Tag Archives: pork

Smoked Ribs, a Tribute to the Zü

Christian and I don’t eat a lot of meat these days. We’re not vegetarians, but we are recovering graduate students and meat lightens our pockets more quickly than vegetables do. During my senior year of college, I lived in a vegetarian COOP called “the Zü.”  Initially, I was non-too-pleased about the idea of eating meat just once a week. (I’m from the Midwest, where the main food groups are meat and potatoes and sweet corn is considered a “vegetable.”) However, I am forever grateful to my “crunchy granola” housemates for teaching me that vegetarian food doesn’t have to taste like cardboard and leave you severely malnourished. They helped me re-imagine my dinner plate. Vegetables went from being “side dishes” flanking over-portioned hunks of animal protein, to center plate all-stars laced with flavor and accented by lesser-known proteins, like lentils, peanuts, black beans, chickpeas, yogurt, eggs, and quinoa.

Look at all us hippies!

On the rare occasion that we cooked meat at the Zü – about once a month – the meal took on ritualistic proportions. We savored every moment of the process, from prep to first bite. Meatlovers would come out of the woodwork, following the wafting scents into the kitchen.

Peeling crawfish in the Zü kitchen

In loving memory of those nights in the Zü kitchen with barbeque slow-cooking in the oven, I decided to smoke some ribs…

St. Louis-style ribs from WFM

Christian and I bought these ribs from Whole Foods Market. It was an impulse buy; we were cruising past the meat counter, and these babies caught our eye. One look at each other and there was a mutual understanding that this meat needed to be in our bellies and not behind a glass counter.

Rubbed ribs

A nice trick learned from Tyler Florence (TFlo)…Mix lime juice, water, and white vinegar, add to BBQ rub of choice to form a paste that will adhere to the ribs and create a thick, savory crust when cooked. Caution: be sure your BBQ rub isn’t overly salty. We learned that the hard way.

Cedar planks courtsey of Betty Hahn

First, I placed the ribs over soaked cedar planks to protect them from the hot coals. They cooked this way for about 30 minutes.

Smokin'

When the ribs were nearly cooked through, I threw the wet planks on top of the coals and placed the ribs on the hot grate.

We bought this grill for $25 off some grad students

I covered the grill and let the ribs smoke for another 10 minutes or so. Then I took the lid off and fed the fire, which created a good charred crust on the meat.

Deliciousness.

Isn’t that beautiful???

My first ribs

Helloooooo ribs!!!

Man eats rib.

Satisfied husband = Mission accomplished

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Filed under Dinner, Food, Nostalgia

A soirée at Asia Café

Last Sunday we were on the hunt for some BBQ but ended up having a Chinese brunch at Asia Café. Random yes, sad no. JR’s Texas-Style BBQ was closed for the weekend, and Franklin BBQ was swarmed with hipsters in town for SXSW. Not wanting to settle for ordinary BBQ just to satiate the palate, we turned to our trusty copy of Austin Monthly, which recently published a story on Cheap Eats in Austin. The article raved about the Szechuan-style chicken in chili oil and black bean sauce at Asia Café. So we jumped in our trusty VW and headed north.

The dining room at Asia Café was massive, with a menu to match. There were nearly 1,000 items numbered, and we were convinced that 3/4 of the people sitting in the dining room weren’t even ordering off the menu. We kept glancing at people next to us who had ordered scrumptious-looking steamed buns and fried rice cakes, but to our dismay, neither was listed on the menu. Clearly, these people were pros. Once we reached the front of the line, we told the cashier we would like to order the Szechuan-style chicken (we too were beginning to feel like pros, as this dish wasn’t listed on the menu either). To our dismay, the cashier just gave us a blank stare and said, “we don’t serve Szechuan-style chicken.” Huh? We mentioned the article we had read and how the reviewers had raved about the chili oil and the black bean sauce. We must have this chicken! The cashier wouldn’t budge. She pointed to a menu of approximately 40 daily specials that the cafe was “known for.” Unwilling to play her game, we orderd off the menu: no. 775 (spicy green pork), boiled dumplings, and a bowl of homemade sweetened soy milk (only available on weekends). All this for just $17.

As we waited for our food to arrive, Christian noticed that the runners were calling out ticket numbers in Mandarin first, then in English; clearly, this place was “legit,” he proclaimed. Our disappointment over the Szechuan chicken quickly faded after our meal arrived. The spicy green pork was flavored with green chilis, scallions, and snap peas, and it had just the right amount of heat. The dumplings were quite possibly the most tender we’ve ever tasted, and Sarah thoroughly enjoyed sipping her soy milk from a bowl – something she’s not allowed to do at home. The sweet, nutty taste helped wash away any inkling of sadness that this did not turn into a BBQ Sunday. Clearly, Asia Café could compete with the best of Texas cuisine.

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Filed under Cheap Eats, Food