Friday, December 18, 2009

Tuff Bronco

The hours spent playing this at Tiny's house, using Christian Okoye like a battering ram. Best Sega Genesis game ever. Dear Santa......

Monday, November 9, 2009

God Help Us All....It's Tropical Storm Ida

Don't say that I didn't warn you. Although she's now weakend to a tropical storm, Ida still likes to be windy. Such a rarity to have late-season tropical system. What can you say, though....Ida doesn't like to be told that she can't throw a party. Here's some pretty pictures and stuff from this morning. Have a good time, Gulf Coast.....she's a helluva good cook! Give her a Margarita or two and she'll tell you who started the Chicago fires, too.
((Love ya, Ma!))

The Match That Lit the Fuse on Saturday Night

What a night it was at the Stadium. The place felt like it was packed with gun power, all the anticipation and frustration, the hope that they could pull off an upset. This opening montage of the Team Prayer that is done prior to the game in the locker room pretty much lit the fuse, and the place shook for 4 quarters.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Gran's Kitchen

I had never made it before, since I consider most sausage or bacon substitutes made with turkey to be direct insults to any turkey of distinction (or any hog, for that matter). It caught my eye in the frozen food section of the Pac-N-Save, as I was planning out some weekend meals. Mixed Berry Buckwheat Waffles with Turkey sausage links. With the endless bushels of leaves to rake, and the dreaded, long overdue cleaning of the once mouse-ridden shed, this seemed like a decent plowman's breakfast on a fall Sunday ( pics). As we made it all up Sunday morning, I was captivated by the aroma of those links sizzling away. One of those rare but welcomed moments where an aroma pulls you out of your time and place, and takes you back to a memory only formed over years of expereinces there. I said it repeatedly to my wife, "It smells like Gran's kitchen in here." "Is that a good thing?", she replied. Always a good thing.

That green screen door. One of those timeless things that never changed about Gran's kitchen. There were many such features. The old, heavy door with countless layers of lead and latex paint, with the aftermarket deadbolt lock that I could never quite master. Arriving on any given steamy Summer morning, you could hear the early sounds of the work day beginning just down the hill at Jones Welding through the screen door. Two farmers would be talking grain prices while filling up their pick-up's at the gas pumps at Dinklage's. Uncle Burt and Gran would be sitting at kitchen table, the wormwood lamp that Doctor John Kline had made, illuminating the eating area, sitting under a display shelf holding some of Gran's more distinct and unique pieces of Fiesta Ware. I always loved the two figurines hanging from the ends of the shelf-two mexican men wearing sombreros, both in a sitting position. I wonder what happened to those at the sale. Walking across the kitchen, you could physically feel the sagging in the floor under your feet. This was an old home, and to find a perfect right angle was an impossibility.

Burt would be sloppily eating a bowl of cereal. He had his own special cereal bowl that was quite a bit larger than the regular set of bowls in the copboard. Gran's everyday dishes matched the set we had when I was growing up. Her silverware was wood-handled, almost like teak wood. Vintage 1960's, I'm sure. Lee Hughes was reading his KMA sports report from the Realistic radio sitting on top of the refridgerator, skillfully sending it back to Don Hansen for more farm market news. Gran wouldn't make a full pot of coffee for herself, so she would typically make a cup of instant coffee to go with whatever baked good she was eating for breakfast. Usually this meant a piece of sheet cake, or some date & walnut cookies to go with her rather large assortment of prescription medicine she would take; the first of many such rounds of pills throughout her day, for various chronic ailments.

I would have a bowl of cereal with them, usually marveling at the machine-like eating prowess of Burt. He had a full morning of errands on any given weekday, and was typically up and out of the house and across the street to Nishna Cottage to see Johnnie & make the rounds by 9. Every once in a while I would scrounge through the kitchen, just seeing what was there, for no particular reason. Cork & Trudy's bottle of Black Velvet sat in a lower cupboard under the coffee maker, pulled out for Sunday night vcard games. Burt's "shaving kit" was one designated drawer, with his toothbrush, Lectric Shave aftershave, and his Norelco electric razor, always shrouded with his heavy beard trimmings. There was a junk drawer with various key chains, rubber balls, finger monster thingies I used to play with, loose marbles, everything you'd expect from a junk drawer.

