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A Trifecta of Polar Plunging, Ribs and Big Break Zinfandel

It is a long winter in Bayfield. We have at least 5 months of cold and snow (hopefully) and what better way to raise money for the Bayfield Rec Center than jumping in the water on March 3rd? This was the second plunge for Sadie and I have to admit, my daughter is far more adventurous than me. After she climbed out the frigid water, Sadie wrapped herself in a sleeping bag and watched the other jumpers....while she was still soaking wet. In light of her heroic act, I decided to make one of her favorite meals for dinner- smoked pork ribs. As I am sure you are beginning to surmise, I am always looking for a reason to make a special meal or throw a party. Lord knows, jumping into freezing water with snow blowing sideways is enough of a reason for a rib dinner.

About 10 years ago, I decided I wanted to learn how to barbecue and smoke meat. Have you noticed the men 'manning' the grill are drinking beer, laughing and hanging out outside? That's for me, I thought. While I love time spent in my kitchen, there is nothing like starting the grill and cooking outside. I wish it was that easy for me. I have a tendency to complicate everything and research, pick apart and dive head first into the details of whatever it is I am fixated on.  Let me tell you, there are a lot passionate barbecue pit masters out there with endless theories and rules for success. A couple of things I have learned: the rub matters, low and slow is the only way and sauce goes on AFTER the meat comes off the smoker. When we were visiting Ted's Mom in Alabama (a good place for barbecue research, among other things), we bought nearly every rub we could get our hands on. I settled on Bad Byron's Butt Rub as my favorite.

I put the rub on the ribs and let them sit for a couple of hours to let the salt and spices flavor the meat. I used my electric smoker, it is easier to maintain the temperature when it cold out than my Kamado grill/smoker. Since Sadie was plunging and I wasn't sure when we would be back, I smoked the ribs at 200 degrees for 3 1/2 hours and I wish I would have had the temperature at 225. The ribs were good but not as tender as I like. I put them in a covered Dutch oven and popped them in the oven for about 45 minutes. As I was pulling the ribs out of the oven, Bonnie Raitt's song, Angel From Montgomery, was on Pandora. It was a good omen for a good dinner.

Zinfandel is the obvious choice for barbecue. It just so happened, I had a lovely Zinfandel just waiting for the perfect opportunity to come to dinner. I must admit, I have a prejudice against 'supermarket wines' and I was not too keen on trying the Cline Big Break Zinfandel. I am glad I did; it is a spicy, complex, 100 year old vine zinfandel. The second glass was much better than the first, this wine definitely needs air and space to breathe in order to come to life. Zinfandel is becoming one of my favorite wines- I love its boldness and complexity.

Dinner was a hit. We turned off all electronic devices and sat around the kitchen table. Of course, there were ten different conversations going on at once, George was making the rounds begging for scraps and Ted announced,  'I bought a vintage lifeboat on Craigslist today.' It was a typical Dougherty dinner.

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