I Wish It Was Summer Dinner

March 25, 2017

I know a lot of the country has had a tough winter; here in Portland we had nine school closure days for snow. Now it’s spring and it is rainy, rainy, rainy. I mean, yeah, I live in Portland so I expect rain – but it has been a drenching, mud-slide creating, rainy spring. I’m craving summer and wanted some summer food. So, I took matters into my own hands and planned a dinner of baby back ribs, collard greens, and Mac and Cheese. But like I said, it’s been rainy . Smoked ribs are a product of summer – when you can put a couple of racks on the grill and sit on the deck all day reading and listening to the Dodgers on the radio.  While looking for recipes I saw that Mike Vrobel of Dad Cooks Dinner fame has a couple of pressure cooker recipes for ribs.  Unconventional, maybe; but I trust him.

My wife has been recovering from an injury for the past month or so so we haven’t been out and about much. One of the silver linings is her sisters come over on the weekend and we watch movies and cook dinner together. So I thought this would be a fun meal to cook for all of us; my brother-in-law Jim joined the fun as well.

Last summer on our drive back home from the east coast we stopped at Moe’s Original Barbecue in Eagle, Colorado where I had the best greens I’d ever tasted (you can read about that part of our trip here). Then last week Carla and I had some lunch at a local barbecue joint where the greens were bitter and not as tasty as they could have been. I saw a challenge. The collard greens would be the most time consuming but hopefully with a big payback. I found a promising recipe on Serious Eats to try (I made 1/2 a recipe). We start by simmering a ham hock in some chicken stock with some onion and garlic for two and a half hours. Here it is at the start.

Ham hock simmering in chicken broth win onions for collard greens

Ham hock simmering in chicken broth win onions for collard greens

Collard greens are a tough vegetable; they take a moderate amount of preparation and at least 30 minutes of simmering. They usually have a lot of sand in them so they require a lot of washing.

Collard Greens

Collard Greens

The greens are tough enough on their own but the stems are especially tough; the next step is to cut out that center vein then cut the rest into long ribbons – 4 to 6 ribbons cut lengthwise from each leaf.

Collard greens cut into ribbons

Collard greens cut into ribbons

After a couple of hours we take the ultra tender ham hock out of the broth and pull  the meaty bits into tasty morsels.

Ham hock meat

Ham hock meat

Those morsels go back into the put along with the greens while we discard the bone and the fatty bit of the ham hock.

Collard greens in chicken and ham hock broth

Collard greens in chicken and ham hock broth

It took a few minutes to toss in a hand full (actually a tong full) of greens, push them down and let them wilt a bit. But after a while they are all submerged in that chicken/ham broth. While they cook we start the ribs.

As I said, I took this recipe straight from Dad Cooks Dinner – if you like it grab the recipe from there. For summer time barbecue I build a complex rub and sauce; but Mike Vrobel’s quick rub and sauce is excellent. I simmer the sauce a few minutes while he doesn’t.

There are just 7 ingredients in the rub – so super simple to make and you probably have the ingredients in your spice rack.

Rib Rub Ingredients

Rib Rub Ingredients

We treat the ribs as if we were smoking them: remove the membrane on the back then rub them up.

Ribs are rubbed and ready for cooking

Ribs are rubbed and ready for cooking

Then we depart from standard; we cut them up into 3 to 4 bone pieces and put them into an Instant Pot IP Duo 60 electric pressure cooker. I put a cup of water in the bottom then placed one of those metal vegetable steamers with all the little leaves that can adjust to any pot. I stacked the ribs on top of that. For one rack you can use the 6 quart cooker. I wasn’t sure I could get two racks in so I used my 8 quart Instant Pot. I cooked under high pressure for 30 minutes with a 15 minute natural pressure release.

To get a bit of bark on we put the ribs on a baking sheet and brush with some sauce and put under broiler for a couple of minutes – keep a close eye on it so the sugar in the sauce doesn’t burn. Take one more pass – more sauce and more broiling. Then you have dinner.

While that was going on, my sister-in-law Linda took over the job of making Mac And Cheese – this was her mom’s recipe, I’ve posted a copy of it here.

Mac and Cheese Prep

Mac and Cheese Prep

One of my favorite parts of this dish is baking tomato and onion slices with some panko bread crumbs for the last 10 minutes

Tomato and onion slices for the Mac and Cheese topping

Tomato and onion slices for the Mac and Cheese topping

Here it is ready for that last few minutes

Mac and Cheese ready for cooking the topping

Mac and Cheese ready for cooking the topping

Linda also made some corn muffins and brought them. So dinner was served.

Dinner is served: Ribs, Mac and Cheese, Collard Greens and a corn muffin

Dinner is served: Ribs, Mac and Cheese, Collard Greens and a corn muffin

This was a great summer dinner on a wet spring day. People loved the ribs – LOVED them. Although they don’t have that smoky taste, the rub and the sauce make for a tasty main course. My sister-in-law Starr is ready to go buy a pressure cooker after that meal.

The collard greens were very tasty but 30 minutes was not enough simmering time for them; they were a bit chewy – not tough – just chewy. Next time I’m going to do this in the pressure cooker. When I do that, I’ll post my results and my recipe.

About howardwthompson

I'm a person who likes to travel, read, cook, and eat
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