Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day With Emily

 Certain days, holidays especially, cry out for special foods. I'm not sure how. My mother certainly never made a rack of ribs. But somehow Memorial Day in my mind means two things: steamed crabs and barbecued ribs. Now that I am a West Coaster, crabs (now dungeness not blue) have become a winter favorite and steamed East coast blue crabs have become a get them when you can food (even while visiting in winter if need be) instead of being marked as a must have at the start of the summer calendar. That leaves ribs. Fatty, meaty, sticky, diet-unfriendly baby back ribs.
We've been here for about six months now but the barbecue is still not set up (a lot of things on the list before the BBQ) so I needed to make our ribs in the oven. But, my friend Emily was driving up for lunch and a visit -- her first time at our new place. This was a meal that had to be worth renting a car for. And yet, I decided to try a new recipe. I doused the ribs with olive oil and seasoned them, on both sides, with S&P and garlic powder. I didn't have the whole cloves the recipe called for so I sprinkled on ground cloves and then added about 8 whole allspice berries, I poured a bottle of beer over the ribs, sealed the pan with foil and baked them in a 300┬║ oven for 2 hours. The meat came out super tender, already coming away from the bone, if not exactly picturesque. It was time for sauce.
The recipe I was following called for 1 cup of peach or apricot jam. But I zeroed in on this particular dish as an excuse to use up the half jars of jelly in my fridge. I mixed apple jelly, peach jam, and honey (to total 1 cup or so), 1 cup of ketchup, 3 TB of lemon juice, a heavy pinch of chiles, and the pan juices from the ribs in a saucepan and let it reduce down into a sticky irresistible sauce for about 20 minutes over medium high heat.
With the ribs meat side down I brushed a good quantity of he sauce over the bones and popped the sheet pan under the broiler for about 7 minutes. I turned the ribs over and brushed on half of the remaining sauce and broiled another 10 minutes. Lastly I brushed the rest of the sauce over the meat again and broiled another 10 minutes until the ribs were deeply browned and just a tad charred. Picture perfect sticky delectable ribs, and only two pans to clean.
"You'll be making those again," James declared.
Our first summer squash of the summer farmer's mart season was a quick braise with yukon gold potatoes, tomatoes and onion flavored with celery leaves, basil, and a few mustard greens from our garden. 
Though Emily is enviable thin she loves desserts. It'd be enough to make me lash out at her if she just weren't so darn nice and so much fun. Sigh. I had to make sure we had something worth the drive. Stone fruits are finally back in season after a long winter of apples and pears. I went a little crazy at the farmer's market so I had plenty of peaches, nectarines and apricots for this mixed fruit cobbler. I mixed 6 cups of chopped fruit with 1 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup flour and layered the mixture into a baking dish. For the batter -- I like a cake topped cobbler instead of the more common biscuit top -- I mixed 2 cups of flour, 1 cups of sugar, 1 melted stick of butter, 1 cup of milk with a splash of vanilla extract and covered the fruit completely. On top of the dough I sprinkled about 1 TB of sugar mixed with a pinch of nutmeg and, because they are in the same family and I thought it might be a tasty combo, slivered almonds. After baking for an hour at 350┬║ we had a Southern style sweet dessert -- perfect for a picnic of barbecue -- starring fresh, ripe, juicy summer fruit.
I sent Emily home with cobbler to go.

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