Monday, November 8, 2010

Introduction to Cooking with the Widow in the Woods

I’d always wanted a surprise party, so when I turned 65, I threw one for myself.  A surprise party needs a dramatic party favor, so I wrote a cookbook (with the help of my friend Susan Minnich, a former editor).  I spent many months sorting through a lifetime of recipes, finding my favorites and soliciting friends for theirs.  It’s been four years since then so I thought it was time to think about writing an addendum for my 70th birthday.  But then my friend Rena Zurofsky said “But you should do this as a blog!”
And how right she is!  Flipping through recipes collected in the last few years will be the perfect antidote to the long, cold, and dark Berkshire winter.  So please put my blog address on your “favorites” list and check back often.  Comments and suggestions are welcome.
In my dotage I’ve made sure that any new friend I make must be a good cook.  Luckily that’s not a barrier because so many Berkshire folks are good cooks.  Just as an example, here are the ribs that Amy Rudnick, event planner extraordinaire, serves to friends lucky enough to secure a place at her table. 
Amy Rudnick’s most delicious Asian-style barbecue ribs

Adapted from the late, lamented Gourmet.  You’ll read this and wonder how anything this good could be so easy, but you’ll see. 
3 T chopped peeled ginger
2 T chopped garlic
1/3 c soy sauce
2 T vegetable oil
1/2 c hoisin sauce
2 T honey
2-4 racks of baby back ribs (4 lbs total)
Preheat oven to 275.
Puree ginger, garlic, soy sauce and oil in a blender, transfer to a bowl and whisk in hoisin and honey. Reserve some of the sauce and brush ribs with remainder. Place ribs on a rimmed sheet pan and put in oven. Cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours; turning over once and occasionally brushing with reserved sauce. Carve into individual ribs and serve.
I’ve made these ribs many times, and didn’t think it was possible to find a recipe that could compete with them.  And then I came across a rib recipe at, my favorite new go-to website for cooking.  It’s written by Amanda Hesser and her assistant Melissa Stubbs, who just published The Essential New York Times Cookbook, weighing in at 932 pages.  Amanda was one of the guest speakers at the recent “Food for Thought” forum at The Mount, and I made sure she autographed my copy.  What I particularly like about the cookbook is that each recipe ends with “Serving Suggestions,” which lists a half dozen or so recipes that work well with the recipe you just read.  Thus you flip back and forth in the enormous book, which makes it even more appealing.  But I digress.
A few weeks ago I read “Seriously Delicious Ribs,” a recipe posted at by Jennifer Perillo(whoever you are, I wish you were my friend).  It got such rave reciews that I needed to try it.  And yes, they’re wonderful.  As astonishingly good as Amy’s ribs but with a very different flavor.  Very easy to make, too.
Seriously Delicious Ribs
For the Dry Rub:
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon all spice
  • 1 teaspoon chiptole powder (optional)
  • 2 slabs pork baby back ribs (3 to 3 1/2 lbs total)
For the Braising Liquid/BBQ Glaze:
  • 1 cup sparkling white wine (like Prosecco)
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
Add all the dry rub ingredients to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until ingredients are combined, about two or three 1-second pulses. Rub mixture evenly all over each rack of ribs, making sure to coat top and bottom. Place ribs, single layer, on a rimmed baking sheet or in a roasting pan and let sit, covered, in the refrigerator for one hour.
Meanwhile, place liquid ingredients in a small pot and cook over medium heat until just hot. Alternately, you can add them to a microwave-safe bowl and cook on high for 1 minute.
Remove ribs from the refrigerator. Pour braising liquid over ribs, wrap tightly with heavy-duty foil and place in oven, side by side if possible. Cook for 2 ½ half hours. Alternate pans halfway through if cooking on separate racks in oven.
Remove pans from oven, discard foil and pour or spoon the braising liquid into a medium saucepot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a vigorous simmer and let cook until liquid reduces by half and becomes a thick, syrupy consistency, 20 to 30 minutes.
Preheat broiler. Brush the glaze on top of each rack of ribs. Place ribs under the broiler until the glaze begins to caramelize, one to two minutes (watch carefully, or all your waiting will be spoiled by burned ribs!). Slice and serve with remaining glaze on the side.
Serves 4-6

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