Thursday, January 20, 2011

Chris Grabenstein: My Cheating Ribs

I was already a fan of Chris Grabenstein the adult series author before he saw the light and started writing for younger readers. If you haven't read The Crossroads, Hanging Hill and The Smoky Corridor, you are missing one of the most intelligent, humorous, pleasurable reading series for middle grade/YA it has been my pleasure to encounter in memory. And my praise has nothing to do with the fact that he always has feisty librarians in the youth series and then gave me the huge honor of having a Mrs. Alessio in The Smoky Corridor. He does write award winning adult mysteries too, so don't miss those either. I'm delighted that Chris is helping us Warm Up with Flaming Foods today. -AA

My Cheating Ribs

John Ceepak, the fictional protagonist of my Jersey Shore murder mysteries lives his life in strict compliance with the West Point Cadet Honor Code. He will “not lie, cheat, or steal or tolerate those who do.”

I, on the other hand, will cheat when it comes to making my favorite fiery “grill” food: Barbecue Ribs.

Once upon a time, many moons ago, I owned a cabin in the northeast corner of Pennsylvania (I used it as the bad guy’s hideout in my thriller SLAY RIDE). One Saturday, when friends came to visit, I grilled ribs the regular way: slapped them on the Weber, slathered on the sauce, tonged them over a bunch of times, served them to rave reviews.

On Sunday, we decided to go for a walk in our woods.

“I’ll pop the leftover ribs in the oven while we go on our hike,” I announced.

I set the toaster oven at 150, covered the rib pan with a sheet of aluminum foil, and took off with my wife and friends for our thirty minute hike.

I can’t remember why — maybe it was a particularly beautiful day, maybe our visitors wanted to see every inch of our 32 acres, maybe I had to unexpectedly wrestle a bear — but, for whatever reason, the walk in the woods lasted for three hours.

Were those ribs ruined?

Nope. They were the best any of us had ever eaten.

From that day forward, whenever I cook ribs, I cheat! The bit with the flaming grill? It’s just for show and to get a little of that crispy BBQ sauce action going around the edges of the ribs.

First, when no one is looking, I toss the ribs in a rub (I recommend Rendezvous Rub from the world famous Memphis rib joint, which is sold all over the web). Then, I lay them in a pan tightly sealed under aluminum foil. I slide the covered pan into an oven preheated to 225 degrees and let them slow cook for 3-4 hours.

When the guests arrive and everybody is on their second beer, I toss the ribs on the sizzling grill and give them a little sauce (pick your favorite).

The meat will fall off the bone. You will lick your fingers with glee. Your friends will declare you a flaming genius!

Apparently, I’m not the only one who cheats. Here is an official slow cooked rib recipe I found:

Preheat oven to 225 degrees.

 Season your ribs with your favorite rib rub, grill seasoning, or simply salt and pepper.

 Place ribs, meat side down, in baking dishes.

 Cover the baking dishes with aluminum foil and place in the oven.

 If you are using small baby back ribs, take out after 3.5 hours. If you are using regular baby back or St. Louis style ribs, then take out after 4 hours.

Drain off the drippings. Flip the ribs over using two spatulas (and an extra set of hands if you have them) so the meat side is up. Be careful, as they may be so tender they fall apart.

 Put a layer of BBQ sauce on the ribs and return to the oven uncovered for an additional 20-30 minutes. (This is where I do the grill bit)

 Remove from oven and serve them up with a side of potato salad and some baked beans.

Chris Grabenstein is a New York Times Best Selling Author. The first book in his John Ceepak series, TILT A WHIRL, won the Anthony Award for “Best First Mystery.” Since then, Ceepak has appeared in five more books: MAD MOUSE, WHACK A MOLE, HELL HOLE, MIND SCRAMBLER, and ROLLING THUNDER. His Haunted Mysteries for middle school readers THE CROSSROADS, THE HANGING HILL, and THE SMOKY CORRIDOR — have also won The Anthony Award and two Agatha Awards for Best Children’s/YA Mystery. He also writes thrillers, plays, short stories, and grocery lists, many of which, in the summer, include ribs.

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