UP IN SMOKE
RETURN OF THE WINTER WARRIOR
My, how times have changed. Whether it’s due to larger investments in grills and outdoor kitchens, a protracted appetite for the smoky flavors of summer, or the continued need for barbecue bragging rights, live fire cooking outdoors has become a four season endeavor. The Hearth and Patio Barbecue Association reports that the majority of Americans (56% in its latest survey) grill year-round.
Now, you might wonder why you’d accept winter grilling advice from a man whose home base is Miami, Florida. Well, I grew up in Maryland and lived in Boston for 20 years, and book tours and television shoots—not to mention regular winter excursions to Martha’s Vineyard—keep me up on grilling in inhospitable weather. And even when I’m in Miami, I grill vicariously through my Cleveland-based assistant, Nancy Loseke, who claims her traditional Christmas Eve lamb roast always turns out better when the weather outside is frightful, and she wears high heels for traction around the ice- and snow-packed grill. (I guess spike heels work like crampons?) Nancy doesn’t have photos, or so she claims, but says she can produce witnesses…
Here are some indispensable tips for winter grilling:
Method: Indirect grilling
Advance preparation: 6 to 12 hours for marinating the ribs
For the coloradito sauce:
7 guajillo chiles
1 ancho chile
2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small onion, rough-chopped (about 3/4 cup)
2 cloves garlic, rough-chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 ripe plantain, peeled and diced (about 1/2 cup)
1/3 cup yellow raisins
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup crushed tomatoes with their liquid
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, rough chopped
2 teaspoons brown sugar (or to taste)
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar (or to taste)
1/2 to 1 cup beef broth or water
For the ribs:
6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoons coarse salt (kosher or sea)
1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or vegetable oil
3 to 4 pounds bone-in beef short ribs
Freshly ground black pepper
Pure chile powder, such as ancho
Dried oregano, preferably Mexican
You’ll also need: 1-1/2 cups wood chips, soaked in water to cover for 1 hour, then drained
Prepare the coloradito: Tear open the guajillo and ancho chiles and remove the stems and seeds. Place the chiles in a bowl with 2 cups warm water to cover and let soak until softened, 15 minutes.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until translucent but not brown, stirring with a wooden spoon, about 3 minutes. Add the cumin and cook for 1 minute.
Drain the chiles, reserving the soaking liquid, and add them to the onion mixture. Sauté the mixture until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the soaking liquid, cinnamon, clove, sesame seeds, oregano, bay leaf, coriander seeds, plantain, raisins, almonds, tomatoes, chocolate, brown sugar, wine vinegar, and salt (start with 1 teaspoon). Gently simmer the mixture until the plantains and raisins are soft, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the cinnamon stick. Transfer the sauce to a blender and puree until smooth. Return the mole to the saucepan.
Add 1/2 to 1 cup of the beef broth—enough to obtain a thick but pourable sauce. Correct the seasoning, adding salt, sugar, or vinegar to taste—the sauce should be highly seasoned and a little sweet with just a faint hint of tartness. The coloradito can be prepared several hours or even a day ahead and reheated.
Prepare the ribs: Add the garlic cloves to a mortar and sprinkle them with the salt. Using a pestle, pound them until they are thoroughly crushed. Blend in enough oil to make a paste. Spread the garlic paste on all sides of the ribs, then sprinkle the ribs generously on all sides with black pepper, chile powder, and oregano. Arrange the ribs in a nonreactive pan and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 6 to 8 hours, or overnight.
Set up a charcoal grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium (325-350°F). Place a large drip pan in the center of the grill under the grill grate.
When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Place the ribs bone side down in the center of the grate over the drip pan and away from the heat. Toss the wood chips on the coals. Cover the grill and cook the ribs until cooked through and very tender, 1-1/2 to 2 hours in all. (If they start to brown too much, wrap them tightly in aluminum foil.) Replenish the coals as needed.
Generously brush the short ribs on all sides with the coloradito. Put the ribs directly over the coals and sizzle for 1 to 2 minutes per side, turning with tongs. Transfer to a platter or plates, and serve with additional coloradito sauce on the side.
If you have winter grilling tips you’d like to share, send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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