The pantry was just off the kitchen, just large enough to wegde a washer & dryer in there, with build-in shelves where canned goods would be kept. Gran's pantry was the only kitchen I ever saw that would have a can of hominy in it. Mom, Gran, Aunt Bernice and Aunt Sam would tell a story about when Burt was a kid where he got a kernel of hominy stuck so far up his nose they had to have Dr. John remove it with a piece of wire. I've never looked at a can of hominy, which I do use on occasion, without thinking of what had to be an excruciating day for Burt. A damp, musty smell always emanated from the "back room" of Gran's kitchen. Essentially it was an add-on room used for storing various household and kitchen wares, some canned good, etc. It would smell like a damp basement, and there was always an open packet of rat poison on the floor in the corner. When something couldn't be found, you would invariably find it in the back room. Bug spray? Top shelf, just inside the door. Cookie sheets? Inside and to the right.

In her culinary prime, Granny Ocle was a damn fine cook, and she looked for excuses to cook for a crowd. Probably my favorite memories of Gran's house were evening dinners of pan fried chicken, mashed potatoes with homemade country gravy, and fresh corn. The adults would clean up and play some cards, and Burt & I would watch a game in the living room. I talk about how I got my love of cooking, and cooking for a crowd from my mom, but I know where we both really got it from. In time, Gran's eyesight worsened, and her cooking suffered because of it. We would eventually take over the brunt of holiday cooking duties, but Gran's kitchen always remained the same.

All it took was one chance encounter with a skillet full of imitation breakfast sausage, and there I was again, 10 years old, back in a place that I guess I've never really left, now that I remember it.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Lincoln Good Eats: Ideal Grocery's Deli Counter

I've been know to venture off the beaten path when it comes to finding a good plate of food. Call me old-fashioned, call me a hipster, call me a douche canoe.....I'll take a bubbling cauldron of mystery stew or a crusted-over pan of God-know's what over your typical fast food fare any ol' day of the effin' week. Which brings me to one of the most under-appreciated locales for good "fast" food for 90% of the general public....the deli counter at your small, still locally-owned grocery stores.

Example #1: Ideal Grocery and Market on S. 27th St. in Lincoln. The place has been in business since the dawn of time, seemingly. It's the kind of place that smells familiar, like good food simmering away somewhere, that old lady's perfume that she got in 1975 & is still wearing. There's a produce section with primarily US grown veggies, not always cheaper, but still important enough to someone. THe meat on display in the meat counter is amazing....well-aged and trimmed to perfection. There's also a large selection of locally raised meats. All good stuff that makes a foodie feel good about a place like this.

But I'm here for lunch. There's at least 4 locally-owned individual food markets like this in Lincoln, and I'll be hitting up all 4 to sample the goods. Ideal was a place I had only been to once before, but I know a good thing when I come across it. Today the selection was Beef & Potato Bake and a slice of their heavenly-looking Meat Loaf. You can learn a lot, dare I say all you need to know, about a dining establishment from their meat loaf alone.

The Beef & Potato Bake looks simple enough, and that's just fine. Simple ingredients prepared the right way will always be a good choice. Perhaps a hint of wine in here? Maybe the beef marinade. Definitely some thyme. THe beef was fork tender and superb. A great little treat for next to nothing.

Finally, the meat loaf. The blurry picture shows what appears to be your standard-issue ketchup schmear on top. However, roll your finger over it, and it's actually almost like a candy glaze. Perfect texture, not too dry, not too mushy.....heaven in a styrofoam container.

My recommendation: When you're curious about what's good behind that hot lunch deli counter, bank on whatever looks homemade to be above average every time. Don't be scurred....if it looks good, eat it. If it doesn't....try it anyway, Sally.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The House Band has a New Record

I call them the House Band, because they are, at least in my house. Great new stuff, amazing lyrics, all in a nice, tidy 37 minutes. Eddie's never been better at his craft.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


The guy floors me every time I hear him. It's only when you see him own the guitar that you fully appreciate just how special this guy really was. Just a sick groove.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Birthday BBQ Pr0n

In honor of my birthday today, here's some gastronomic eye candy for you to peruse. Better close your office door, though.....possibly NSFW for some of you. Just some random stuff from the backyard over the past year that didn't make it to the blog in any other form. Oh, and a pic of my first attempt at authentic championship Texas chili (no beans!).

