Category: BBQ (page 1 of 2)

Pappy’s Smokehouse Is Not Overrated

“Do you like BBQ?” someone on Twitter asked. I laughed for about five minutes before replying “Yes.”

“Of course,” I thought. Then it occurred to me that it was absolutely a valid question because some people really don’t like BBQ. These aren’t the people who typically want to hang out with me, though.

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Oven-Baked Ribs For Frank Underwood [Possible HOC Seasons 1-3 Spoilers]

DISCLAIMER: Possible House of Cards: Seasons II & III spoilers. 

I don’t own a smoker and I’m not as experienced at cooking them as Freddy, but Frank would be damn proud of my ribs.

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I’ve tried preparing pork ribs in the oven many times before without too much success. People have guided me to do all sorts of strange things to ribs, such as boiling them in water before baking or even boiling them in saran wrap. I’ve also ruined them by forgetting to remove the silverskin on the backs of the racks. Whatever you do, don’t buy the racks in the vaccum-sealed in plastic pouches; purchase them fresh from a local butcher. The plastic-pouch ribs I’ve bought are practically pickled in a slimy brine that I’m guessing extends their shelf life. I like my food to lean towards the saltier side, but find these almost inedible.

Fresh ribs taste so much better and usually cost less, too. To commemorate Netflix’s release of House of Cards’ third season, I bought racks of ribs from my favorite local butcher, Louie’s Custom Meats in Clear Lake, Iowa. Frank would want you to support your local butcher, too.

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I like Frank Underwood because Frank Underwood gets things done. Of course, I don’t like that he’s mean and pushes people in front of trains, but he’s all like “I want to raid FEMA funds so America Works can be a thing” and then he does and makes AmWorks a thing.

Whenever I get strange emails from PR reps, I wonder what would Frank Underwood do? Most of the messages I receive regarding my blog are fantastic. I love hearing from readers, receiving dining and recipe suggestions, and invitations to food events. However, the PR requests can be a different story.

Frank Quote

The funniest email I ever received was from a company that sells shaving supplies. They suggested I write a free post around their theme of “Shaving money” and “Happy Shavings.” For the rest of the month when Jake and I would come and go from the house, we’d shout “Happy Shavings” at each other and laugh hysterically. Then, we’d jog together at night and smoke cigarettes by the window sill. Just kidding. We don’t run and we don’t smoke, but we did laugh and laugh and laugh.

Some people need a “Come to Frank.”

Frank Whale Quote

Anyway, I may never know what Frank Underwood would say regarding my day-to-day life conundrums, but I do know what Frank might eat: BBQ ribs! Frank would totally make these ribs if he didn’t have Freddy’s BBQ Joint, a smoker, grill, or White House chef to make them.

Oven-baked BBQ Ribs
Cooking time will vary depending on the tenderness and size of the racks. I like mine to be tender, but have enough of a bite that the meat doesn’t just fall off of the bone. After a few hours of cooking, most of the fat should render. 

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Ingredients:
2 racks of pork ribs, back silverskin removed
Your favorite spice rub or seasoning salt: I used Mis’ Rubins Black Magic. It’s a spice blend with charcoal.
BBQ sauce

For a Korean Twist on BBQ Sauce:
Combine one cup of BBQ sauce with 1-2 tablespoons of gochujang, 1 teaspoon grated ginger, and a splash of soy sauce. Heat gently over low heat until ready to use.

Instructions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 300℉.

2. Cover a large sheet pan with foil. Place a cooking rack on top of the foil.

3. Remove the silverskin lining the back of the ribs. Sometimes it’s easier to loosen the membrane with knife, before peeling. If you leave this on, the ribs will be tough

Ribs silver skin

4. Place racks of ribs on the pan and season both sides with spice mix.

5. Cover with more foil. Place on the middle oven rack and bake 2 1/2-3 hours or until ribs are tender. One of my batches took 2 1/2 hours while a second took at least three.

6. Carefully remove the pan from the oven so the liquid fat doesn’t spill. Drain off the fat.

7. Uncover the ribs and brush with barbecue sauce.

8. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes, brushing again with sauce halfway through.

