Monday, November 29, 2010

An Unexpected South Carolina Thanksgiving Weekend - Crab-Stuffed Speckled Trout with Lentils, Cider-Glazed Shallots, and Apple Arugula Salad

I entered this Thanksgiving not sure what to expect - it was the first time in the past couple of years that I wasn't cooking dinner, which I was admittedly a little sad about, but it meant that I could just sit back and enjoy the holiday instead of rushing around the kitchen all day.  I enjoy both perspectives of Thanksgiving, so this was definitely a nice change of pace.  Our plan was to go to Hilton Head Island, SC, and spend Thanksgiving with some of wifey's relatives.  During dinner, while manning an impromptu deep frying of a turkey (which turned out pretty awesome in its own right), I was offered to join some guys on a fishing trip in the inlets around the lowcountry.  I have never been fishing before, and the offer was really too good to pass up:  go fishing for a few hours with an avid local fisherman named Graham who would take us to his favorite spots to fish for Redfish (or Red Drum).  We woke at dawn on Saturday morning and headed out to meet Graham at a marina on Lemon Island.

Lemon Island marina at dawn
Graham already had the boat in the water when we got there, so we immediately headed out to try to catch the Redfish during low tide when they would be feeding.  I was really impressed with Graham's method of fishing.  We would motor to a specific spot where he suspected the Redfish would be gathering.  He would then turn off the engine and use a long push pole to push us from spot to spot to refrain from scaring the fish away.  He would stand on a platform above the engine of the boat and look for perturbances in the water and then push us towards those spots, while we casted in the directions that he told us to.  

Graham navigating

It took me a little while to get the hang of casting, but it turned out to be actually pretty fun - it's a game within a game to try to land where you are aiming.  It's much more challenging than it seems.  We had some factors going against us during the trip - it was much windier than expected, up to 20 knots, and it had rained the night before.  The combination of those two made the water quite murky, which Graham said was affecting the fishing because the Redfish feed by sight.  We couldn't see them and they couldn't see the bait that we had out there, which made it pretty difficult to fish - especially when you are like me and you can't consistently cast exactly where you are trying to.  We went to several spots and ended up not catching any Redfish in the end.  I did, however, snag a nice Speckled Trout in the process.  At first, I didn't even know that I had caught anything - it was not uncommon for the hooks to get caught on oyster rakes, requiring a few hard tugs to get the hook to release.  I initially thought I had just caught the hook on these rakes, but the rake never let go.  I felt the tug on the hook as if it is was fighting back and realized that I had caught something.  I reeled it in and it turned out to be a 16" Speckled Trout.  I was really excited to have caught something, but compared to the 27" Redfish that we were shooting for, it was a small catch.  It proved to be the only catch of the day, which I believe was somewhat of a letdown for the other guys, but for me it was perfect because I knew exactly what I planned on doing with it...

The various spots that we fished at during the morning
We decided to call it a day around noon and headed back to land.  As we parted ways, Graham mentioned a few different ways of how to clean the fish (another thing that I had never done before), and I began immediately worrying about ruining the fish before I even got to the cooking stage.  Cleaning was actually much easier than I thought, and after freezing the little guy overnight to prepare for the drive home, I began thinking in my head about what I was going to do with him.

Cleaned and ready for whatever's next...
While living in Chicago, I had the pleasure of getting to know several people in the amazing Chicago culinary scene.  I keep in touch with my good friend Mike, who is currently at Lula Cafe.  He will often send me text messages of amazing looking things that Lula is putting out and when I bother him enough, sometimes he will hook me up with cryptic recipes that my untrained mind tries to decipher.  It's a rare look into a professional kitchen and it's really exciting for me to see how things work.  I had the opportunity to stage for just one day with Mike while he was sous chef at C-House in Chicago, and I learned more in that one day than I have in years of cooking on my own.  About a month ago, he passed along a recipe for a stuffed Rainbow Trout that was on the menu at Lula, and I couldn't wait for the opportunity to try it out.  Catching my Speckled Trout was such a perfect opportunity that I knew immediately that this is what I wanted to make.