Welcome back to the blog. You've been missed.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009



It really is as simple as that. Problem is, I tend to put about 75 thoughts and conclusions in front of the actual start. I've been doing this since I was old enough to acknowledge that I was consciously choosing not to start something (or finish something, for that matter)....around 4th grade, I think.

Over my formative years, this manifested itself into me becoming a world-class procrastinator, of which I reaped the benefits early and often. Benefits such as skipping out on chores around the house (and feeling the wrath fo such decisions later), failing classes for no apparent reason, missing assignments, and a general apathy for anything homework-related. This ultimately led to me missing out on things I actually loved to do, such as sports, because I was ineligible for periods at a time due to poor grades.

When it came to college, it was a tougher task to just slack off, but I found ways. Ultimately, during my senoir year, when I had been coasting along, then suddenly losing my uncle to cancer abruptly, it was too much to overcome. My ride had ended, and there was no avoiding it anymore. ((insert "Lie in the bed you made" euphemism here))

Ever since then, it's been a constant struggle with getting up and doing the actual doing of whatever it is I need to be doing. I've tried to come up with reasons as to why it's this way. Fear of.....what, exactly?

Failure? Maybe.

Sucking? Possibly.

Imperfection? Could be.

Add on a few dozen more, and I've likely covered them all. Always the barriers. I've mentioned my entirely unhealthy love affair with the concept of Getting Things Done, or GTD as the uber-dorks call it. It started with picking up the book by David Allen at a bookstore in the Las Vegas Airport back in 2003. I gobbled it up....all the concepts, tips, tricks, ideas, philosophies. It had all the answers I needed for me to break out of this pattern that I had molded and shaped in my own brain for over 2 decades; almost as if it was written specifically for me. I even joined their online community a couple of years ago, shelling ut almost $50 a month just to have the privilege of being on a site with even more of the same regurgitated content, tips, tricks, and sharing it with other people just like me who were also wasting the same time not doing what they were needing to actually do, but pretending they were being productive wasting time on a productivity site. Made perfect sense to me.

So what the hell are you talking about here, Dixon, you self-deprecating ass? Get on with it.


I got some news recently that I've successfully procreated....Life as a daddy begins in Feburary 2010. For those that have been fortunate enough to experience this phase of human life, you know that your priorities (work, life, any) take on an instant and usually tectonic plate-sized shift. Things that were zeroed in on your screen yesterday just got boxed and shelved for (MUCH) later use. Others that were further down your Someday/Maybe list just got called up for immediate clarification.

It's time to start.

No, it shouldn't have taken something as significant as becoming a parent-to-be for me to understand the simple power of that word or phrase. In fact, If I recall correctly, I've even mentioned something close to this very thing on this weblog thingy in the past before. Yeah....I know. I was pondering over lunch today of all the time I've wasted just by thinking of the way I wanted to get something done. I thought about how many times that's been the case with almost everything I've had either the intention or the assignment to do, from taking out the trash to writing a book. If only I had this cool new tool, a new Moleskine notebook, this brainstorming app, reviewing all of these websites for ideas and tips. If only.

So, just start. With a couple ground rules.
  • Give yourself permission to suck. This is a tough one. For anything to be a success, you obviously have to tangibly begin somewhere. So if I choose the wrong path for a graduate degree, or if I have a first draft section of a book or presentation that is complete least I'm that much closer to the desired results.
  • You've got to set aside some time on a regular basis to consciously work on whatever it is you're working on. Distraction-free is a huge bonus here. It doesn't have to be much time. 10-15 minutes, maybe. Whatever it's going to take for it to be you in the moment working towards being further along than when you started. Then put it down. Walk away. Pick something else up and start. Just know that you've made the decision that you will be back to it and start again.
  • Ignore, at all costs, that stupid voice in your head who reminds you that what you're intending to work on likely doesn't mean shit to the vast majority of the world, or that you won't finish anyway. And be cool with that.
I tend to rehash some concepts and ideas from a guy who I think presents these same ideas in a way that has just always worked for me. Here's a great little presentation to listen to that is a lot more effective than I could ever possibly be that cuts to the middle of this concept of Start.

