Baby Back Ribs-Three Methods

Amanda and I have been friends for quite a while so it’s not too surprising when we’re in sync. This post was a happy accident since we had been discussing how we were culinarily going to enjoy the big game (as we often do–other people must think I’m so nosy when I ask what they plan to cook that long weekend/holiday/etc but I just want to go on a food journey with everyone!) and we had both independently decided on ribs!

I had recently received an electric pressure cooker over the holidays, which I am quite enjoying and I had heard that ribs were the real masterpiece to come out of one of those appliances. Naturally, this seemed like the perfect excuse to try these out.

Sadly, I also had to say goodbye to my trusty Immersion Circulator after it malfunctioned beyond repair, but I happily replaced it with a different brand and was anxious to try it out! I have so far stayed away from sharing any Sous Vide recipes on this blog, though it is the small appliance I use probably the most in my kitchen (yes, more than my rice cooker). Immersion Circulators are gaining popularity but they’re still very niche and aren’t quite making an appearance in everyone’s homes as say, a slow cooker. Thankfully, since Amanda was also feeling making some ribs in a more accessible way, we decided to utilize and share all three methods! Sadly, there are no pictures of the oven method at the moment because Amanda’s results were so delicious they disappeared before photographing but spoiler alert: you pretty much can’t go wrong here.

Ingredients:

  • One Rack of Baby Back Pork Ribs,
  • Salt & Pepper, and optionally any dry rub blend of your choice.
  • 1 8oz bottle of your favorite Barbeque sauce (having lived in Texas I’m partial to Stubbs, Franklin’s and Salt Lick brands).
  • 3/4 cup of beef broth or water (for the Pressure cooker method only)

Amanda’s Oven Method Instructions: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Season the ribs with salt/pepper/dry rub of choice and place on a baking sheet.
  3. Bake the ribs for one hour or until internal temperature reaches at least 190°F. Brush with sauce and serve.

Electric Pressure Cooker Method Instructions: 

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  1. Season the ribs with salt/pepper and any additional seasonings of your choice if desired. Portion the ribs in to 2-3 rib sections so they will fit in the cooker.
  2. Add about 1/4 cup of your bottle of barbecue sauce along with 3/4 cup of liquid (water or broth) to the bottom of the pressure cooker. Add your rib portions to the pot by stacking them or lining the sides. Don’t worry if everything is not submerged.
  3. Close the lid of your pressure cooker and cook on high pressure for 40 minutes. Allow the pressure to release naturally.
  4. Once the pressure is released, open your pressure cooker and spoon some of the sauce in the bottom over all of the ribs (carefully!).
  5. Preheat your broiler to high. Remove the ribs from the cooker and place them onto a sheet pan.
  6. Brush the ribs with your bottled barbecue sauce and broil for 2 minutes on each side.
  7. Brush with additional sauce if desired and enjoy!

Instructions (Sous Vide Method)–This one takes a while so plan accordingly

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  1. Preheat a water bath with your immersion cooker to 145 degrees (62 C).
  2. Slice the ribs into manageable sections–about 2-3 rib portions.
  3. Season the ribs with salt, pepper.
  4. Place the ribs into sealable, airtight plastic bags (see step 4 on options for bags) that the ribs are not stacked on top of one another, but they can be next to each other. If you need multiple bags for this, go for it. Add about 1-2 tbsp of your favorite barbecue sauce to each bag with ribs inside.
  5. Seal the meat in the bags using one of two methods:
    1. You can use traditional zip top bags (I’d recommend a heavy duty, freezer type bag) and using water displacement. To do this, place the bag into the water bath with a small portion of the top unsealed and sink as the air escapes through the top. Try to get out as much air as you can and seal fully. Secure in the water bath with a clip to prevent floating.
    2. Use a vacuum food sealer system if you happen to have one. If you are fortunate to have a Sous Vide Cooker in your home, I cannot recommend a food sealer enough.Make sure you use the “wet” sealing option if you have it since there is sauce in the bag.
  6. Secure the ribs in the water bath and cook for 18-24 hours.
  7. Once timing is finished, remove from the bags, place on a sheet pan. Brush with additional sauce if desired and broil in the oven for about 2 minutes on each side. This is not completely necessary from a cooking standpoint, but does make for a yummy looking finished product.
  8. Enjoy!

Wine Pairing: Since the perfect complement can really depend on your sauce or rub preferences, you could  go as bold as a Zinfandel, but I think a nice, chilled Rosé would go great with any of your customizations. The lightness and tartness would pair well with those notes in the sauce, and it adds a summery, grill-out type of feel to your evening. Happy sipping!