Crab-Stuffed Speckled Trout with Lentils, Cider-Glazed Shallots, and Apple Arugula Salad
courtesy of Mike Simmons / Lula Cafe

1 whole Speckled Trout, fins removed and scaled
2 gala apples
4 yukon gold potatoes
1 sprig rosemary
8 oz backfin crab meat
1.5 tbsp prepared horseradish
2 tbsp champagne vinegear
6 pearl onions (substitute small shallots)
8 oz hard apple cider
1 sprig sage
a shitload of butter
1 c lentils (puy if possible, but I used green)
2 carrots
1 onion
2 stalks celery
1 bay leaf
3/4 c sour cream
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
5 cloves garlic confit
2 c arugula
1 meyer lemon
1/4 c garlic oil from confit

This recipe has several components so I will go through them one at a time, in the order that I prepared them.

Cider Glazed Shallots:

Melt 2 tbsp butter in a skillet on medium heat.  Once melted, add the shallots and sage and saute for about 2 minutes.  Add hard cider and bring to simmer.  Turn heat down to slight simmer and braise shallots until liquid has reduced to a glaze, about 30 minutes.  The onions should be very soft.  Once glazed, remove from the glaze and set aside.


Place lentils in a sauce pan with 1 celery stalk, 1/2 of a carrot, 1/2 of the onion, and a bay leaf.  Cover with enough water to allow 3-4 inches between lentils and water surface.  I didn't measure this - but I would say it was probably about 3 or 4 cups of water.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until lentils are soft but still have a solid consistency.  They should retain their form.  When they are done, pull out the mirepoix pieces and bay leaf, and then place a container under the strainer.  You want to strain the cooking liquid from the lentils.  Put the lentils in a bowl and add about 1/2 c of the cooking liquid back to them and season to taste with salt.

Finish the lentils by making a brunoise of the leftover carrot, celery, onion, and apple.  Sweat in butter until the vegetables are just tender and mix them with the lentils.

Brunoised vegetables and all the other mise en place ready for plating.  Don't mind the mess, I was working at a feverish pace at this point.

Crab and potato filling:
Start by pickling the crab.  If the horseradish isn't already of a grated consistency, chop it up until it is pasty and then place it in a bowl with the crab meat.  Add the vinegar and mix to combine.  Let the crab sit for about 30 minutes.  While it is pickling, peel the potatoes and apples and dice them evenly.  Toss them with melted butter and a broken up sprig of rosemary and roast in a 350ยบ oven for about 30 minutes, until the potatoes are soft.  When they are done, pull them from the oven and smash them.  Mix them with the pickled crab mixture and set aside.

Sour Cream:
Take the sour cream and mash in the garlic.  Add sherry vinegar and mix well.  Pass the whole thing through a fine mesh strainer to mash and incorporate the garlic into a smooth consistency.  Set aside.

Arugula and Apple Salad:
Create a vinaigrette with the lemon juice and garlic oil.  Season well with salt and pepper.  Julienne half of an apple and toss the apple and arugula with the vinagrette

So this was interesting.  I already mentioned that I had no idea how to clean a fish.  I also had little to no idea how to scale the fish and prep it for stuffing.  I have had a little experience with scaling, mostly of the annoying variety, when I buy fish from Whole Foods and it's not properly scaled and I have to clean it up myself.  I used the back of a paring knife to brush off the scales in running water and then removed all of the fins with kitchen shears.  Unfortunately, the fish wouldn't fit in a pan without removing the head, so I had to do that as well.  I would have preferred to keep it on, but c'est la vie.

I filled the cavity of the fish with the potato and crab mixture and then seasoned the fish well.  Using a large cast iron skillet, I melted about half a stick of butter and heated it to medium high.  Carefully set the fish in the pan, being sure to keep the filling intact.  Pan fry on each side for about 6 minutes, until the skin is brown and crispy.  Continually baste as it fries.  If you use Speckled Trout like I did, you may have to finish it in the oven to get it cooked all the way through.  I just did it in the pan and it was still rare in parts.