Kudos, Merlin. Again.
Damn you.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Scream for me, Long Beach!!

While my love of music now spans many different genres (many more than when I was growing up), I've come to realize that my traditional musical tastes do fall into a predictible pattern: Hard rock/metal, with a nod towards razor-sharp instrumentalism, and a tight forceful rythum & bass line. It's predictible because its fandom is made up overwhelmingly of geeky white guys. Not a lot of females (with any self-respect or dignity, for the most part) have their iPods loaded up with the likes of Megadeth, Anthrax, Rush, DLR-Era Van Halen, or Dream Theater (Anyone? Anyone???? Yeah.....didn't think so).

Go ahead and put Iron Maiden in that category, as well. Blame it all on my older brother, but my disdain for terrible, cliched, bubble gum pop, glam rock, and anything written by Def Leppard was formed early on with my access to his 80's rock album collection. Still one of my all-time favorites was the 1985 Maiden classic Live After Death, a compilation of the best recordings of their now legendary 4-night set at the Long Beach Arena. It was a non-stop world tour that lasted over two solid years, all of which were sold out. In the States, this was done without hardly any mainstream rock radio airplay....a feat almost unheard of before that time.

So what could have possibly been (or still be) the appeal of this band? They were absolutely nothing to look at, other than a dizzying assortment of spandex, stringy, unconditioned, wispy long hair, and bad British teeth. It was the music, maaaan. The engrossing frontman stylings of THE Bruce Dickinson, the crushing, relentless bass work of Steve Harris, and the precision dual guitars of Adrian Smith and Dave Murray. They had a sound more musical than Metallica, more ballsy than their British metal counterparts, Judas Priest, and in 1985, they were THE metal gods of the entire world.

One of the classic traits of Geeky Guy Metal Fan is the costume....the insanely obnoxious black t-shirt with hideous, ridiculous artwork and graphics covering it. Fortunately, I've never owned one of these. However, I was always on the lookout for something more refined, but yet still able to proudly show where my roots lie. Finally, I came across it. The iconic Maiden font, just their name emblazoned across a plain black t-shirt. Your hand instantly forms the devil horns when it slides through the sleeve. ROCK.

For my fellow metal geek bretheren, here's the classic song of their same name from one of those classic Long Beach shows. Their ever-present mascot, Eddie, makes his grand appearance at the 2:35 mark. Keep in mind, this is 1985....but the stage show is still just as timely today. A true classic. Enjoy. Or don't. I don't really care.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Smoked SPAM Experiment

"SPAM? Are you freaking kidding me, Dixon? I'd rather suck quarters out of an old man's ass!" *

Yeah, I hear ya. Well, you're wrong, my friends. Consider this your permission slip to not only purchase a can (or four) of the tasty, beautifully pressed loaf of hog parts unknown, but delight in the consumption of it, MSG and God-know's-what else, be damned. I re-discovered this American delicacy on a pilgrimage to the SPAM Museum in Austin, MN back in 2003. My college roommate Mickey & I were returning to Des Moines from attending a wedding in Wisconsin, and saw the signs as we made our way west down Interstate 90 in southeast Minnesota. We determined instantly that this was a must-see. From then on, I vowed that I would never again frown upon the regular (yet in moderation, of course) consumption of this feigned food.

It was a typical weeknight, with no real plan in place for a quick dinner. A scan of the cupboards can usually yield some sort of "Iron Chef"-like secret ingredient to build a meal around. If you come across a can of SPAM and a box of Macaroni & Cheese, you've got yourself a good start. "Start" is the keyword here, folks. Use your imagination, and the tools & resources you have at hand to take these things, and play around with ideas to make it even better. That's how the Smoked SPAM idea came to be.

Let me just say that if the main star of this show is a can of SPAM, the the supporting actor is the Traeger smoker/grill. The ability to have that thing fired up in less than a half-hour without a lot of hassle is about the only way I can pull this off on a weeknight. This is simply one of many more ringing endosements you'll read about these grills on this fine online publication. With that idea in mind, I set out to smoke my loaf (Mmmm, goddamn, that just sounds lovely, doesn't it?). A quick sprinkle of some leftover dry rub from a recent BBQ rib smoke, and it was off to the hickory smoke for about an hour or so. The finished smoked product is shown here on the cutting board waiting for its next destination: Processed Cheeseville.

