Archive for June, 2009

A Finger Lickin’ Good Time

June 29, 2009


Two weekends ago, my friend Michael was visiting from LA, and I invited a bunch of friends over for ribs. I’ve never made ribs, and I don’t have a grill, so I was taking a bit of a chance, but I saw this recipe in Gourmet that seemed oven-friendly.

Sticky Balsamic Ribs

I’m on a budget and invited lots of people, so I got spareribs rather than baby back ribs. This turned out to be just fine, but I did cut them into smaller chunks before cooking. We started the ribs marinating the night before. The recipe is simple: garlic, rosemary, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar and cayenne. What’s genius about this recipe, however, is the technique. The end result of roasting the ribs with water, then broiling them delivered ribs that looked, felt and tasted like they were fresh off the barbie. The meat was succulent and falling off the bone; the sauce was sticky and sweet: everything you could want from ribs.

I was so enthusiastic about the ribs that I immediately told a coworker with whom I talk food that she needed to try them. She did last weekend, and said it was one of the best things ever to come out of her kitchen. Her guests broke into spontaneous applause. Need I say more?

Of course, you see more than just ribs in the photo. I also made slaw and potato salad.

The Rainbow Slaw, which I got from Bon Appétit was very good, but I had to make some changes to the recipe. They call for way too much cabbage. Half a head of red and green cabbage each is plenty. I also left out the yams. It’s an interesting idea, but I just didn’t want yams in my slaw. The apples are what attracted me to the recipe, and I loved them, but next time, I’m trying Asian pear.

Then the Potato Salad with Buttermilk Dressing. I had made this before. It’s a great recipe and the mustard-heavy buttermilk dressing is crisp and light, but I have a strong suggestion: make it one day ahead. Time made a huge difference. The day we made it, it was good, but the next day, it was irresistible.


That's right, there's a fourth item on the plate

At the last minute, we decided to add another dish: macaroni and cheese. This was a late addition, and we were already overextended, so we didn’t want to start from scratch. What we did, I must say, was ingenious. We got several boxes of Annie’s white cheddar mac and cheese and jazzed up the sauce with mustard and cayenne (to taste). Then we grated a generous amount of real cheddar cheese into it, gave it a stir and baked it for 30 minutes at 350˚ to melt the cheese. It brought the Annie’s to a whole new level, and it took almost no time to prepare. It’s a good shortcut to great macaroni and cheese.

Our guests brought beer and other potent potables. Michael played some Diana Ross. The soirée was a raging success.


Lime Marmalade: Labor of Love

June 12, 2009
Beware tough rinds

Beware tough rinds

On my recent trip to the British Virgin Islands, I discovered lime marmalade. I’d only ever had the orange variety, and frankly, it’s not one of my favorites. Lime marmalade, however, was an instant hit with me and my travel buddies. I was resolved to look up recipes and make it upon my return.

Basic lime marmalade has only three ingredients: lime, water and sugar. I read several recipes and landed on the following formula for about 1 liter of marmalade.

  • 8 limes
  • 3.5 cups water
  • 4-5 cups sugar

Start by slicing the limes as thinly as possible. Make an effort not to squeeze out too much juice. A sharp knife helps. Soak the limes in the 3.5 cups of water overnight to remove bitterness.

The next day, put the limes and their water in a pot or large saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer, covered, until rinds are tender, about 30-45 minutes. I tested my rinds with a fork, and it got me into trouble down the line. Make sure to remove a rind and chew on it. They’re not done until you bite through it easily.

Preheat the oven to 250˚F

Remove from heat and transfer the limes to a bowl using a measuring cup. Measure out one cup of sugar for every cup of lime-water mixture and place the sugar in a baking dish (I used a cake pan). Stick the pan in the oven to heat the sugar. Meanwhile, bring the limes back to a boil. Once at a rolling boil, remove the sugar from the oven and add to the limes. Stir in the sugar with as few strokes as possible, and do not stir again until it has returned to a boil.

At this point, put a couple saucers in the freezer. Let the limes and sugar boil, uncovered, for about ten minutes, then put a spoonful on one of the frozen saucers. Once cooled, the marmalade should be thick. Keep testing every 5 minutes until it has fully jelled (it took me about 20 mins.). At this point you can put the marmalade in sterilized jars. You’re done!

That is, unless you undercooked the rinds, as I did. After 40 minutes of simmering the lime rinds, they were easily pierced with a fork, and I called it a day. When I spread some marmalade on toast later that night, they were too tough to chew. I was not happy.

This evening, I found a lovely solution. I placed the open jar of marmalade in a small saucepan of boiling water to melt the jelly. I then forced the marmalade through a sieve with a rubber spatula. The result, a lime sauce that was AMAZING over ice cream. Also good on toast.  So, all is not lost, but next time I will simmer those rinds more thoroughly!

This recipe is for straight up lime marmalade, but you could blend different citrus fruits or even add mint. Does anyone have other ideas for lime marmalade?

Stanky Legg Sliders

June 5, 2009

Even on vacation the Houseboy does not rest. We’ve been to several restaurants here in the British Virgin Islands, and on the whole, they are overpriced and mediocre. We have a kitchen and have been putting it to good use. Most of the food here is imported and expensive, but there are a few things that are abundant and cheap in the BVI, plantains, avocados and rum among them.

We were riding in the car and listening to the radio… we heard there is a Stanky Legg Party somewhere in the islands this weekend. This inspired our dinner creation, the Stanky Legg Slider.


Do the Stanky Legg!

Do the Stanky Legg!

That’s a beef patty topped with Jack cheese, plantains (sautéed in butter), avocado and a squeeze of lime. As we are in the BRITISH Virgin Islands, the only thing that could hold the Stanky Leggz together is an English  muffin.

It was an experiment, but we LOVED them. And that’s not just the Dark and Stormy talking.