Thoughts On RibFest 2013: Blooming Onion Redemption

RibFest is totally overpriced. It’s kind of gross, the music features throwback bands, and the food is a gamble. But we all end up going anyway. Sometimes, more than once.

The prior weekend, they started inflating the gazillions of jumping contraptions and on June 5th, RibFest opened in all of its glory. The first band to play was Sugar Ray. Need I say more? Welcome to 1998.

My husband received a couple of free RibFest tickets at work and refused to use them on a Sugar Ray concert. We compromised by sitting on lawn chairs and listening to them from our balcony over beers. For as much grief as I give Mark McGrath, we had a wonderful time. The evening was refreshingly cool and there was no wind, a eerie rarity on this windy prairie. We watched the band leap back and forth across the stage and I only remember laughing at them once. It was one of those tranquil moments you want to save for later and revisit when life feels overwhelming.

We went to RibFest on Friday evening when Blue Oyster Cult was performing. To save a few bucks, we enjoyed a beer at Buffalo Wild Wings before hawking over $6 per beer at the event.

My husband and I shared a boat of jalapeno cheese curds before searching for ribs. These would be the best thing we tasted that evening. I don’t remember the vendor’s name, but it was generic and served curds at a few stations. 

Stringy cheese. Crunchy, greaseless coating, and large slices of jalapenos. What’s not to like?

We settled into the long line at the Cowboys Barbeque and Rib Co. from Weatherford, TX. Several of us have actually eaten barbecue in Texas and our friends chose this stand assuming they’d be good. To give you an idea about pricing, they charged $7 for three ribs. These weren’t Flinstones-sized ribs but regular pork ribs.We ordered a half slab, plus a sides of macaroni and cheese and baked beans, each of which cost an additional $3.

Honestly, everything on this platter was rather unappealing.

The ribs were tough and fatty. Their smoked flavor reminded me of the smell of mothballs. The barbecue sauce was fine if bland.

The mac and cheese and baked beans were scooped in measly portions that couldn’t have amounted to more than a half cup each. The macaroni and cheese was lukewarm with a weird, plasticy aftertaste and I had to really fish through the watery, bland bean liquid to find any beans. Looking back over my 2012 RibFest posts, I notice we unintentionally returned to the same vendor we visited last year with similar results. It came as no surprise this vendor didn’t win any awards.

I didn’t leave until I got my blooming onion. Our second visit to 2012’s Ribfest was a disaster. We quickly abandoned my quest because the scary, drunk man who stood behind me at the ATM followed us to the event and tailed us as we wove through the crowd.

The onion petals were crisp and the staff actually took time to drain off most of the oil. The orange lava flow of sauce tasted sweet. I sprinkled the onion with various seasoning salts and passed it on when I began to feel sick.

I headed home as dark storm clouds formed and strong winds transformed the hot day into a bone-chilling evening. Blue Oyster Cult played on as I walked towards the exit, flinching as I stepped in a stinky, yellow puddle.

This is a Porta Potty-only event, ya’ll. It’s loud and crowded and dirty, but chances are you’ll probably return. We all do.  

Jeni Finally Gets Her Sloppy Torta: Quick Trip Home & By More Taqueria

Two months away from home without a food adventure left me in a crazed state.

The other weekend, I wanted to eat a torta, a food that isn’t exactly commonplace around here.

The Fargo torta buck stopped at my Internet search.  I was only willing to go as far as Googling the sh#$ out of Fargo + Moorhead + torta.  I’d love for you to prove me wrong.

My torta craving grew to the point where I considered driving to Minneapolis for a sandwich.  Nothing more.  Just a sandwich.

Last weekend, we returned to the Twin Cities for a quick visit to surprise Jake’s mom for her birthday.  We left for the cities earlier than normal and greeted her when she returned home from work.  Both surprisers and surprisee seemed equally happy about the reunion.

We also visited the family for which I babysat and apprenticed last year.  I know it’s a tale as old as time, but the experience of watching a baby transform into a child that talks in complete sentences and zips around the sidewalks of Minneapolis on a Strider is fantastic and humbling.  We barely have the skeleton of a wedding in place, but we now have a ring bearer.