Tropical Layer Cake with Guava and Lime

I blame Netflix and The Great British Bake Off for this recipe. Merideth has been a longtime fan and I’ve finally caught on. I can’t help but crave sugary goodness after watching an episode (ok, many episodes).Since I’ve never been great at baking (so many precise measurements!), I decided to start with a basic layer cake. Excited about my upcoming trip to Miami for a long weekend, I decided to go with some tropical fruit flavors. Plus, it has juice so its healthier too, right?

Besides being patient during the cake-baking process, the biggest challenge was molding the fondant – the candy dough that I chose to decorate with. I bought this premade and dyed the fondant myself. My first note to self – make cuts in the fondant to insert the dye, rather than mixing it directly on the surface. I came away with pink hands! Second, and something I wish I had Googled before starting – the fondant can get sticky, especially as you work the dyes in. Like flouring your hands for bread dough, you can use powdered sugar to prevent stickiness.

Ingredients

Guava Cake

  • 1 cup guava nectar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1 tbs baking powder
  • 5 egg whites

Guava Jelly

  • 2 cups guava nectar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch

Lime and Coconut Frosting

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tbs regular or coconut rum
  • 1 tbs lime zest, optional
  • 3 drops food coloring, or as needed

Instructions

Guava Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease cake pans.
  2. Combine guava nectar and vanilla and, separately, combine flour and baking powder. Set aside.
  3. Beat butter until creamy, then gradually adding sugar until light and fluffy.
  4. Alternate adding nectar and flour mixture in small portions, beginning with flour, to the butter mixture. Beat at low speed after each addition until fully combined.
  5. Beat egg whites until still peaks form and fold into batter.
  6. Bake until toothpick dipped in center comes out clean, or about 20-25 minutes.
  7. Cool pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Remove from pans to wire racks and allow to cool.
  8. To assemble cake, set aside two layers. Spoon guava jelly into center of bottom layer. Top with second layer and smooth edges with bread knife as necessary.
  9. Spread frosting over the top layers and top with shredded coconut or your preferred decoration. Enjoy!

Guava Jelly

  1. Dissolve sugar in guava nectar in saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. Make a paste of the cornstarch by adding a bit of water.
  3. Remove nectar from heat and stir in cornstarch.
  4. Once blended, return to heat and boil for 1 minute. Cool in refrigerator before use.

Lime and Coconut Frosting

  1. Beat butter until creamy. Gradually add powdered sugar and beat until smooth and fluffy.
  2. Stir in vanilla extract until combined, then lime juice and rum, as well as food coloring and lime zest if using. Beat with a mixer until spreadable and fluffy.

 

Grown Up “Spaghetti-O’s”

For this week, Amanda and I were looking to make a dish that could be served in a bowl. She went above and beyond and made an amazing Gumbo, so I wanted to go for a more simple, weeknight vibe. When I think back on an easy, comforting dinner in a bowl from my childhood, that can of Spaghetti-O’s which were only minutes from de-tinning to dinner table came to mind.

Of course, posting an article about opening a can would have made for a very easy Distance Dishes skype date with Amanda but probably not the best writing, so I wanted to adult-up this classic a bit. I’ve recently been on a spinach kick so I thought that might be an easy, delicious way to add some nutrition and color to perhaps make that glass of wine with dinner a little less guilt-inducing. Additionally, this recipe can easily be vegan-ified by using non-dairy milk and omitting the sausages if you prefer.

The beauty of this dish is it can be as simple or as complicated as you like. The recipe calls for some tomato sauce which can be bought or homemade. I made a Basic Tomato Sauce to go in this dish which can be built upon your tastes, or you go for that jar in the store if that’s what makes you happy! Either way, this makes for a nice, simple dinner with some healthy elements so you can treat yourself later.

Ingredients: 

  • 3-4 Italian chicken sausages, casings removed
  • 8 oz of small, cooked pasta
  • 1 cup of the starchy pasta water
  • 2 cups of tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup milk (non-dairy works)
  • 2 tsp nutritional yeast (optional, could also use a sharp cheese or omit altogether)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • Pinch of salt to taste depending on your tomato sauce
  • 2 cups baby spinach

Instructions:

  1. Remove the casings from the chicken sausages if they have them. Slice into 1/2″ thick pieces and sear in a pan until fully cooked/heated.
  2. Meanwhile, cook your pasta in salted water and drain while al dente. Be sure to save 1 cup of the starchy water for the sauce.
  3. In a medium saucepan, heat the tomato sauce over low-medium heat and add the starchy water, milk, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes and a small pinch of salt if needed.
  4. Once fully incorporated and heated through, remove from heat. Stir in the spinach and allow to wilt in the sauce for 1-2 minutes.
  5. Stir in your pasta and sausages and serve. Goes well with some nice, crusty bread as well.