Plate by laying down the lentils on the plate.  Place a couple of dollops of sour cream in front of them and lay the shallots on top of that.  Lay the fish on top of the lentils and the salad on top of the fish.  This plate was shared by my wife and I, it was a little messy to eat because the fish was so big but it looked really nice.  If you use rainbow trout, you should have one plate per person.

I remember reading about Native Americans in middle school and being really into Last of the Mohicans when it came out.  I thought people who lived off the land were completely unfuckwithable and I wanted to be like them.  As I got older, I fell into lifestyles that still loosely tied into the mindset of self sustainability and it has stuck with me throughout my life.  I got heavily involved in the DIY punk and metal scenes and became vegetarian, initially as somewhat of a challenge to myself during a very difficult summer in my life, and later on (as I became more educated on the matter) because I agreed with the ethical aspect of boycotting factory farms.  I always believed in the food chain though, and I came to realize that it is possible to support ethical farming and be an omnivore.  Americans are generally very out of touch with where their food comes from, and this is something that I want to change about myself.  I want to know where my food comes from and accept the responsibility of knowing that sometimes I am eating something that was alive recently.  This experience was my first real opportunity to go from the source of a food all the way to the table, and I am very grateful for that.  I remember at one point reading about how Native Americans always thanked their food and showed it the utmost respect, as one animal would help an entire tribe for weeks.  For some reason, as I was fishing and as I was preparing this meal, I kept thinking about that, and I hope that in the end I showed this little Speckled Trout the respect that it deserves.  I think that I did.

In closing, I would like to leave you with a South Carolina parting thought...

I will not.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Reinventing a Classic - Tomato Braised Brisket with Pickled Root Vegetables and Mashed Potatoes

I had a lot of fun with this week's project, and the concept is something that I hope to continue consciously pursuing.  My wife has a collection of recipes from her youth that she loves to have every once in a while.  Usually I am instructed to stay close to the original, and usually it follows a rule equivalent to "don't fuck with my mom's spaghetti sauce".  This is very difficult for me to adhere to, because I am constantly meddling and trying to see what happens when I change things up.  What's the fun in following a piece of paper to the T and not getting a chance to try something new?  So, that brings us to Grandma's (hereafter referred to as G-ma) brisket.  The story behind the recipe is that when my wife's Grandma was first married, she got this recipe from a Jewish neighbor in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Squirrel Hill.  It has persisted over the years and is delicious in its own right.  We have made it before, but I thought that I could take the recipe as inspiration and really turn it into something great.  I don't have the full thing, but here is the old recipe (roughly):

G-ma's Brisket (Original):
1 can tomato soup
1 can water (tomato soup can)
1 green bell pepper (diced)
1 medium onion (diced)
1 carrot (diced)
3 lb brisket

Start by sauteeing the vegetables until translucent, transfer to a baking dish.  Salt/pepper and sear the brisket on all sides, transfer to baking dish, cover with liquid ingredients.  Cover baking dish and bake at 300 degrees for a few hours.  Serve with mashed potatoes.

It's total comfort food, and I really love comfort food, but I felt that there were a couple of things that could be improved to really make the dish fantastic.

1) Get rid of the green pepper.  It doesn't lend much flavor, and after a long braise it gets somewhat bitter.
2) Braising liquid could have more flavor.  My first thoughts were to just replace the water with chicken or beef stock, but I decided to go further than that with my recipe.
3) Find a way to develop more flavor and texture.  The sauce ends up being kind of one-note.  Could use some brighter flavors to match the rich sauce, and it could use some texture.

There are also things that I knew I needed to preserve:

1) Tomatoes.  No wine should be used.  It's not a pot roast, tomato needs to be the dominant flavor.
2) Basic techniques. Sauteeing aromatics / create braising liquid / long braise should be maintained to help stay true to the original.

