Sweet and Sticky Carolina Style Ribs

This was a recipe that was originally published in The Irish Times a few weeks ago. You can find the article here and the original blog post here. I hope you give this recipe a try and let me know how you find it.
Ingredients (Large)
Baby Back Ribs (One Rack Per Person)

50g Salt
50g Black Pepper
50g Smoked Paprika
50g Garlic Powder
50g Onion Powder

400g Ketchup
50g Frenchie’s Mustard
50ml Worcestershire Sauce
50g Dark Muscavado Sugar
50ml Cider Vinegar
1Tbsp Golden Syrup or Honey

-Start off by preparing the ribs. If they have a lot of excess fat trim some of it off.
Step 1 (1) (Large)
Step 1 (2) (Large)
-Next up is to make the rub. In a small container, mix together the Salt, Pepper, Paprika, Garlic Powder and Onion Powder. Make sure it is well mixed together as sometimes the Garlic and Onion powder can clump together. This is your dry rub.
Step 2 (1) (Large)
Step 2 (2) (Large)
-Lightly sprinkle a layer of the dry rub all over the prepared ribs. Give the edges of the meat a little attention aswel, you don’t want to forget them.
Step 3 (Large)
-Preheat your oven to 140°c. Place the ribs on a wire rack or directly on the shelves of your oven about 5cms apart. I am incredibly lucky to have a smoker to use here and if you have one please do use it, don’t fuss if not, these are still going to taste incredible.
Step 4 (Large)
-While the ribs cook we can get to work on the BBQ Sauce. Place the Ketchup, Mustard, Worcestershire Sauce, Sugar, Vinegar, Syrup and one tablespoon of the dry rub into a small saucepan and cook over a medium heat until it has reduced and become really dark and thick. Be sure to stir it every five minutes or so to stop it burning.
Step 5 (1) (Large)
Step 5 (2) (Large)
Step 5 (3) (Large)
-After the ribs have been cooking for about two hours check to see how they are getting on. Take a tooth pick and poke it into the meat, if it still feels firm then it needs more cooking. If however the meat begins to feel loose and soft then you are nearly there. Another test is to try to fold the ribs, as soon as they start to break instead of folding then you are good to go.
Step 6 (Large)
-Using a small brush or even a spoon, baste the ribs with the BBQ Sauce. You don’t want too much, just a thin coating. Place them back in the oven and continue cooking them for about thirty or forty minutes.
Step 8 (Large)
-Take out the ribs when the sauce has caramelised on the top of the ribs and the meat is soft but not falling apart. You still want the ribs to have a little bite to them.
Finished (2) (Large)
-There’s nothing left to do now other than serve them up with a little of the BBQ Sauce and a few pickles or a pile of slaw. Enjoy.

The Irish Times – The Story of How I Moved to London

So very recently I had the privilege of being asked to write a piece for the Generation Emigration section of Ireland’s national newspaper; The Irish Times. It was a really exciting opportunity and getting to write down the story of how I ended up living in London was very interesting indeed.

I have posted a link to the article here but the full post is below. Thanks for reading.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

I was tempted away from Ireland by a guy from Kerry making me a job offer I couldn’t refuse. My first experience of Barbecoa was during a frenzied call about whether I would be free to work at a festival that weekend. It was a Barbecue festival. All day Friday, all day Saturday and all day Sunday. I got this call on a Thursday evening. I would be managing the demo tent. I immediately agreed.

I had been working as a chef in a Mediterranean style place in Dublin but my heart had always been with Barbecue, so the opportunity to work at Ireland’s first big Barbecue festival was not one I could pass up. When I showed up the next morning I was introduced to John, the then Head Chef of Barbecoa, a high end steak and smoke house right by St Pauls Cathedral in London. He is one of the craziest, goofiest and off the wall characters you could ever hope to meet, no surprise then when I realised he was from Duagh, a place in Kerry that is not so much a town as it is a slightly wider bit of road.