While a regular ol' box of Kraft Mac & Cheese would certainly suffice, I'm sometimes a softie (shown by my lack of any sign of an abdominal muscle) for the good stuff. This time, it was Velveeta Shells & Cheese, precisely. With a dicing of the SPAM, and a stir of the shells & cheese, we were close to done. I added some more of the dry rub directly into the mixture, and a sdusting on top when I plated it. If you can't find some culinary goodness in that plate of smoky, cheesy heaven, I can't do anything more for you, my friends.

*Quote from M.H., circa 1994

Monday, June 29, 2009

Good Eats: Post-Race Victory Dinner

Scotch Eggs Appetizer, with Bangers & Mash
Celebrating the finish of the Dam-to-Dam 20k that morning. 5.30.09

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Pray for the Falcons.....Again.

A good man who I never met was senselessly taken this morning from a community in Iowa who still desperately needed him. Here's to the memory of this good man.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Patience, Darlin'....Patience.

Fear not, followers.....more good stuff is simmering on the stovetop of the UUKBlog kitchen. Tasty vittles like running the Dam-To-Dam 20K, plenty more food & BBQ pr0n, Some Maui in Malvern nuggets, and other various what-have-you's. Long story short: Been busy.

Since I've been accused in the past of hosting YouTube2, here's something random to keep you occupied for now. Eddie Vedder playing with The Boss and the E Street Band. If you don't like this, you have no soul, and I weep for you.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Kansas City Good Eats Tour Stop: Dixon's Famous Chili

Although I'm not in line for the family restaurant empire (nor am I even sure I'm related to this particular lineage of Dixon's), I can confidently say that my name proudly adorns a true culinary road food classic in Kansas City, my gastronomic home away from home. Located merely blocks from Kaufmann Stadium, the fellas and I decided early on that this was going to be our post-game meal last week.

The only thing that I had heard about the place was that their version of chili is quite a bit different from what most everyone is used to. The only other place that I've heard of chili that is this unique is Cincinatti Chili, wich has a bit of a sweetness to go with the normally savory, tomatoey dish, and tends to be poured over plates of spaghetti. Whils bearing no resemblance to Cincy, Dixon's Chili is no less original. Here's the run-down on how it all comes together.

First, every component of Dixon's chili is prepared separately. Only when you order do the ingredients begin to come together. The two main components are ground beef, which is drained to the point of a bit of a dry consistency. No worries, that good meat grease does not go to complete waste (more on that in a sec). Pinto beans are cooked fresh every day in another separate pot. When a standard order of chili is made, a scoop of strained beans gets put on a plate. The bean liquid is set aside and served separately, to be added individually to your particular taste. Next, a couple of scoops of the ground beef is spread over the beans.

At this's all up to you. You receive two tiny bowls of both the bean liquid and the rendered meat drippings. Also on the table is a shaker of their special chili powder, along with shredded cheddar cheese and some freshly minced jalapeno peppers. The real secret ingredient is sitting on the tables, as well....a bottle of chile-infused vinegar. With a complete guess at a good combination of all the ingredients, the entire dish came together with that drizzling of vinegar. I proceeded to walk through that plate of goodness with zero self-restraint and dignity. No need for such manners, frankly.

Fellow culinary experts Martin & Scott also seemed to enjoy the tasty vittles, although Martin could not tame the entire chili dog order. I happily slid his plate over and finished it off in short order. Apparently sitting out in the hot right-field sun at Kaufmann Stadium caused for some serious hunger to brew. After a few photo opportunities with the freindly wait staff (who were a bit taken with our heartfelt curiosity and charm of the place), the visit was deemed a roaring success. If you get the chance, set your apprehensions aside and give it a shot. If for nothing else, do it for Dixon, won't you?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Must-Own Shirts

It's hard to separate yourself from the rash of trendy funny t-shirts that the Hot Topic crowd seems to be buying these days, but here's a few shirt designs that recently caught my eye. One shirt was immediately purchased by a buddy of mine when I forwarded the link. Dammit. I threw the last one in for long-time blog supporter Michael (You're welcome!).