So now I've set the rules and guidelines for myself.  Where could I go with this?  I remember watching Top Chef a couple of seasons when fellow beardo Kevin did a long braise where he actually braised the sauce with marrow bones - creating kind of a stock and sauce at the same time.  I was really intrigued by that and have been looking for an opportunity to try it out myself for quite a while now.  This seemed like the perfect opportunity to develop more flavors for my sauce.  As far as the texture and giving the dish more than one note, I thought some pickled root vegetables would be a great candidate for that.  I put some hot pepper in the pickle to give them just a touch of heat.  It's not really that similar to the green pepper but it's in the spirit of it, right?  They're both capsicums.  Whatever.

Pickled Root Vegetables
1 bunch baby turnips
1 carrot
1/2 bulb fennel
1 pepper - Thai chile or serrano (or maybe jalepeno if you're feeling less spicy)
Fennel fronds
2 c water
1 c white vinegar
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp salt

Brunoise vegetables into large-ish 1/2" cubes and place in 1 qt heat-proof container (mason jar ideally).  Heat water, vinegar, honey, and salt in saucepan until starting to simmer, turn off heat.  Pour hot liquid over vegetables and let cool to room temperature.  Heating the liquid will partially cook the root vegetables, making them less crunchy but still providing bite.  When the liquid has cooled, refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

mid pickle

Tomato Braised Brisket
3-4 lb brisket, excess fat removed
2 beef marrow bones
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
14 oz chicken stock
2 carrots, diced
1 large onion
1 head garlic, peeled and slightly crushed

Start by roasting the marrow bones in the oven at 400 degrees until browned.

Salt and pepper the brisket on all sides.  Slice the onions lengthwise, with the grain, to get long strips.  While the bones are roasting, heat some oil in an ovenproof dutch oven at med-hi heat.  Sear the brisket on all sides and set aside.  Turn the heat down to medium and add the onions, carrot, and garlic.  Saute until vegetables are caramelized, 20 minutes or so.

Not quite caramelized but getting there...

Remove the bones from the oven and turn the heat down to 350 degrees.  Add chicken stock and scrape the bottom of the pot to deglaze all the tasty bits.  Add the tomatoes and bones to the pot and bring the sauce to a simmer, skimming froth as the sauce heats up.  Let sauce reduce by about 1/4.  Place brisket fat side up on top of bones, cover, and place in oven. Bake for roughly 4 hours, checking every hour, flip once halfway through.

When brisket is done, remove to a cutting board and let it rest for about 20 minutes.

In the meantime, we are going to remove the fat from the sauce.  Seperate the solids from the sauce by passing the sauce through a chinois.  Let the container with the sauce sit for a few minutes to allow the fat to seperate from the sauce.  The fat will sit on top of the sauce.  Try to spoon off as much of the fat as possible.  At this point, you have an option of what to do next.  You could return the solids and the sauce to the pan and let them all comingle, you could also discard the solids to leave a thinner sauce, or you could combine them and then blend the whole mess together to get a smoother thicker sauce.  I decided to leave the solids as-is because I wanted the onion strips (trying to stay true to the original recipe).  At this point you can also begin cutting the brisket.  G-ma's brisket is sliced, so I tried to slice it.  Even with my sharpest knife, this shit wants to shred like Reign in Blood era Kerry King, so I ended up only getting about half of the brisket to stay together in slices.  The rest was shredded.

Allegory for Kerry King pre-tattoos and shaved head.  Maybe it's more GWAR than anything with those bones in the background.  Distinct lack of stage blood though...

 Return the brisket to the pot with the sauce and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Mashed Potatoes:
This is a straightforward mashed potatoes recipe, do yours however you like (everyone has a mashed potato recipe memorized, right?).  I used a stand mixer here because I wanted to them to have an ultra smooth consistency.
5-6 yukon gold potatoes
3/4 c cream
4 tbsp butter
Salt / Pepper

Dice potatoes and boil in salted water until soft, drain and add to stand mixer bowl.  Add cream, butter, salt, pepper and whip until smooth and awesome.

Plate by spooning some mashed potatoes onto plate / bowl and creating a little well in the middle of the potatoes.  Spoon brisket and sauce over the well.  Drain a spoonful of vegetables and add a little olive oil to them.  Place on top of the brisket with a fennel frond for prettiness and get down to business.

