Let's Eat, Y'All!

It was a week of good food and good company!  Work is starting to kick my butt already emotionally (it's way too early for this nonsense) and we needed a good shot of food and family to be all better for the weekend.  I had some leftover pork ribs in the freezer from the boy's birthday and I decided to braise those for a few hours on Friday.  I absolutely have a love affair with braised meats.  It is so easy and the meat is succulent and tender when it is finished and the house smells amazing.  Those ribs were melt-in-your-mouth, fall-off-the-bone goodness. 

The best braised ribs we have ever had were at Craft restaurant when it was open in Atlanta.  Tom Colicchio's beef rib recipe is a work of art.  So simple, but deep down levels of flavor that make it taste exciting, yet so familiar at the same time.  It is the perfect comfort food.   I wanted that level of flavor but something more fitting for the pork.  I decided, of course, on bourbon.

I floured and seared all of the ribs in oil, working in batches.  This is important so listen up- if you crowd the pan, they won't sear right and get that luscious crust on them, they will only steam and piss you off.  Give them room in the pan, for heaven's sake.

The recipe is below.  It is going to seem like a bit much, but the most time intensive part of it is patting dry, dredging in flour, and pan searing.  Everything else just gets thrown in and put in the oven for hours.  And the smells coming from the oven...wow.

Bourbon and Mustard Braised Ribs
by Jennifer Brian Cheek

2 1/2-3 racks of pork ribs, cut in two or three rib sections
2 cups all purpose flour
salt and pepper
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs canola or peanut oil
1 large onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup plus 1/2 additional cup whole grain mustard
2 cups plus 1 additional cup bourbon
4 cups chicken stock
3 cups whole carrots, cleaned and cut into 3" sections
3 large Portobella mushrooms, cut into strips
6-7 whole sprigs of thyme
3 bay leaves

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  In a large dutch oven or other lidded, oven safe pot place 1/4 cup canola oil and turn to medium high heat.  While oil is heating, place 2 cups of flour in a brown paper bag.  Working in batches, pat meat dry, place in the bag, shake to coat.  Shake excess flour off of meat, generously salt and pepper, then sear in oil, turning to sear meat evenly.  When each batch is seared, remove from pot and let rest on a plate or cutting board until all ribs have been seared.

Empty oil and extra flour from pan, but do not clean pan.  Add 2 Tbs fresh oil to pan.  Add onion and garlic and saute until soft and bottom of pan is beginning to brown, about 3-4 minutes.  Add bourbon and deglaze pan, scraping up all of the browned bits from the pan.   Whisk mustard and stock into pan.  Generously salt and pepper.  Add ribs back to pot, turning them onto their sides so that all of the ribs will fit without being totally submerged in the cooking liquid.  Ideally the liquid should come up about 2/3 of the way up the sides of the meat.  Bring pot to boil on the stove top.  Cover, remove from heat, and place in oven.  Cook for 3 hours.  

At hour 3, remove lid, add additional cup of bourbon and 1/2 cup of mustard and stir.  Add carrots,  mushrooms, thyme, and bay leaves at this point.  Cover, return to oven, and cook for an additional 1 1/2-2 hours or until meat is very tender.  

Platter meat and vegetables.  Skim fat off of cooking liquid and place liquid in a small pitcher or gravy boat to serve alongside meat and veggies.  We served it with mashed potatoes and marinated tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions.  It was a divine Friday evening.  We followed it with Chocolate Chip Cookie sundaes and Mahjong.

My momma bakes the best Chocolate Chip Cookies I have ever had, but this recipe gave her a run for her money.  I needed kitchen therapy all week, so I baked these on Thursday evening.  

The recipe is located here and is the New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe.  It is a homerun.  It calls for good dark chocolate.  Use it.  We happened to have a stash of chocolate from French Broad in Asheville that we brought home back in June.  I cut it into chunks and added it.  I was scared it would overwhelm the cookie, but it worked.  

The recipe also calls for the dough to rest in the fridge overnight.  Not so sure it would make a difference, I baked half of them Thursday night and the second half Friday night after the rest.  Do the overnight in the fridge.  Deeper flavor, mellower chocolate.  Good stuff.  Heavenly with vanilla ice cream.

The coming week brings a going away dinner for some dear friends of ours that are moving to Asheville, a road trip to the mountains for my annual family reunion, and more menu planning.  And cocktails, of course.  Porch season is still in full swing even if my plants are all tired and ready to be finished.  In just a little while we will be trading the ferns for pumpkins.  I can't wait!   In the meantime, go make those ribs and cookies.  You won't be sorry.

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