the right temp, I threw on the cherry chunks. There is something about this part of it all that really brings it all together. The smell of the smoke is just intoxicating. Excitedly, I put the short ribs on the grill. The nice thing about this was this was a longer cook. For me, that meant I had plenty of time to prepare my sides while the cook was taking place.
The first hour went damn near perfect. I held temp at about 260 solid. I peeled and cut up potatoes for mashed potatoes and trimmed my asparagus. It was going so smoothly that I started to get a little cocky. As if my kettle sensed my cockiness, sure enough, that is when it started going south. I had already added some coals on when I saw the temp start to go down. But after this, I didn't get it to rise. Slowly, I opened the vents a little hoping to coax it back. Nothing. Within a half hour, I was down to 180 and dropping. I had already added more coals but still dropping. It was time for me to take drastic measures.
I fired up about 15 hot coals in the kettle. Originally, I was intending to add them on top. By the time they were fully lit, though, I was pissed and completely blamed the basket. I grabbed my son and had him hold the grate full of meat while dumped out the basket and mixed in my freshly lit coals making a nice pile on the side. I put the grate back in place and closed up the kettle. To my surprise, it responded well. I forgot I had the vents opened a lot, so the temp initially climbed rapidly. I closed the vents down to where I started and it leveled off perfectly.
I felt like I dodged a bullet until I realized I had my sides to tend to. I decided to pour a nice stiff drink to put my nerves in check and then worked on the sides. The potatoes were coming along surprisingly well as was the asparagus. Always checking my grill temps, things were running perfectly. After that last hour, everything was done. Actually, almost simultaneously. The ribs looked amazing even if I still had no idea what to expect from eating them. At last, I had made my loving bride an anniversary meal to be proud of...well at least visually.
As we ate, the reality that it was not just visual became apparent. These ribs tasted amazing. The rub added the absolute perfect flavor to them. Actually, I think this is the first meal where I could really taste what a good rub can do. The flavor of Lane's Brisket rub was stellar. An added bonus of this cook was that it gave my dog the best day ever with all the bones to chew.
Basking with delight, I began to think about this cook. In general, I started this because I wanted to learn. I wanted to be able to cook. The path Mikey chose for me, though, is opening my mind to far more than the technique of BBQ. It is opening it up to flavor and food which I have never known. I would have easily gone through life never even tasting something like short ribs. That is a scary thought. I had fallen so deep into my own patterns of life that I didn't even know what is out there. BBQ for me is like traveling. It is a mistake to not see what the world has to offer, to not experience things outside your comfort zone. This is what BBQ is accomplishing, and I am loving every second of it!
Until next post....remember, CHUNKS not chips!