Rehearsing for the joy of spring: Killer dry rub ribs with perfectly rich Mac & Cheese.

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Spring is less than a month away, but Spring weather doesn't always know how to read a calendar. 

Some people are still feeling the icy tendrils of winter, and other people are on their decks enjoying food and beverages and the increasingly heady smell of new dirt and flowers. 

This menu is for both groups: Ribs and Mac & cheese is wintry enough while also bringing mouthfuls of Spring love. 

Let's start with what I call:

Stinking gorgeous dry rub ribs

Dry rub ribs with a molasses chili paste glaze. It's even better than you might imagine. 

Dry rub ribs with a molasses chili paste glaze. It's even better than you might imagine. 

Really, they smell terrific. Here, "stinking gorgeous" means "gorgeous and delicious raised to the gorgeous and delicious power", or "Homerically epically gorgeous and delicious." You see now why I chose the shorter form of "stinking."

Part of the magic of this dish is the tablespoon of ras el hanout. Like Indian curries, no two are made exactly the same. They're all going to be good though. And by "good," I mean, "What the heck is THAT? I LOVE IT!" followed by growling sounds. 

Ingredients

  • 12 ribs
Your ribs -- with just a bit of magic applied.

Your ribs -- with just a bit of magic applied.

Rub with a dry mixture of: 

  • 4 T. Kosher salt
  • 2 T. garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. espresso powder
  • 1 T. ras el hanout
  • 1 T. black pepper

Mix the following in a bowl and reserve for later use:

  • 1 cup black strap molasses
  • 2 T chili paste
The top of the EuroCAST double roaster is a grill pan. I love it. And ... it's gorgeous.

The top of the EuroCAST double roaster is a grill pan. I love it. And ... it's gorgeous.

Procedure

  1. Roast covered with foil at 250 degrees F for four hours or until fork tender. 
  2. Remove from oven. 
  3. Pour the reserved molasses and chili paste mixture over ribs and return to oven for another 40 minutes. 
Magic has now been applied. 

Magic has now been applied. 

Enjoy -- ideally with the jacked-up Mac & cheese below. Because we just need to blow this winter away, yes?

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Jacked up to Heaven Mac & Cheese

This is so good you will be speechless. 

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And, as usual, it has a bit of magic, because you can adjust the cheeses as you see fit, and you never need to tell anyone exactly how you did it. 

Once you've cooked some elbow macaroni according package instructions, put on your Harry Potter robe and do this.

Ingredients

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Assemble in a large mixing bowl:

  • 1 lb elbow macaroni cooked
  • 1 lb grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 8 oz provolone cheese, grated or coarsely chopped
  • 8 oz shredded whole milk mozzarella
  • 2 bunches (about 10) scallions, trimmed, cleaned and chopped fine

Procedure

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Make a béchamel sauce (this recipe from our friends at the Food Network). This is a mother sauce. By which I mean it's the first layer of magic. Sure, anyone can make a béchamel. That doesn't mean it isn't magic. The first warm day of Spring feels like magic, but we've been doing that for millions of years. 

Béchamel

  • 5 T butter
  • 4 T all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (don't skip this)
A terrific salad, or slices of radish dredged in salt, can contrast the rich rib flavor. Just as the color red looks redder next to the color blue, your ribs can taste even more stinking delicious. 

A terrific salad, or slices of radish dredged in salt, can contrast the rich rib flavor. Just as the color red looks redder next to the color blue, your ribs can taste even more stinking delicious. 

  1. In a medium EuroCAST saucepan, heat the butter over medium low heat until melted.  
  2. Add the flour and stir until smooth,  and then cook until it starts to turn a light golden color and smells a little nutty 5 - 7 minutes depending on your heat. That lovely smell is the butter browning along with the flour. You want the flour to cook or otherwise it tastes raw. And raw flour is shown in the dictionary as a picture for "yuck". 
  3. In a small EuroCAST saucepan, heat the milk but don't let it boil (watch it!).
  4. Then add the hot milk to the butter in your other saucepan, 1 cup or so at a time, whisking continuously with a whisk safe for non-stick, until very smooth.
  5. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper. Some people use white pepper for looks, but I don't care, and actually prefer fresh ground. 
  6. Now that you have a lovely béchamel, pour it over the macaroni (and friends) in your large mixing bowl.
  7. Stir to incorporate.
  8. In your EuroCAST double roaster top, or your largest EuroCAST skillet with the handle removed, pour the cheese and macaroni mixture. 

Top with the following prior to placing in the oven (this is the next layer of magic):

  1. 4 oz Brie, rind on, cut into slices which then you cut into halves.
  2. 2 cups bread crumbs or panko, or a combination. Because you’re crazy like that.

  3. 1/2 pickled jalapeño peppers, coarsely chopped.

    Cook uncovered until browned and bubbly at 350 degrees F, about 20-30 minutes.

Brussels sprouts are all the rage. Cooked right, they'll make you vibrate in your seat. They're also beautiful just out on the table.

Brussels sprouts are all the rage. Cooked right, they'll make you vibrate in your seat. They're also beautiful just out on the table.

Paul WardComment