Flavorful Oven-Slow-Cooked BBQ Ribs

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I love a rack of barbecue ribs, but it’s one of the few dishes I’m particular about if ordering it at a restaurant. Are they meaty enough? Will I like the rub or sauce? Are they expensive?

It’s been on my mind for months that I could take the guesswork out of enjoying ribs by just making my own at home. And while I could transform my simple charcoal grill into a smoker, I’ve really wanted to come up with a delicious, simple recipe to cook the ribs slowly in the oven. I’ll grill in any season or weather possible, but sometimes it’s actually much easier to use the oven.

After doing some research online and doing a bit of experimenting with our spice rack and fridge compartments, I’ve created a recipe that I’m very happy with. Now, I want to make it several times to perfect it.

I used St. Louis-style pork spare ribs. You can use baby back ribs, but the St. Louis spares have a bit more meat on them typically, and I’ve often found in eating them from different places that they hold more of the smoke and rub flavors.

Without further delay, here’s my recipe.

Homemade Barbecue Rub

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/8 cup paprika

1/2 T salt

1/2 T pepper

1/2 T chili powder

1/2 T garlic powder

1/2 T onion powder

1/2 t cayenne

Barbecue Sauce

1/2 cup ketchup

1/3 cup honey

1 T Worcestershire sauce

1/4 t garlic salt

1/4 t pepper

Cooking Directions

  1. Prepare your ribs by removing the membrane on the bone side and the extra flap of meat hanging off. You can use a knife to get under the membrane and then a paper towel to help grip it and pull it off. Removing this piece will help your rub soak into both sides more thoroughly.
  2. Mix your barbecue dry rub together and then use your fingers to coat both sides of your rack of ribs in the rub. The general rule is that what sticks to the ribs is enough rub to use. Wrap your ribs in aluminum foil and let them sit for six hours or overnight.
  3. Cover an oven-safe pan (big enough for your ribs) with foil for easy cleanup. Unwrap your ribs and sit them on top of a cooking or cooling rack on top of the pan.
  4. Put your ribs uncovered in the oven on broil for a few minutes to help caramelize your dry rub coating.
  5. Reduce the temperature to 250 degrees and cook for two hours.
  6. Remove from oven and tent a piece of foil over the ribs, then put them back in the oven on the same temperature for two more hours.
  7. Mix your barbecue sauce, remove your ribs from the oven and use a basting brush to generously cover the ribs on the meat side.
  8. Reduce your oven temperature to 200 degrees and put your ribs back in the oven for 10 minutes.
  9. Repeat the saucing and cooking process as many times as desired to cook the sauce into the ribs.
  10. Use a sharp knife to cut your ribs into smaller racks or into individual ribs. Be sure to cut between the bones, not next to the bones. After the cooking time allotted, your ribs should be done, tender and pulling slightly away from the bones on the ends.

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Matthew’s take: I had never made ribs, so I was a bit intimidated. No more fear after this first-time process. These ribs turned out delicious! The rub and sauce were both adaptations of recipes I found online, and I won’t change either of them moving forward. The rub would work great for chicken or other barbecued meats as well, and the sauce would go well with chicken, burgers and more! The ribs turned out meaty and tender, spiced to perfection by the rub and then sweetly sauced by the barbecue coating added at the end. If you don’t own a grill, prefer not to grill in the cooler months or just would rather cook in your oven, this is the recipe for you if you want to try ribs at home. They’ll be cheaper that way. My rack only cost me $7, while the rub and sauce were from ingredients already in our pantry and fridge, and we got four servings from the ribs. I give this recipe an A+ for taste, cost and presentation.

Molly’s take: Having never had homemade ribs before, I was blown away by this creation Matthew put together. I’m pretty sure once I started in on them, I didn’t stop until every last bite was picked clean off the bones. The ribs alone – with the seasoned rub – were smoky and flavorful, but the sauce really made the flavors pop. The honey in the sauce gives it a great sweet flavor which fits well with the smoky ribs. If you’re looking to try something new, this recipe is worth your time. I’ve never had homemade ribs, but I’ve had ribs at restaurants, and trust me, these are some of the best I’ve ever tasted.

Smoky Pork Tinga Tacos with Avocado and Queso

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As we’ve shared many times, we love Mexican food specialist Rick Bayless and the recipes he creates from his experiences in the Yucatan region. That tradition and his cookbook, Mexican Everyday, are the sources for this dish.

Before discovering this recipe in his book, we’d never heard of Pork Tinga and had no idea what it would taste like. But after making it once and loving it, we’ve got a better handle on how to describe it for you.

Basically, the Tinga is like a Mexican Brunswick Stew, a delightful mixture of meat, potatoes and flavorful seasonings that really come alive when cradled in the warm embrace of a soft taco shell, topped with creamy queso crumbles and slender avocado slices. The flavor combination of the Tinga is explosive in each bite, but not with an intense heat you won’t be able to stand if you’re not into spicy foods.