Wine Pairing: Since this can be on the spicy side with the sausages and the pepper flakes, you want a wine that can stand up to those flavors. While this is hardly authentic, you could keep with the Italian theme and go with a Chianti to pair. Usually a Chianti is bold enough to go with a lot of seasoning, and should bring out the flavors nicely. 

Basic Tomato Sauce

This is a great, basic sauce that can be enjoyed on your favorite pasta or can be part of a bigger recipe, such as the “Grown Up Spaghetti-O’s”. You can customize this recipe with your preferred tastes by adding more herbs of your liking, but this can be a great starting point wherever your saucy cooking may take you.

Ingredients: 

  • 1 tbsp olive oil (not extra virgin) or vegetable oil
  • 10 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 yellow onion, diced.
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 3 tbsp basil, chiffonade
  • 1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • Salt & Pepper

Instructions: 

  1. In a wide saute pan or saucepan over medium heat, add the vegetable oil and garlic and stir for 1-2 minutes. Do not let the garlic brown.
  2. Add the onion and bell pepper to the pan and saute until the onions are becoming translucent and the mixture is fragrant.
  3. Add your tomatoes, basil and a bit of salt and pepper (you can add more later) and lower the heat. Allow to simmer for 30 minutes, stirring every 5-10 minutes.
  4. Using an immersion blender or allowing the mixture to cool slightly and transferring to a regular blender (be careful of the heat) break up the larger chunks of vegetables to your preferred consistency.
  5. Taste your sauce and adjust the salt/pepper level to your liking and it is ready to serve on top of pasta, as a bread dipping sauce or any other purpose you’d like. Enjoy!

Wine Pairing: Although you can also wait until you choose a protein to choose your wine pairing, tomatoes can certainly be the dominating flavor of a dish. A Sangiovese might pair nicely with this sauce which is usually tart, and can be rustic with higher acidity. This can be a nice addition to the tomato sauce here. Enjoy!

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File Gumbo

Merideth and I share a lot of the same tastes in food including, as we discussed over one of our recent Distance Dishes dinners, food that can be served in bowls! For me, this is mostly for convenience (read: laziness), but combining food in one pot also gives the flavors a chance to blend together.

This dinner happened to fall right before Mardi Gras, so I thought something Creole would be fun! Plus, it gave me an excuse to go spice shopping (I have the Room of Requirement of spices) to get file powder. File powder is ground sassafras root that serves as a thickener stirred in just before serving and adds a sweet flavor. I also used homemade seafood stock with the peeled shells of the shrimp I needed and vegetable scraps (carrot tops, onion skins, celery hearts) that I save in the freezer. Store bought works as well, but homemade has better sodium content and makes me feel good for upcycling kitchen scraps!

Ingredients

  • 4 cups vegetable or seafood stock (homemade recipe here)
  • 2 tbs canola oil
  • 2-3 diced medium onions (about 1 cup)
  • 4 diced celery stalks
  • 2 chopped bell peppers
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp hot sauce, or more to taste
  • 1 tbs creole mix seasoning
  • 3/4 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 lb crab meat
  • 1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined (reserve shells for seafood stock, if making homemade)
  • 1 1/2 tbs file powder

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Instructions

  1. Heat oil in large pot. Add onions, celery, and green pepper and saute until onions brown lightly.
  2. Add garlic, hot pepper sauce, and creole seasoning. Stir frequently and saute for 4 minutes.
  3. Add tomato sauce and simmer for 3 minutes. Add stock and summer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add shrimp and crab meat. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.
  5. Just before serving, add file powder and stir to combine.

Wine Pairing: Just before I made this recipe, I received my seasonal subscription from my local winery! I signed up for a mixed shipment hoping to broaden my horizons past red wine, and one of the white wines, a Viognier, was just what I needed for the gumbo. It has a little bit of the rich oak taste that makes wines like Chardonnay pair so well with shellfish, but has a fruitness that tones down the spice from the hot sauce. Refreshing!

