Project Wonderful

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Oven Baked BBQ Ribs with Heirloom Tomato BBQ Sauce

Angela came home with a rack of baby back ribs. But with the Summer heat, I didn't feel like stoking the smoker and tending to it for 4 hours, so I decided to do the ribs in the oven instead.

To be honest, I'd never done ribs in an oven before. I always do them on a smoker. But the principals are essentially the same: low heat over a long period of time breaks down and renders out the fat so that the meat is tender, juicy and delicious. And with the right rub, the flavors are amazing.

Because these were going in the oven, I came up with a rub recipe that's great for use with meat that's not being smoked. By adding smoked paprika and hickory smoked sea salt, you still get the smoky flavors, but don't have to worry about tending to the smoker every hour.

In addition to the ribs, our front yard tomato garden has given us quite a few beautiful tomatoes this Summer. We were gifted a ton of heirloom tomato seeds, so we planted several varieties. Growing tomatoes in Texas is always a challenge, but I've found that brute-force gardening seems to work. Starting with quality soil rich in nutrients (mostly compost) and watering every other day has been the best way to beat the Texas heat. As a result, we've got a thriving garden bed that is producing lots of tomatoes right now. And with more on the way, the kitchen counter was quickly filling up, so I decided to turn the whole first batch into BBQ sauce for the ribs.

Technically if you have a rub, you don't also need a sauce as the two things compete for flavors and muddle everything up a bit. But since the tomato garden was exploding, I made a sauce too. It's a little on the vinegar side, so if you don't like vinegar based sauces, feel free to come up with a different recipe. Also, depending on which tomatoes you use, the flavor is going to be different. This particular batch was a mix of whatever was ready for harvest, so there are San Marzano's a few Black Icicles, some Juanne Flamme's, and one or two tomatoes that I cant quite identify.

Here's the recipes:

Rob's Rib Rub:

1Tbs Smoked Paprika
1Tbs granulated garlic
1Tbs Cumin
1Tbs onion powder
1Tbs brown sugar
2Tbs Hickory Smoked Sea Salt
1tsp dry mustard
1tsp white pepper
1tsp ground coriander

Pre-heat the oven to 225 degrees.

Lay the ribs meat side up in a baking dish and liberally sprinkle the rub over every inch. Rub it in with your hand. That's the best tool for the job .I've found its good to have one clean hand to hold the container of rub and one dirty hand to rub the rub into the meat. Don't forget the sides of the ribs!

Flip the ribs over (meat side down,) sprinkle the rub on the bone side and rub it in.

Wrap the baking dish with a sheet of aluminum foil and place it in the oven in the middle rack. Let this cook slowly for 3 1/2 to 4 hours.

Once the ribs are in the oven, start working on the BBQ sauce below.

After the ribs have cooked for the scheduled time, drain off the drippings and flip the ribs over so they are meat side up. Spoon some of the BBQ sauce onto the ribs and return them to the oven for another 20 minutes.

BBQ sauce:

3 lbs of garden tomatoes.  - peeled, crushed and de-stemmed
1 tbs olive oil
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 large sweet onion chopped
3 cloves of garlic minced
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/8 tsp chipotle powder
1 cup brown sugar
1 Tbs paprika
2 tsp dry mustard
1 1/2 cups of apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup quality bourbon

First thing to do is to blanch the tomatoes. Score the bottom of the tomato with a knife and dunk them in a pot of boiling water for about 30 seconds. Then remove and submerge them in a bowl filled with ice cubes and water. This rapid heating/ cooling will cause the skins to wrinkle and they should come right off with very little difficulty.

Place the peeled tomatoes in a colander in the sink and start crushing them apart. You don't need any fancy tools for this, just crush them with your hands (It's a very rewarding process!) Remove any bad spots, along with the center stem of the tomato. Seeds are going to go everywhere. That's why you do this in a sink.

You could also place the colander over a large bowl to catch the seeds and juice if you want to save the seeds for next year.

Once all the tomatoes are crushed, let them sit in the sink to drain off any excess liquid.

While the tomatoes are draining, toss the onions into a pot with the olive oil. Cook them under medium heat till they're translucent.

Add the chopped bell pepper and cook till softened.

Add the garlic and cook till the kitchen starts to fill with the smell of cooking garlic. Don't overcook them or they'll turn bitter.

Add the black pepper, chipotle powder, brown sugar, paprika, mustard and apple cider vinegar. Let this mixture simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently.

After 30 minutes, transfer the stewed mess to a blender - remember to remove the top fill cap of the blender and replace it with a loose paper towel. Hot ingredients when blended will expand rapidly. If the cap is on the lid, the whole thing could explode out of the blender. Blend the tomato mixture until its a fine puree and transfer this back to the pot. You may need to blend everything in batches.

Once the puree is back in the pot, add the 1/2 cup of bourbon. DONT USE THE CHEAP STUFF. You are going for flavor here, so use a whiskey that you like.

Set the pot on low heat and let this cook down for about 1 hour. You want everything to reduce to about half of its original quantity. This will thicken up the sauce nicely. If it starts getting too thick, add some more vinegar or water. If you think it's lacking anything, have a shot of whiskey until the thought subsides.

Serve the sauce in a bowl on the side.

And there you have it: oven-baked BBQ ribs with Heirloom BBQ sauce.

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