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Since the Tinga is made in a slow cooker, this is a perfect recipe to spend a half hour preparing and then leaving for most of the day. When you return, your whole house will smell wonderful, and you’ll experience such a delicious Mexican meal you’ll think you’re in the Yucatan.

Pro Tip: Soft corn or flour taco-size tortillas from the store are perfectly fine for the Tinga, but we prefer Molly’s homemade tortillas for added freshness and originality.

 

Pork Tinga Tacos

Ingredients

2 pounds boneless pork shoulder

4 medium yellow potatoes

28-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes

3 or 4 chipotle chiles en adobo

1 tablespoon chipotle canning sauce (from the adobo)

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon dried oregano

3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

1 medium white onion, sliced thin

1 ½ teaspoons salt

Warm tortillas

1 cup crumbled queso fresco

2 large avocados

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Directions

1. Cut potatoes into 1/2-inch cubes and spread them over the bottom of a slow cooker.

2. Top potatoes with the pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch pieces.

3. Seed the chipotle chiles.

4. In a large bowl, mix the undrained tomatoes, chipotles, chipotle canning sauce, Worcestershire, oregano, garlic, onion and salt.

5. Pour the mixture evenly over the meat and potatoes.

6. Cover and slowly cook on high for six hours. The dish can hold on the slow cooker’s “keep warm” setting for about four more hours, if needed.

7. When ready to eat, uncover the Pork Tinga mixture and spoon off any fat, if accumulated on top. Stir everything together to break the pork into smaller pieces for wrapping in tortillas.

8. Taste and season with additional salt if you think the Tinga needs it.

9. Serve with warm tortillas, crumbled queso and avocados for making soft tacos.

Molly’s Homemade Flour Tortillas

Tortillas

A great tortilla is the cornerstone of a great taco, burrito, enchilada or torta. There’s nothing wrong with the tortillas you purchase in a bag in the grocery store. In fact, you can even freshen those pre-made tortillas by wrapping them in a damp paper towel in your microwave. But tortillas can be even better if you make them from scratch at home.

I’ve always enjoyed a soft taco, dating back to my first cooking experiences as a teenager, when I’d make myself basic stovetop fajitas in flour tortillas at home. So when I learned several years ago that my wife-to-be Molly made homemade tortillas, I was quite excited. When I saw how inexpensive the ingredients are, well, I was even more excited.

These tortillas often cook up a little thicker than what you might buy off the store shelves. So they might even remind you a bit of pita bread, which to me just means they serve extra purpose. I believe your product is the result of the kind of tortilla flour you use and the method by which you flatten them for cooking. However you do it, I guarantee you they’ll become the basis for special taco nights in your house, as they have in ours.

For Molly’s Homemade Flour Tortillas you’ll need:

2 cups tortilla flour

2/3 cup water

Put the tortilla flour in a large bowl. Slowly add the water, mixing in with your hands until fully incorporated. Form into a large ball until all the flour is absorbed. Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel and let the dough rise for 5 minutes.

Tear off and form small balls, slightly bigger than the size of a golf ball, and place them on a floured surface. You should end up with about 9 dough balls. Take each ball and roll them out with a rolling pin to about an eighth of an inch thick.

Heat a cast iron skillet to medium and cook each tortilla until lightly toasted on each side. Watch them carefully. You may want to use a fork or other utensil to flip the tortillas since they will be hot. And you may need to flip each tortilla a few times to get it just right. Practice makes perfect!

You can stack them on a plate or place them in a tortilla warmer until ready to use. It’s as simple as that!

Simple Slow Cooker Meals

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The weather turns coldest in the South in the weeks after Christmas and New Year’s, coinciding with a time when most people seem to go into recovery mode from all of the intense cooking and eating during the holidays. That means it’s a perfect time to rely on a slow cooker to help prepare easy dinners to warm up on nights when the sun goes down early and the temperature drops quickly.

These are some of our very favorite slow cooker meals that are incredibly easy to prepare if you’re short on time, money or ideas. Each one will feed four people, give or take, so just modify the basic recipe to fit your needs.

 

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Chili Beans

A hearty meat and bean chili with a touch of spice can really warm up a winter evening. You’ll need:

1 pound ground beef

1 can kidney beans

1 can chili beans

1 can diced tomatoes with green chilis

salt and pepper to taste

Brown your ground beef, and then mix all of your ingredients in your slow cooker. Set to high if you want your chili ready sooner, or cook on low if you plan to let it simmer for a while before eating. Since your ground beef is already cooked, you’re really just allowing time for the flavors to blend and heat. Also, because you’re using the tomatoes with green chilis, you’ll get a spicy kick without having to test out different seasoning combinations. You can add chili powder or other spices if you want, but we’ve found this recipe removes the need for them. The chili goes great with a piece of corny cornbread.