As soon as we met we immediately hit it off. He was at the festival doing five or six demos a day and I was basically there to assist him in whatever way he needed. This ultimately came to him and me brainstorming all sorts of things we could do and try in our area with our few little smokers. We were making beer-can chickens and whole shoulders of pork. We cooked steaks, smoked duck breast and broke down whole lambs into primal cuts and smoked them all day. That’s not to mention the main event. A pit smoker made out of cinder blocks. This thing was huge, two metres wide and three long. Into this pit we placed a whole pig, Carolina style BBQ. It was an incredible thing to see. John had previously worked with one of the modern godfathers of Barbecue, Adam Perry Lang and had been running a barbecue restaurant for four years. So, needless to say, I learned more about smoking in that weekend than in every day of my life leading up to it.

By the end of the first day he was telling me how I had to come to Barbecoa and try the food, “Next time you are in London give me a shout, come in for dinner, see the kitchen.” The next day it had progressed to “You have to come over for a week to work with us, you have to!” That night he started saying jokingly “Well once I get you in my kitchen I don’t think I will want to let you go. You might have to stay and work with us forever.” I knew he was joking and I didn’t really consider it an offer but it stuck in my head. The final night we wrapped up the demo tent and as we were bidding each other goodbye, I asked him, “So about that job offer in London, were you being serious?” Not really knowing what answer to expect, or what answer I was looking for, I waited. For the first time all weekend, he dropped his goofy grin and looked me dead in the eye; “Absolutely.”

Cut to; Six Months Later

I arrived in London, a bag full of chef uniforms over my shoulder and my knife case under my arm. I walked into Barbecoa in a mingling state of terror and excitement not entirely sure of what to expect. The restaurant was four times bigger than anywhere else I had previously worked and it was in a discipline of food I had only really done in a very amateur setting. Also I had just moved away from my family, my girlfriend and all of my friends. There was a lot riding on this going well. I had to do a trial shift, just so the Executive Chef could see what I could do. It did not go well. Somewhere along the line, between the pressure and the new environment something clicked and I messed it up, definitely not my best day of work ever.

But thankfully, they decided to keep me. Over the next six months I worked my ass off in every corner of the kitchen I could and they soon made me Pitmaster which was an incredible honour. Now I work every day with amazing chefs cooking stunning quality food. I have met wonderful people and I continue to learn from them every day of the week. I get to spend my days basting ribs and seasoning pulled pork and slicing beef ribs and building fires. I can honestly say without an ounce of irony that this is my dream job. And that is, I suppose why I left. To find my dream job. To get out and see the world. To live in other countries and meet new people and try new foods.

Before I met John I had no idea where my life was going but I did have the thought of moving abroad in my head. Then he showed up and gave me exactly what I wanted, all wrapped up in a nice little package. Now, equally I have no idea where I am going, so who knows what the future will hold? Maybe a random encounter with another mad leprechaun is only around the corner, waiting to whisk me off on the next adventure. Till then, if you need me, I’ll be the guy in the cloud of smoke playing with meat.

My Top Ten BBQ Tips

1 – Asses Your Kit
-Use what you have got to the best of it’s abilities. If you have a smoker, break out the brisket. If you just have a small, discount supermarket grill then learn how to make the most kick-ass grilled meats, burgers and vegetables.

2 – Fuel
-Use the best fuel you can get your hands on that is suited to your needs. Charcoal and wood are your two main contenders here. If you are going for a grill, a high quality charcoal and a few woodchips soaked in water is your best bet but if you are planning on a long slow smoke then big pieces of oak and beech will be your friend.
DPP5003 (Large)
3 –The Main Event
-Whatever you decide to cook, again go with the best quality you can get your hands on. Think about what you want to cook. If you want good ribs, get good ribs. If you want burgers, get chuck steak mince with a high quantity of fat. If you want a huge spread of salads get fresh fruits and vegetables from the market. It’s not every day we roll out the grill (unfortunately) so when you do push the boat out a little.

4 – Prep your food.
-Salt your courgettes/aubergines for ten minutes before cooking. Oil squashes well. If you are using big, slow cuts like Jacobs ladder, then trim a good bit of the thick, white fat off of them. Fat is an insulator and if you leave too much on there the meat below won’t cook evenly.