Dark Chocolate Avocado Mousse Eclairs

When Amanda and I had this Distance Dishes date, Valentines Day was just around the corner so we wanted to make some recipes that were insanely decadent. To me, that meant something incredibly chocolatey. While an eclair might not seem like the logical first choice, I had some leftover raw cacao paste kicking around my pantry and I thought this might be the perfect vehicle to incorporate some.  I also wanted to do something a little different with the filling, so an avocado mousse seemed like a great experiment.

The result was this celebration of dark chocolate that was so rich, and had a chocolate flavor more pure than I’d experienced in a pastry before. The topping and the filling themselves seemed like they might be too much when combined in one bite, but the buttery pastry breaks it up perfectly and adds in another dimension of flavor. If you have some time to make these, I highly recommend it.

Pate a Choux

I used this recipe without the extra salt: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/sweet-or-savory-pate-a-choux-recipe

Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 stick butter (6 tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar plus 1/8 teaspoon salt (for sweet)
  • 5 3/4 ounces flour (about 1 1/4 cup)
  • 4 large eggs and 2 whites

Instructions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In a saucepan over medium heat, boil the water, butter, salt and sugar.
  3. Add the flour and remove from the heat. Stir until a ball forms and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
  4. Transfer the ball to a stand mixer and turn on to the lowest stir setting.
  5. Add the eggs one at a time making sure each one is fully incorporated before moving on to the next.
  6. Once all the eggs are added you can check to make sure your dough is the right consistency by checking if it falls off the paddle to your mixer in v-like sheets. If it is too thick, you may need an additional egg white.
  7. Transfer dough to a piping bag or a plastic zip top bag with a hole cut in one corner, and pipe onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper into lines about 3-4 inches long, 2 inches apart.
  8. Turn the oven down to 35o and cook for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
  9. Once they are cooked, upon removing them from the oven, pierce the sides with a small knife to release steam. This will help them not to collapse in on themselves.
  10. Allow to cool fully and they will be ready for assembly.

Avocado Mousse Filling

Ingredients: 

  • 3 Ripe avocados
  • 1/2 cup of raw cacao paste broken into chunks or cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup of agave syrup or maple syrup (granulated sugar will also work)
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

Instructions: 

  1. Peel and mash the avocados in a food processor or blender.
  2. If using cacao paste, heat it over low-medium heat until the chunks are melted. Be careful to keep stirring so that the chocolate does not burn. Add in your sweetener of choice and stir. If using cocoa powder add it and the sweetener directly to the food processor.
  3. Add the cacao mixture to the food processor along with the vanilla extract and salt and pulse until everything is blended.
  4. If the mousse is too bitter for you, feel free to add more sweetener as needed. This can be enjoyed by itself as a tasty dessert treat, or can be the delicious filling for our eclairs.

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Dark Chocolate Ganache Icing

Note: You can find a more traditional recipe for ganache from my previous Chocolate and Peanut Butter Pie post–this is an alternative using raw cacao paste, but feel free to substitute the other recipe as it may be easier to acquire the ingredients. 

Ingredients: 

  • 2/3 cup of raw cacao paste, broken into chunks or cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup agave syrup or maple syrup (granulated sugar will also work)
  • 3/4 cup of heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

Instructions: 

  1. Heat the heavy cream over medium low heat so that it is close to but does not boil. Be sure to stir frequently to ensure that it does not burn.
  2. Reduce the heat to low and add the cacao and sweetener to the pan and stir frequently until all the chunks are melted and the mixture is fully incorporated.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Keep warm for eclair assembly.

Assembly: 

  1. Transfer the avocado mousse to a piping bag or something with a piping tip.
  2. Using the side you pierced with a knife already, pipe the mousse into the end of the choux pastry. Be sure to full them as much as you can without overfilling them.
  3. Once all are filled with the mousse, dip the tops into the ganache and allow to cool in the fridge.
  4. After all your hard work, these are ready to be enjoyed! To save yourself one long stint in the kitchen, the choux shells freeze well when they are unfilled so you can make them in advance. In addition, the mousse can also be made one day in advance, but just make sure you don’t eat it all if you want to save some for piping. Enjoy!

 

Wine pairing: With this ode to dark chocolate, you definitely want something bold with notes of chocolate and cherry to go with this decadent dessert. I’d recommend a Zinfandel with those undertones if you can find one, but an Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon are good choices as well ( I mean it’s wine an chocolate–hard to go wrong right?) Happy snacking!