Speaking of wedding plans, we’re finally getting started.  Or at least, we’re thinking about it.  I’m more concerned about the food.  Can you recommend a vendor who could make a non-traditional wedding dessert?  Neither one of us is a big fan of cake, but we’re very fond of pie.

On Saturday morning, I woke up early to go to the St. Paul Farmers Market.  I managed to get funneled into the world’s most treacherous detour, finally landing in a back parking lot, unscathed.  This summer, our CSA has supplied us with all of our vegetables.  The quality has been high, but the selection mundane.  Walking through the farmers market nearly brought tears to my eyes as I admired stands of melons, okra, eggplants, habanero peppers, and foraged mushrooms (I just learned about Probstfield Farm’s Old Trail Market in Moorhead, MN and plan to stop by this weekend).

I bought some treats to supplement our weekly CSA box and stopped at A Toast To Bread for the empanadas I used to enjoy each weekend.

Fortunately, I got there early enough to purchase one of each variety to share with the boys.

They were as delicious as I remember.  The first was filled with ground beef and veggies, the second with ground beef, olives and raisins, and the third with tuna.

For lunch, we took home spicy BBQ, baked beans, and collard greens from Ted Cook’s, per Jake’s request.

My rib tips were more dried out than normal and I had to toss about half.  Otherwise, everything else tasted the same.

Dinner was cloudy with a chance of these. . .

I like to occasionally indulge with meals accompanied by these.  For those who may take issue, my reply is the same as the one I gave to the man in the elevator this afternoon.  He sternly informed me that the cream cheese on my bagel was unhealthy, to which I replied, “I don’t care.

He may have been a client.  Oops.

On our final morning, I snuck out for a morning torta.  I knew that stacking a torta onto the weekend’s meals could result in trouble, but pressed on towards my goal.  After all, my life has led me down a path of uncertainly regarding when I will run into my next torta.  If I see a torta, I will indulge.  Plus, one can always transport food on ice.  We took home quite the haul.

Jake’s an East Saint Paul boy, through and through.  His parents live in the Payne-Phalen area and it took me until now to discover the restaurants that line Payne Ave. and Arcade St.  On Sunday, I stopped at By More Taqueria, located near the intersection of Payne Ave. and Phalen Blvd.  Someone on Chowhound had mentioned torta.

My one track mind zeroed in to the torta options that could be filled with one’s choice of meat.  I did not notice breaded beef milanesa, my usual favorite, but had plenty of other options to pick from.  Some, I could not translate, though I remember seeing fish, lengua, and possibly cabeza.  I don’t remember much of the illustrated menu posted by the counter, but recall seeing seafood soup and a daily meal special that included nopal (cactus), which I adore.

I asked the man at the register for suggestions, and he earnestly steered me towards chorizo.   So, chorizo it was.

As I waited for torta, I sipped a glass of horchata.  Both cost about $9.  The two employees were very friendly and made everything fresh as families trickled in for their Sunday lunches.

My massive torta was filled with a griddled layer of crusty chorizo and toasty cheese.  It’s toppings included a healthy slick of mayo, smushed avocado, refried beans, shredded lettuce, chopped onion, and tomato.  Also, the bun was nicely toasted.

My torta tasted exactly how I had hoped and I dug into my sloppy sandwich.  I paused to share half with Jake.

He agreed that it was delicious, though we both bit into small bits of something hard.  My experience wasn’t unpleasant enough to ruin the sandwich, though Jake’s bite left him a little jolted.  I wonder if it came from the chorizo.

In summary, I felt the flavors were really beautiful.
As I drove along Payne Ave, I made mental notes of places I’d like to try during future visits home.  The area’s restaurants rarely seem to be mentioned and I look forward to exploring its food possibilities.

This Is Why We Didn’t Return To Ribfest & Chinese Take-Out from Snapdragon

Last Saturday, the four raucous days known as Ribfest passed (Wednesday, June 6 – Saturday, June 9th).