5 – Seasonings and Rubs
-Make up a good quality rub for all of your barbecuing needs. I would recommend some combination of salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder and onion powder. For barbeque rubs I don’t think you should go with more than four/five ingredients. The flavours will just get lost with the strong tastes.

-If you want to up your game, make up a different rub for all of your favourite dishes. Chicken, fish, beef and even vegetables can get a serious boost from a great, individual rub.

6 – Cooking Prep
-When heating your grill, make sure to set up the fire and coals about forty minutes before you want to actually start cooking. This will allow the coals to heat up properly. You know they are ready when they all turn white with ash.

7 – Basting.
-There are many schools of thought here but my personal favourite way to keep food moist while cooking is an arousal spray. I use equal parts water, cider vinegar and apple juice. This helps keep the outside moist and develop a great bark of flavour with the seasoning.
DPP5012 (Large)
8 – Cooking process.
-While cooking slow cook meats it is important to make sure they don’t all dry out. The best way to combat this is wrapping them. I find wrapping in foil does the job for me but you can wrap in butcher paper or even cloth if you have some around. Wrap meats for the final third of the cook time to balance the smoke flavour with the internal moisture.

9 – Sauce
-BBQ Sauce is one of the most important things when laying out a smoky spread. I recommend finding a simple recipe online (might I recommend this one, or this one.) and playing around with it yourself. Everyone has their own tastes when it comes to sauces and it all about finding your own.

10 – Serving
-When serving up your wares it is importing to stick the landing to seal that perfect Ten from the judges. Let beef and port rest for twenty minutes. Serve chicken and fish as soon as possible. Let vegetables rest in a simple dressing for five minutes.
DPP5038 (Large)

The Worst Food

I used to not really like food that much. Shocker I know. I never disliked food either but up until I was about twelve I viewed it pretty much exclusively in two forms. Form 1) Fuel, Form 2) Variations of chocolate.

I came from a big family and every Christmas for the big dinner it would be “all hands on deck.” As a kid with my hands being smaller than most I was relegated to the job of cutting parsley in a mug with a pair of scissors. I hated that job and the smell of bruised parsley to this day brings me back to that annoying time before I was given a real job.

Eventually I was upgraded to “here, peel that” before a bag of carrots was thrust upon me. It was truly a great day in my history.

The Cookbook Chronicles

My favourite cookbook I have ever read has got to be Momofuku by David Chang and Peter Meighan. This book tells the story of David Chang set up his first, second and third restaurants across his three year meteoric rise from west village noodle bar to a Beard award winning culinary freight train. He is now one of the most influential Chefs in America, possibly the world with restaurants in Canada and now Australia.

The book is broken up into three distinct parts, each part for each of the first three restaurants he opened. Each section tells the story of the opening of the restaurants and guides you through the recipes and dishes that were on the menu when they first opened.

Throughout the book he keeps coming back to the idea of Authenticity vs Deliciousness and which is more important.

He talks about the search for “Authenticity” as a fool’s errand. Authenticity is an un-quantifiable entity. Especially when trying to recreate something like Tokyo Ramen on the streets of Manhattan. It’s impossible, the ingredients are different, the customers are different, the cooks are different, hell even the water in the taps is different.

Instead he says that it is far more important that first and foremost, your food be delicious than for it to follow some impossible notion of authenticity. When I go out for food I want good food made well. I don’t want food made in a pastiche of a dish without any of the correct ingredients or techniques.

“Is it delicious?” should always be your first question when making a dish.

When he talks about inventing new dishes for his Japanese inspired noodle bar he comes directly up against this conflict early on when making a base for his ramen broth. Ramen broth will usually contain a very strong smoky element in the form of katsuobushi which is a dried, smoked and fermented product made from bonito fish. He talks about trying to find a similar high quality product made in the states but without much luck. He then stumbled upon Alan Benton, a gentleman who makes what is reported to be the greatest smoked bacon in the world. Dave used this smoky bacon instead of the katsuobushi as the base for his Dashi. In that dish, his philosophy was formed. To take the idea and flavour of a traditional dish, and recreate it using the best of what you have on offer to you.