Appetite for destruction

In the end, my wife approved (most importantly), and I think that I stayed true to the spirit of the original recipe.  I was really happy with this dish and I can't wait to crush another plate of it tonight.  Second most importantly, we found a way to keep the best dog in the world pacified for more than 20 minutes.  If nothing else, this recipe will become a regular because it keeps Pickle occupied and gives us a break!

nom nom nom

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Whole Mess of Collards

Having a good greens recipe was one of the things that I tried to master early in my mild obsession with Southern cooking (which I first mentioned in my shrimp and grits post).   I ran through several experiments while living in Chicago, as inspired by a restaurant called Feed that had roasted chicken and various southern fixins, and eventually found a great way to make greens.  Moving to North Carolina gave me a chance to try to real thing and see how my greens stacked up, and I was honestly a little surprised to find that my greens are better than any restaurant greens that I have had to date.  I tell this to friends who are born and raised in the South, and generally I get laughed at.  I'm fine with that, because my goal is to show them all how good Yankees can make greens.. one bowl at a time.

The occasion for making this batch of greens is directly tied to a friendly test between myself and my neighbor, Mike.  Mike has an amazing garden in his back yard, during the summer you can see stalks of corn rising high above his already tall fence.  He grows a myriad of vegetables in a relatively small area, and it's really an inspirational testament to urban gardening.  Towards the end of last week, I walked over in order to ask if I could borrow a couple of tools.  While we were heading to his shed to get them, I saw that he was growing collards for the winter season and I commented on how much I liked them.  He was a little surprised to hear about a kid from Pittsburgh who was a collard afficionado, so I then mentioned that I felt like my collards were better than any collards that I have had in the South.  Of course, a statement like that can't come without backing it, so Mike said to me that he'd give me a bunch of collards in exchange for some of my Yank greens.  The deal was on.  He let me know that he was going to wait until the first frost of the year, which sweetens the collards and makes them ready for harvest.  The day after the first frost, Mike delivered to me a stack of greens that probably weighed in at 2 lb.  I would make them and then he would be the judge of whether they stacked up to good ole boy greens or not.

Mike's winter lot
Collard Greens
2 lb collard greens (they don't have to be collards... mustard, kale, chard, dandelion all work well too.  My absolute favorite is half collards half mustards)
6oz bacon
1 large-ish onion, diced
32oz chicken stock
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
apple cider vinegar to taste (probably 1/3 c or so)
salt to taste

Start by prepping the greens. Wash them first, then lay them out flat.  I cut the tough rib out of the middle just because I don't like to cook the greens for hours.  If they don't cook forever, the rib won't soften up, so I just remove it.

Lay it out flat

Remove the rib

After the rib is removed, tear the collards up into manageable pieces.  I'd call a manageable piece 2"x2" or so.  They will wilt and be bite sized.  I tear them with my fingers because of some hippie shit that I heard somewhere.  I don't know if it actually does anything, but I heard somewhere that cutting greens (this goes for everything -salad greens, cooking greens, etc) ruptures the cells and can cause the greens to not hold their shape.  Tearing them tears them along cell walls, keeping everything intact and leading to better texture.  I don't know if that's true or not and I don't own Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking to check for myself, but it makes sense to me and it looks nice and organic, so I do it.  Besides, it's more fun to tear them apart than just cut them.

Now that the greens are prepped, start by sauteeing your bacon in a big dutch oven or stock pot.  Render the bacon until it begins to get crispy and then remove to a paper towel to drain.  Leave all of that bacon fat in the pan and add your red pepper flakes and onions (this is Southern cooking:  live it, love it).  The red pepper flakes can be added to your preference - you can leave them out or add a lot to make them spicy.  I like it somewhere in the middle - let's call it piquant.  Saute the onions until they are translucent  but not colored.  Start adding the greens.  You will have to add them in batches.  The basic process works as follows:  add handfuls of greens, toss in onion/bacon fat, cover and let wilt, uncover and stir, repeat process.  Do that until all of the greens are added and mostly wilted.