Since we live within earshot of the Ribfest stage erected in the Fargodome parking lot, our sleep had been a little worse than normal.  80’s hair bands and country music rocked our walls from 8-11 p.m. 

On Wednesday evening, we patiently waited until the concert was over before we slept.  On Thursday, the music began at 9 p.m.  I frantically unearthed our place, searching for an earplug.  Any earplug. Even a dirty, crusty one.  When my search ended in failure, I contemplated scotch or valerian root.  Fortunately, I fell asleep with neither.  Just a pillow wrapped tightly around my head.  

On Friday evening, we visited to sample some ribs.  I felt exhausted and left early.  Navigating through the tightly packed crowd proved challenging.

On Saturday afternoon, we settled in for an afternoon nap.  As soon as we began to fall asleep, 80’s hair bands started their extensive sound checks, tearing us from any catch-up sleep.  We shrugged and thought, “If you can’t beat them, join them.”  Then, we meandered towards the Fargodome.  I was longing for a blooming onion and we wanted to try other rib vendors. 

We stop to grab cash.  As I wait in line for the ATM, a strange man steps behind me.  He smells like liquor and asks us if the ATM has a limit.  Of course we have no idea, and he continues to spin woe-filled tales of ATM’s and dollar limits.  He and Jake make small talk about the stranger’s biking.

As I finish my transaction, I am jolted to attention when the looming stranger reads my full name from the ATM screen and announces it back to me.  Then he laughs. 

My feistiness activates.  I don’t acknowledge his comment or turn around, determined to finish the transaction as quickly as possible.  I debate whether I should ignore him or confront.   

The whole situation brings to mind the only time I ever confronted a stranger’s brazen inappropriateness.  One afternoon, when I lived in North Minneapolis, I visited the CVS on West Broadway.  As I exited the store, a man made obscene catcalls.  I was furious by the injustice of not being able to run an emerency errand for special lady products, unscathed, and told him (in other words) to “Go fly a kite.”  The man launched towards me as I sprinted towards my car.  I managed to shut and lock the door as his hand reached the handle.  I don’t remember much except driving like hell. 

This time, I kept my mouth shut.  Jake and I left the ATM and briskly walked towards the festival.  Suddenly, Jake beaconed me to run across the street while oncoming traffic raced towards us.  We turned around to see the strange man running after us.  After we passed the festival gates, we zigzagged through the crowd.  Jake caught the man staring at us. The man quickly looks away. 

We decided it was best to quietly leave and meandered through the exit.  Maybe we overreacted, maybe we didn’t.  All I know is that something didn’t feel right.  Jake is almost never rattled by anything but his instinct said to “leave” and so we listened.

I was annoyed that I got scared and annoyed that I didn’t get my blooming onion.  However, I was not annoyed about missing the Warrant concert. 

Fargo sits along the path to Western North Dakota’s chaotic oil activity.  I’m going to postulate that our location, a huge festival featuring meat and overflowing beer, and a concert by a band whose music rocks strip clubs everywhere might draw some interesting folks.

We ventured to Moorhead, MN, where I chose Chinese take-out from Snapdragon, a joint recommended by a co-worker.  We chose the Korean stir-fry with beef and vegetables, General Tso’s chicken (both extra spicy) and an order of crab wontons.  Our bill totaled approximately $28, plus tip.  

The Korean stir-fry actually contained some heat.  I’m not sure why the beef looked so pale, but it tasted like beef and contained fresh carrots, cabbage, mushrooms, and zucchini.  Baby corn never thrills me but overall, it was a solid stir-fry.


The General Tso’s chicken was crispy.  Maybe a little too chewy, but at least it wasn’t soggy.  The sauce was tangy and tasted like it might have contained ketchup.  Jake preferred this dish. 


Like every other version of cheese wontons, we enjoyed the crab-cheese wontons.  We received eight packed into a nifty foil-lined bag and dunked them in sweet and sour sauce.  Of the four Chinese food restaurants we have visited in Fargo-Moorhead, Snapdragon seemed the freshest.  However, we will continue our search for our favorite version and welcome your suggestions. 
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