That is the kind of authenticity that David Chang believes in. Authenticity to the ingredients, not to a certain way of doing things with a certain exact set of ingredients.

It is worth noting also that the recipes in this book are extremely well put together, relying a lot on ratios and feelings more than the usual exact science of recipe writing. The photos are incredibly candid and natural. Most being from Chang’s personal collection of things he and his friends had swapped over the years.

Overall the book paints a really true and honest story about what being a chef in a restaurant kitchen is really like and all of the insanity that goes with it. I love cookbooks but sometimes with the prevalence of “Back to basics” and “Easy quick dinners” books it’s hard for me to get my hands on a cookbook I can really relate to. A book that speaks to me creatively and challenges me to cook better than I did today. This book is exactly that. The story is inspirational in a way that I could see it being my story in five or ten years time. The recipes are accessible but force me to think outside my comfort zone. The photos are scenes I see on a daily basis in work.

This book feels very much like a book made by cooks for cooks about cooks.

An absolute must read for anyone who takes food, or any form of creativity, seriously.

NBP – Never Be Paolo

I was re-watching Glengarry Glen Ross the other day. Alec Baldwin with the “Always Be Closing” speech. ABC. After watching the film I started to think if there was something like that that I could apply to life as a chef? Nothing immediately came to mind but then I remembered this guy Paolo. Let me tell you a little bit about Paolo.

A few years ago I worked as a waiter for a steak frittes place in Dublin.
It was a cute little restaurant in the city center, fifty seats, a bar, open kitchen, homely.
The kind of place you go when you don’t fancy cooking for the family on a Wednesday night but equally don’t fancy TGI Fridays.
When I started there, one of the first people to introduce themselves to me was one of the long standing fry-cook’s; Paolo.
He was a super peppy, late twenties Venezuelan dude. His body seemed to be constantly in motion. A subconscious rhythm that flowed through him.
His feet tapped out a bass beat, the steel tongs in his right played the high-hats on the fryer basket and his left hand gave us the snare drum on the cloche he used to steam burger buns.
This man was the embodiment of a good mood.

Everyone loved Paolo. He remembered the names of everyone’s boyfriends and when everyone’s birthdays were.
He made a point of shaking your hand with a kiss on the cheek when you came in in the morning. The first few weeks I was there I loved Paolo too.
We riffed well with each other and would laugh constantly when on a station together.
My perception of things started to change one I got to know the head Chef a little better.

Mike was also a really great guy but as soon as he put on his whites he was just as much of a hard ass as any other chef worth their salt.
He ran a tight ship in that kitchen. Six cooks, three KPs. But he seemed to have a soft spot for Paolo and let him away with a lot more shit than he ever should have.
You see, despite the fact that Paolo was super peppy and friendly and made strong connections with people, despite the fact that he taught me how to question the virtue of someone’s mother in Spanish, despite all of this, Paolo was terrible at his job.

Don’t get me wrong, the guy could cook most people under the table when it came down to it. He could give you the internal temperature of a 10oz Fillet from across the room and brunoise a carrot into a near microscopic dust.
But while all of that is a fantastic asset for a kitchen to have, that’s not the whole picture. He was great at the work, he just wasn’t a great worker.

He came to work late constantly. He couldn’t keep up with his prep before service. He Never sharpened his knives so was always knicking them from other people. He would go days without changing his apron, thank God we had a laundry service for our whites.
He would never label his containers of sauces or herbs correctly, if at all. He would come in hungover at least one morning a week, when that happened the guys in the kitchen couldn’t count on him for anything.
And I think that’s what it came down to. Not being able to rely on him. Having no faith that he could do they job they needed him to do.