Add chicken stock to the greens until they are mostly submerged.  One of the things I love about this recipe is how scalable it is.  The general rule of thumb is that you want to get the greens mostly submerged, so whether you're making 1 lb or 7.39 lb of greens, just follow that rule and you're set.  Add the bacon back to the pot, stir, and cover.  Simmer the greens for about 30 minutes over med-low heat.

While they're simmering, let's talk theory.  Apparently traditional Southern greens are made with smoked ham hocks.  I tried making greens with a ham hock once but I wasn't too happy with them.  The bacon fat is really what makes this recipe great - it lends both smoky flavor and a richness to the broth that was missing when I used the ham hock.  I haven't tried a combination of the two yet, but now that I think about it, I really should.  The gelatin from the ham hock combined with the bacon might make the broth extra rich.  Then again, 30 minutes might not be enough time for the gelatin to really break down in the ham hock (it has to get to 135 degrees for the connective tissue to break down - by the time it really gets going, the greens might be overcooked).  I wonder what would happen if I made a stock by simmering the ham hock in chicken broth for a while, then used that as the cooking stock for the greens...  I think I will have to try that next time.

After the 30 minutes, uncover and taste your greens.  They should not be mushy, they should still have a bite to them.  When they are finished, add a generous amount of salt and begin adding the vinegar.  The combination of the flavored cooking liquid and the vinegar makes these so addictive - I serve my greens in bowls almost like a soup because I absolutely love the broth that results from them.  Add vinegar until the broth has a tart taste to it.  I do it slowly and I don't measure the vinegar, just add, stir, taste.  Repeat as necessary.

Ready to go
After the greens were done, I filled up a container to deliver to Mike.  Tonight I will bring them over and get the final verdict, and I will report back with the results.

Served with roasted chicken and fall vegetables.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Recovering Smoker: A Shared Custody Love Story

When I first moved to North Carolina, my friend Sean and I decided it would be a great idea to go in on an electric smoker together.  We found a smoker on Craigslist for pretty cheap and we drove to Hillsborough - about a 45 minute drive from Raleigh - to check it out.  It turns out that this guy had some crazy setup where he had an inside scoop on returned merchandise at a Bass Pro Shop in the area.  Somehow he got the returned merchandise, and he sold it on Craigslist at deep discounts and prospered.  He had a whole setup of grills, tents, sleeping bags, smokers, everything that you would expect from an outdoors store.  Apparently people would often buy smokers, use them once, and then return them saying that it wasn't what they expected or they just didn't think it would suit their needs.  I guess Bass Pro Shops had a no questions asked return policy.  Sucks to be them - but worked out well for this guy (and us, indirectly).  So back to our shared custody pipe dream - Sean and I would alternate ownership of our new smoker every so often depending on who wanted it and life would be awesome and full of smoked meats.  Well, it was an awesome idea, but Sean kept it most of the time because we decided that would be more convenient, and until now, I only used it once a year (upcoming Christmas post spoiler withheld!).  I decided the other weekend that I wanted to borrow it for some various uses - the real catalyst was this newfound interest in sausages that I have.  I really want to take a shot at kielbasa sometime soon, which means I need to smoke them.

Best name ever for a smoker?

I drove out to Sean's on Sunday morning to pick up the smoker and took a look inside before loading it into my car.  It needed a little love to get back into working shape...

I worked on the interior with a spray bottle of oven cleaner, an old abrasive sponge, and a hose; scrubbing the shit out of it to get it back to its smoky glory.  The oven cleaner smelled like the degreaser that we used at the bar that I used to cook at in grad school, and it brought back plenty of memories of listening to Slayer as loud as possible to drown out the drunk girl's rugby team doing karaoke while I made chicken wings and burgers and crappy wraps.  Good times.