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Vortex2 De-Mystified

Courtesy of chaser/photographer extraordinaire Ryan McGinnis, from the entertaining/flaming Vortex2 thread on the Stormtrack Message Board. You can click on a link below to really learn about the project, but the issue at hand is the massive fleet of vehicles (over 40 total) that will be out on the Plains collecting research data with the goal of increasing warning times, and ultimately saving lives. In the process, they may be taking up a LOT roadside real estate over the next month or so that would normally be taken by enthusiast storm chasers. Selfishness and entitlement abounds. Ryan has a way of effectively getting his sarcastic point across. Well done, Sir. And ditto.

Frequently Asked Questions For sci.geo.stormtrack.vortex2-thread

Q1: What is Vortex 2?

Vortex 2 is a two year science mission to study various supercellular parameters and how they relate to tornado genesis. You can find out more here.

Q2: Well I think it's useless.

It's not useless -- just do a bit of research and you will see their team research goals.

Q3: Clicking links is a lot of work. I don't want to.


Q4: Well I still think it's useless.

See Q1.

Q5: If I'm on the plains and a Vortex 2 radar truck pulls next to me and kindly asks me if I can maybe move my car 20 feet to the north so that he can have an unobstructed view to collect data for a 12 million dollar science project designed to help save lives, can I kill him and take his truck?

No. Murdering radar truck drivers is illegal. The kind thing to do would be to smile and agree and move the car 20 feet to the north. Possibly later the Vortex 2 driver will buy you a beer.

Q6: But what if I don't want to move? Can I tell him to screw off? Can I make an obscene gesture? Can I passively-aggressively sigh and roll my eyes?

Yes, all of these things are allowable responses; however, you may wish to consult alt.jerks.recovery for further information about why these responses may not be perceived as optimal.

Q7: Okay but what if the truck driver is a real idiot. He's just looking at me funny when I ask him to "cross my palm with silver". What if he tries to battle ram me?

This is a highly improbable scenario. If it occurs, you should contact law enforcement.

Q8: Okay but what if the truck driver has zombie dogs, and the dogs are like, barking, and every time they bark, zombie bees come out of their mouth and try to turn me into a zombie with their zombie stings?

Zombie mitigation is outside the purview of this FAQ, however, it should be noted that it is highly unlikely you will be able to successfully destroy the central nervous system of large quantities of zombie bees and zombie dogs before you succumb to stings and bites. The most prudent course of action would be to depress the accelerator to the floor and not release it until you have crossed a state line. Please consult sci.geo.vortex2.zombie-dogs for more information.

Q9: But I don't want to move for anyone, ever! I'm a very special person!

It's okay. Yes, you are.

Q10: Where can I become a certified chaser? Do they issue free lightbars?


Customers Who Viewed This Item Also Viewed...

Click it. Thanks, Yosh.
Customer Review

By B. Govern "Bee-Dot-Govern" (New Jersey, USA) - See all my reviews
This item has wolves on it which makes it intrinsically sweet and worth 5 stars by itself, but once I tried it on, that's when the magic happened. After checking to ensure that the shirt would properly cover my girth, I walked from my trailer to Wal-mart with the shirt on and was immediately approached by women. The women knew from the wolves on my shirt that I, like a wolf, am a mysterious loner who knows how to 'howl at the moon' from time to time (if you catch my drift!). The women that approached me wanted to know if I would be their boyfriend and/or give them money for something they called mehth. I told them no, because they didn't have enough teeth, and frankly a man with a wolf-shirt shouldn't settle for the first thing that comes to him.

I arrived at Wal-mart, mounted my courtesy-scooter (walking is such a drag!) sitting side saddle so that my wolves would show. While I was browsing tube socks, I could hear aroused asthmatic breathing behind me. I turned around to see a slightly sweaty dream in sweatpants and flip-flops standing there. She told me she liked the wolves on my shirt, I told her I wanted to howl at her moon. She offered me a swig from her mountain dew, and I drove my scooter, with her shuffling along side out the door and into the rest of our lives. Thank you wolf shirt.