 

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Beef Roast

A slow cooker roast produces a full meal without using a lot of dishes or time. All you need is a few minutes to chop your vegetables and six or seven hours to allow the meat to fully cook and the veggies to soften. For this dinner you’ll need:

a bottom round beef roast (we usually go for about 3 pounds)

raw carrots

white, red or yellow potatoes

raw onion

2 beef bouillon cubes

water to cover your ingredients

I like to start by placing the roast lengthwise in the slow cooker. Then I drop a bouillon cube on each end and surround everything with my chopped vegetables. (You can decide how much you want of each vegetable.) Finally, cover everything with water—to assure enough moisture for cooking everything in the pot—and cook on high for at least four or five hours. If you’re able to be around the house during cooking, you can then turn the slow cooker to low for a few hours to finish the job and prepare your dinner. If not, you might want to plan to cook on high for a slightly shorter period of time to ensure everything gets done.

 

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Butter Beans

There’s something so “comfort food” about a bowl of Southern butter beans, especially when accompanied by a homemade biscuit or piece of cornbread. For the beans you’ll need:

2 cups dry large white lima beans

6 cups water to cover beans well

4 tablespoons of butter

Pieces of leftover meat to flavor

We like to add leftover country ham or ham steak, bacon or beef sausage to our butter beans for extra flavor. You can cook them on high for three hours or so, check to see if you need more water so the beans don’t dry out and then turn the slow cooker to low. (Unlike many recipes you’ll find online, we don’t recommend soaking the dry beans beforehand. Molly says she can’t tell a difference in the results – beans made this way are just as good and much easier!) You can also slow cook them on low for a longer period of time. The result is a pot of soft, buttery beans with a hint of whatever meat you’ve added to flavor them. Butter beans go great with a homemade biscuit. Additionally, Molly likes to mix a few spoons of Duke’s mayonnaise into her bowl for added flavor. I dissent on that practice and prefer my beans straight out of the slow cooker.

 

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Cheesesteak Sandwiches

A slow cooker might not be the first option that comes to mind when you think about making a sandwich. But for the meat that goes in a cheesesteak sandwich, it’s the perfect and easiest option. You can’t really go wrong! You’ll need:

2 pounds top sirloin

provolone cheese

1 green pepper

½ sweet onion

salt, pepper, seasoning to taste

water

sandwich buns (your choice, we like sub style)

Slice your steak, pepper and onions into thin strips. You’ll need a sharp knife for the meat. Season the steak with salt and pepper as desired. We like to include beef bouillon cubes in our slow cooker for flavor, and then cover the meat, cubes and veggies with water. Cook six or seven hours. Once your steak has cooked, divide it evenly onto your sandwich buns. Cover your steak with the desired amount of cheese. Stick your cheesesteaks on a pan and melt the cheese in an oven or toaster oven. Serve your sandwiches with any side you choose. We prefer simple French fries or homemade potato wedges.

Fried Dressing, a Family Tradition

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This special guest post is introduced by our cousin, Pam Upton Waters, of Rutherfordton, N.C. Her mom Betty Quinn Upton, our great aunt, started the fried dressing tradition years ago, and it’s a delicious meal staple we continue to enjoy today.

No holiday get-together would be complete without this treat.

People have asked for the recipe. My mother’s response is always the same. “I don’t have a recipe. I just put what looks right.”

“How do you know when it looks right?”

“I don’t know. I just know.”

Well, that is just as clear as mud to the rest of us. Anyway, several years ago we did put together a recipe of sorts for a friend. They loved it, so we use that one.

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Aunt Betty with her fried dressing

The Recipe

Ingredients

  • One recipe each of biscuits and cornbread, all baked, cooled and crumbled.
  • Broth—enough to make the breadcrumbs moist, about ¾ to 1 cup or so.
  • Onion, finely chopped. Two handfuls, about 1 small to medium or half a medium to large.
  • Meat, finely chopped. One turkey or chicken leg will do. Liver, gizzard and wings can also be used.
  • Sausage seasoning to taste. We start with ½ teaspoon per cup of breadcrumbs and go from there. You can start with ¼ teaspoon or so with the dry ingredients because it mixes better then. Just remember you can add more as needed, but you can’t take it out if you add too much.
  • Oil for frying.

Directions

  • Mix the crumbs together.
  • Add onion and meat. Mix well.
  • Add broth slowly to moisten while mixing. Hands are best used here, although a spoon will work, too.
  • Add sausage seasoning. Taste to make sure it is the heat level you like. Watch who you let be the taste tester if you have a relative with no taste buds.
  • Continue adding broth and mixing until it’s soft like play dough.
  • Pat out portions about the size of hamburger patties.
  • Fry patties in a pan in a low layer of oil until brown on each side.
  • Serve warm with gravy.

Recipe by Betty Quinn Upton