I was unable to get all of the rust off of the very base - it was pretty deeply rusted, but the grates cleaned up well and the main smoke compartment actually looks pretty respectable.  I will probably do another thorough scrubbing on the grates with a better abrasive before using it, but they are stainless steel so I am not too worried about keeping them in good shape.  I heated it up to make sure the element still worked, and the compartment had a good sterile-to-slightly-smoky-seasoned smell to it once it got up to 200 degrees.  I'll have to reseason before using it by smoking it out for a couple hours while it's empty, but I have to say that I am really psyched that my smoked winter meats plan is still a go!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Tangy Oven Spare Ribs and a bitter Steelers loss

This one was a long standing request from my ichiban lady.  I made it once last year and it was fantastic... coincidentally, I made it on the day of the Super Bowl when the Saints upset the Colts.  Naturally, I decided to make it this year when the Saints played (and beat, and more or less embarassed) my beloved Steelers.  I'm dumb.  These ribs are great but I won't be making that mistake again, because obviously me making these ribs in central North Carolina has some sort of supernatural effect on the Saints defense.  Somehow it makes them good, when they're really pretty bad the other 15+ weeks of the season (jab!).

Anyway, back on topic.  These ribs are oven baked for 2ish hours in a homemade barbecue sauce of sorts.  I got the recipe from Epicurious, where all great recipes come from, but of course I had to mess with it because I can't leave good enough alone.  The recipe calls for boiling the ribs prior to putting them in the oven, but I opted for a rub and a short cure, followed by searing and then braising in the sauce.  The ribs are fantastic, fall off the bone tender, and they get even better the next day - as most braises do.

Before we get into the recipe, check this out.  I've never seen brussel sprouts on the stalk before, much less been able to buy them.  Very cool and very pretty.  I hope I can find these guys all winter.

So, the recipe.  I hate this name, but the Epicurious recipe calls them "Saucy Country-Style Oven Ribs"
4 lb pork spare ribs
1 tsp paprika
1 tbsp brown sugar
pinch fresh nutmeg 
1 tbsp salt
pinch cayenne (or more if you're feeling SAUCY)
1 tsp ground black pepper

1 large onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp crushed/minced garlic
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups ketchup
2/3 cup honey
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 2 lemons)
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon dry mustard
2 teaspoons drained bottled horseradish
1 teaspoon black pepper

Start by deciding what you're going to cook the ribs in.  If you have a dutch oven that can hold everything and go in the oven, all the better.  Otherwise you can use a long lasagna pan or some other deep dish to bake in.  Cut the ribs so that they all will fit in your cooking and baking vessels.  Mix all the rub ingredients and blend it well.  Rub it all over the pork with your bare hands.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours to let the rub do some work.

When you are ready to start, preheat the oven to 350 and get a big pan or pot on the stove heating up on med-hi.  Add a couple of tbsp of vegetable oil and, when hot, sear the ribs one at a time.  Don't overcrowd the pot.  Sear until brown, flip, set aside and start the next ones.  When they are done, keep them to the side and add the onions to the pot with a little salt.  When they start sweating, try to scrape up fond bits from the bottom of the pot and incorporate them into the onions.  When the onions start to turn translucent, add the garlic and let it go for a couple of minutes.  Add the rest of the ingredients and be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan well to get all the flavor bits up.

Sauce right after adding all of the ingredients
Let the sauce come to a simmer and reduce for 10-ish minutes.  Add the ribs and try to arrange them so that they are all covered or submerged.  Cover and bake for 45 minutes.

45 minutes in...
At the 45 minute mark, rearrange the ribs so that they all get even cooking time and bake for at least another 45 minutes or more.  

The sauce will be pretty greasy at first because of all the fat in the ribs. Spoon as much of it off as you can, or if you have a seperator, get on it!  At this point you can do one of two things - leave it as-is for a chunkier style sauce, or blend it for a smooth barbecue sauce.  I was lazy so I left it as-is. I minced up the onion and garlic fine enough that they were pretty well incorporated anyway.

We served with the sprouts and Bourdain's gratin dauphinois, which is another posting all of its own (shit is good).  This recipe is really quite easy and tastes amazing, especially for ribs that never even saw a grill!