Pros: Fits my girthy frame, has wolves on it, attracts women

Cons: Only 3 wolves (could probably use a few more on the 'guns'), cannot see wolves when sitting with arms crossed, wolves would have been better if they glowed in the dark.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Country-Style Ribs Experiment

Country-style ribs are a meaty treat, and were a staple in our house growing up. My definition of barbecue was anything that had barbecue sauce on it. These were made in the crock pot, all day, by my mother. With a side of Velveeta Shells & Cheese, you had one of my all-time favorites growing up. But I've graduated now from BBQ School, and I know that a Crock Pot has no place in the BBQ vernacular. Here's my breakdown of how things went on my first try at smoking country-style ribs.

Cut fron the sirloin, or rib end of a pork loin, country-style ribs are big and meaty. They could almost be confused to look like a sliced pork shoulder/butt roast. Since this was my first try at smoking this cut, I was a little nervous about just how long these would take, and if I'd dry them out. I was banking on at least 4 hours of cooking time at 225 degrees. After that, I was guessing.

The fiasco of the day was preparing the dry rub. I had been sitting on some rub and spice packets from Traeger, which came with the smoker when I bought it last May. Looking at their rib rub, it looked to be nothing but some sugar, a little salt and some caramel coloring, or smoke flavor. Bizzare. of course, like the idiot I am, I didn't bother to actually taste it. I also saw a cajun rub packet, so I thought since the rib rub looked so "weak" in my mind, I'd just combine the two. Oh wait....what's this one? Sweet rub? Perfect, I thought. The sweet rub would balance the Cajun rub, and since the rib rub already has to be perfectly balanced, this will be the rub to end all rubs! (New game: take a drink every time I say the word "rub"). Right??

Wrong. Since Genius here didn't do any tasting of any of the three before combining them, OR before heaping it on the meat, he pretty much set himself for failure in the flavor category. The rub was entirely too salty, which just made the spicy Cajun part of the mix even that much more potent. By the time I knew I needed to balance it out with some sugar, it was too late. I was committed to it now. S0 my only hope in balancing out the savory rub was to hit the ribs during the smoking process with a spritz of 4 parts Apple Juice, one part Jim Beam Bourbon, and one part REAL maple syrup. Then, just pray for the best. This picture above shows the ribs after about an hour of cooking.

So with the temperature locked in where I wanted it, and the light, sweet cherrywood smoke rolling, it was simply a game of wait and see. i gave them a spray of the apple jucie-whiskey glaze every hour. After 4 hours of smoke time, I could tell they weren't at the doneness I was looking for (seen here to the right). I decided that I was going to stick with keeping them on the smoker as is, without doing any foil wrapping or steaming, and keeping the temperature where it was, as well. The ribs looked as if they had enough fat and marbling that they wouldn't be dry. After letting them go for another hour and a half, it looked and felt like the meat was tender. The ribs themselves looked incredible, with an amazing, rich burgundy red color to them. Still, I knew that the rub was going to make or break these things. I figured with some sweet BBQ sauce to accompany them, they would still be good.

But, alas, the dry rub mess-up was simply too much to overcome. The ribs were simply too salty to really enjoy. Even with a good quality BBQ sauce, the saltiness was too much to overcome. I'm also suspecting that the salt aided in the ribs being a bit dry, too, drawing out more moisture than normal. As far as texture and tenderness, they were also a little bit dried out on average, especially the ones that didn't have the bone in. There were some really good textured parts, though, as seen in the picture below. But Holy Hell, they look good, don't they?? Damn shame....

So, lessons learned: 1) Make your own dry rub. I shuld've known better, but I was in a hurry, so I tried to improvise with what I had on hand. I should know by now to never tkae shortcuts when it comes to making a dry rub. 2) Don't guess on your dry rub, or go by looks. Taste the damn thing. How stupid could you be to NOT taste it before you coat your pig parts?? This particular savory rib rub concoction would have possibly been edible with a light shake coating, not the full-on liberal rub I gave them. 3) Probably should foil wrap these for the last hour or so, or think about beginning to experiment with some sort of steam set-up in the pellet smoker. I think because of the cut of these country-style ribs, and so much cooking area on them, they naturally would have a tendency to dry out, regardless of the fat content.

Always a learning experience. I'll definitely be trying these again, with far better results. That's BBQ, though. Tons of trial & error. Don't be scurred to mess up.