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Homemade Stock

Seafood Stock

Ingredients

Discarded seafood, including shrimp shells, crab shells, or fish heads or bones

2 small onions, 2 medium carrots, and a stalk of celery (or, conversely, saved scraps of these vegetables, which can be kept in the freezer until needed)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Arrange fish or shellfish scraps on cookie sheet with vegetables. Roast in oven for 5-10 minutes or until the seafood is browned on edges.
  3. Place the roasted ingredients in large pot. Add 8 cups water, or enough to cover ingredients and fill pot about halfway full.
  4. Bring the stock to a simmer (not boil). Skim fat off the surface of the stock regularly, simmering for three hours with the pot uncovered.
  5. After simmering for three hours, strain the stock through a colander or, preferably, a sieve.
  6. Allow the stock to cool to room temperature, removing any remaining fat before storage. Use within 3-4 days.

 

Chicken Stock

Ingredients

Chicken carcass

2 small onions, 2 medium carrots, and a stalk of celery (or, conversely, saved scraps of these vegetables, which can be kept in the freezer until needed)

Instructions

  1.  Rinse chicken carcass with cold water and trim any visible fat.
  2. Place the carcass and chopped vegetables or vegetable scraps in a large pot. Add water until carcass is nearly (but not entirely) covered.
  3. Bring the stock to a simmer (not boil). Skim fat off the surface of the stock regularly, simmering for three hours with the pot uncovered.
  4. After simmering for three hours, strain the stock through a colander or, preferably, a sieve.
  5. Allow the stock to cool to room temperature, removing any remaining fat before storage. Use within 3-4 days.

Herb Saffron Rice

While couscous is a traditional and delicious accompaniment to the wonderful Beef and Beet Tajine recipe Amanda and I recently tried, I decided to make some flavorful rice to go along with it this time.  I think it’s fairly clear that Amanda and I are fans of rice in general but this rice really is a showstopper.

The herbs used in this recipe are customizable to your tastes, although I’d probably stick within the leafy, more subtle family with this one. You might not want to use Basil or rosemary but Dill, parsley and cilantro (coriander leaves) would probably be delicious in your own preferred ratios. I received a hydroponic garden for Christmas and have been working on growing my herbs for a little while so this was the first dish in which I was able to use bits of my own plants in my food, so I used a lot of parsley and a bit of dill as well to equal the below measurement. I found this probably to be a little too exciting and should get out more. It was yummy though!

I absolutely love my rice cooker and I don’t know if I could live without it. However, I think it’s been established that not everyone enjoys grains as frequently as I do, so I have provided the stovetop method as well below. The stovetop method may actually produce better results since you’ll be able to control when you’re adding ingredients but either way, you’ll be rewarded with a delicious base for your tajine dinner or any other meal for sure.

  • 2 cups basmati or Jasmine Rice
  • Pinch of Saffron (about 15 threads)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil or even better, ghee
  • 1/2 onion minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2  cups vegetable or broth
  • 1 cup chopped, fresh herbs, I chose curled parsley and dill
  • salt

Stovetop Method:

  1. Rinse your rice in cold water until the water runs clear. Drain.
  2. Add the pinch of saffron to the 1/2 of water and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
  3. Add oil/ghee to a medium saucepan over medium heat.
  4. Ad the minced onion and garlic to the saucepan and saute until the onions are semi-translucent and the smell is fragrant.
  5. Add the rice and stir for about 1 minutes to bring out the flavor of the rice.
  6. Add the saffron water, broth, herbs and a heavy pinch of salt to the saucepan and bring to a boil.
  7. Once boiling, turn the heat down to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed (don’t check on it before the 20 minute mark though).
  8. Fluff (gently) with a fork and serve with extra herbs if desired.

Rice Cooker Method:

  1. Rinse your rice in cold water until the water runs clear. Drain.
  2. Add the pinch of saffron to the 1/2 of water and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
  3. Add oil/ghee to either a pan or if your cooker has a “brown/saute” option, add it directly to the pot.
  4. Saute the minced onion and garlic in the oil until semi-translucent and the smell is fragrant.
  5. Add the rice and stir for a few moments to bring out the flavor. If this step is done outside the cooker, transfer the rice, onion and garlic to the rice cooker.
  6. Add the saffron water, broth, herbs and a heavy pinch of salt to the cooker and start the cooking.
  7. Once your rice cooker has indicated it is finished, give everything a good (but gentle) fluffing and it is ready to serve warm.