Life in a kitchen is a bit mental. Hours. Heat. Cuts. Burns.
With customer requests and waiters shouting orders at you and a docket machine incessantly clicking away in the corner all night long it’s no small wonder that it attracts an odder set than most professions.
In that kind of crucible you need to know that the guy to your right has your back. You need to know that you can lean on him when the orders are piling in and there seems like there is no end in sight. You need to be a team. And you just weren’t with Paulo.
He was too concerned with being the friendliest guy in the room. With having everyone like him. And also, as I only found out later, with badmouthing everyone, behind everyone else’s back.
He never had a good thing to say about management or the hostess or the bar tender. This kind of two facedness is something that eats away at a kitchen team.

Mike the Head Chef had a soft spot for Paolo because if nothing else, Paolo was clever.
He never bad mouthed to Mike, he would do a much better job when Mike was watching and no matter how bad you are at your job being the (albeit apparent) whirlwind of positivity is a great way to get kept around.
Eventually though it just became too much. Too many shifts that were almost ruined by his lack of preparation. Too many complaints from other staff that they didn’t trust him. Too much time spent wondering, “He is talking to me about so and so behind their back but what is he saying to them about me behind my back.”
Mike and Paolo had a confrontation. Paolo decided to leave. Everyone was sad. Paolo left. Everyone was not so secretly relieved.

We got a new guy in, fresh off the boat as it were from Brazil. Showed to work on time. Smashed out his prep in the morning and kept his pace during service. Nice guy, but genuine. I don’t think anyone really noticed the effect Paolo was having until he was gone but everything seemed to flow a little easier after that.

So that’s the story of Paolo, The Not-So-Great Great Guy. And this is how I came to my all-encompassing theory about being a good line cook.
N-B-P. Never Be Paolo.
Come to work on time. Have a clean uniform and groom yourself well. Keep your knife kit sharp and well maintained. When you get in to work get your prep done and boxed off. Label everything correctly. Fill out your HACCP sheets regularly and accurately. If you do come to work still reeling from the night before, push through it, p
rove that while you are human and have a life outside of the kitchen you can still push out the work when the time comes.

But most importantly of all, try to be a good person. Be a team player. Pull your weight so that everyone can pull together. Every day Mike came in he would worry about Paolo.
Was he on time today, would he come in at all. Were fries being blanched, did he have everything backed up, he usually didn’t.
Paolo was a drain on the head Chef; he MVP of every kitchen team. You never want to be that guy. NBP – Never be Paolo. You want to be like any of the other chef in that restaurant that Mike never had to think about. He never stood on the line wondering if Leon had his stock reducing, of course he did. Did Lucas have his Mise En Place for the special done? Always.
Does Paolo even have salt on his station today? Maybe not? NBP – Never Be Paolo.

Life in the kitchen can get pretty shitty at times. Quite often one of the only things that gets you through that is the team, the guy to your right, the chef calling your dockets, the kp bussing your pans. You know they have your back. They knows you have theirs. Everyone is all about the Team. Paolo wasn’t. NBP. Never Be Paolo.

Food Blogging Workshop – 30th June

Hey guys, so since I arrived in London a few months ago I have been trying to get out into the real world and meet new people in many ways. One of these ways has been working with an awesome company here in the East End of London called Echo. Basically Echo run a community of business people/chefs/musicians/techies/IT gurus and all many of exciting persons from all walks of life. The idea being that they all share their knowledge, passion and expertise with each other using an economy of hours. One hour of time is one Echo. Going to a workshop about podcasting will cost you two Echos. Teaching someone how to cook in their home for a few hours will earn you three Echos. And so on.

It is a really cool company and one I can definitely see myself working with a lot in the future. Starting with this one. On Tuesday the 30th of June I will be giving a little workshop in Food Blogging in Commune Café near Old Street.

Though by no means an expert I have learned a few bits and pieces about the foodie blogosphere over the last few years and if you are in any way interested in starting a food blog (or any blog for that matter) I would recommend you come along. It’s going to be a fun evening.

I’ll see you on the 30th.

http://economyofhours.com/listing/?id=1546

The day to day misadventures of a trainee Barbeque Chef living in London.

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