Friday, July 29, 2005

Summertime and the Grilling is Easy

With apologies to George Gershwin for the bad pun. I couldn't resist. I'm a little disappointed, though. Stephen Raichlen, who writes Paul's favorite books on grilling, was supposed to do a demo and book signing at a local Barbeques Galore store. Unfortunately, they closed the store and didn't reschedule the signing at the other store in the area. He's going to be at Sur Le Table in Santana Row tonight. But they're starting before Paul gets off work. I was hoping to write a post about the signing.

Instead, I'll write a bit about our new barbecue. Barbecuing is one of Paul's passions. He misses being able to cook with charcoal, but we understand why owners of apartment complexes prefer gas. A few weeks ago, the propane tank on my mom's horrible gas barbecue ran out of gas. We went off to the service station to fill it. No dice. It's old and doesn't have a safety valve that's required by law. Mom doesn't want to buy a new propane tank because she doesn't use her barbecue when she's by herself. We went shopping.

At first we thought we were out of luck. There are lots of gas grills in all price ranges that will cook steaks and hamburgers. But, we couldn't find a gas barbecue that would cook ribs, small roasts and whole chickens for under $500. That's way out of our budget. Then we perused the Weber barbecue site. They have two small grills that are perfect for apartment living. The "Q" and the "Baby Q". The secret to doing roasts on the Q is that the cast iron grill acts as a heat source. So, you put the meat on a rack above the grill, turn the gas down so it keeps the grill hot, and roast away. Paul got a great Father's Day and birthday gift this year. We bought the Q and really love it. I cooked a pork roast and it turned out great.

Now I bet you're expecting a pork roast recipe. Unfortunately, I just coated it with a commercial rub and roasted it for an hour and a half. So, how about a rib recipe instead? I got this from a Good Housekeeping magazine. My notes don't have the date when it was published. I've changed it a bit, as I'm wont to do with recipes. My family accuses me of never cooking a recipe the same way twice.

Plum-Good Baby Back Ribs

Serving Size : 4

4 pounds pork baby back ribs
12 whole black peppercorns
2 whole bay leaves
10 whole star anise
2 whole cinnamon sticks
4 quarts water -- enough to cover per instructions
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon ginger -- peeled and finely minced or grated using a ceramic ginger grater
1 whole garlic clove -- crushed
1 small jar plum jam
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seed oil
Optional garnishes: toasted sesame seeds and sliced scallions


1. Place ribs, peppercorns, bay leaves, 4 star anise, 1 cinnamon stick in an 8-quart stockpot. Add enough water to cover ribs, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 40 minutes. Remove from the water and pat dry with paper towels. You can do this in advance and refrigerate the ribs, covered, until you're ready to grill and serve them.

2. Prepare glaze: In 1-quart saucepan, heat soy sauce, remaining star anise, cinnamon stick, grated ginger and garlic. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat; let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Strain mixture into bowl; discard star anise, cinnamon, ginger, and garlic. Stir in plum jam and toasted sesame seed oil.

3. Place ribs on grill over medium heat. Cook 10 minutes, turning once, until browned. Brush ribs with some glaze and cook 10 minutes longer, brushing with remaining glaze and turning every two minutes.

4. Put on plates and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and scallions.

Notes and Tips:

1. I've made this successfully with both beef ribs and regular pork spareribs, both of which are way less expensive than the babybacks.

2. Plum jam is readily available here. But if it weren't, I'd try blackberry, black raspberry, or boysenberry.

3. If you can't find star anise, you can buy it online from Penzey's Spices. And if you're not a licorice lover, as I and my family are not, I assure you that the star anise doesn't add an overpowering licorice flavor to the glaze.