Let me begin by telling you guys something. My name is Lenetta, and I'm a recovering vegetarian.
Now that we have that out of the way, I'll explain that I was only a "mostly vegetarian" (take me to Taco John's and I'll down a meat and potato burrito with the best of them!) and it was because I'm picky. My mother did everything she could to break me of that pickiness - including toting my pork chop from supper to my dad's softball game and whipping it out when I begged for my third inning trip to the concession stands for a pack of Skittles or Rain-Blow gum. This happened many, many times.
I also dislike meat because I hate messing with raw meat. Occasionally I'll wear food service type gloves, and that helps. Also, if I bite into something that isn't meat (i.e. gristle, a chewy tendon, etc.), the contents of my stomach attempt an immediate response. And then I'm completely uninterested in meat for a long time.
Then I fell in love with a cow farmer and married him, and he LOVES meat. I do my best to accommodate that, and that's where my attempt at items such as riblets comes in. That, and a sale at a nearby grocery store - I picked up a ten pound box. Before I jump in to this, let me get something off my chest:
Dear Farmland Foods:
You indicate VERY CLEARLY on the ten pound box of riblets that they should not be thawed at room temperature, hinting that something terrible will befall my family should I not heed your instructions. I put them in the refrigerator for three days as you recommended and while the block of meat on the outside was merely frosty, the inside was hard as a brick. A total riblet-cicle. Maybe you could package them a bit flatter and help us out here. Thanks. Oh, and your recommendation to cook them for an hour and a half? Why don't you run that by the test kitchen again, mmkay?
I feel better now. I figured I'd do well to use a rub on the riblets, and remembered an interesting blog I'd stumbled upon a while back. I've briefly mentioned that I read A Year of Crockpotting, and a while back, Steph mentioned in a post that she'd gone on a search to find out where liquid smoke comes from and whether it is full of things that are really not meant for consumption. (and if it's gluten free - which it is - since her family must avoid gluten.) She found this post at The Crockpot Alchemist, who loves BBQ in the crock pot. Unfortunately he's decided to discontinue posting because he moved to an apartment where he can't use his crockpot or some such. I can't wrap my head around that exactly, but I've never lived in a real city, either. (Something tells me Omaha and Colorado Springs don't really count.)
So, I poked around said Crockpot Alchemist and found a few recipes for rubs, which I compiled into one to get all the good stuff together. Here's what I used:
To help the rub adhere, Jared recommends using a mixture of 3 parts worcestershire sauce, 1 part liquid smoke, and 3 parts honey. I used tablespoons, and tripled the recipe which left me with more than enough to dunk every riblet plus extra to pour over the riblets in the crockpot. I meant to only double it, but it turned out OK in the end.
For the rub, I used the following:
1 T chili powder
2 T paprika
3 T brown sugar
1 T kosher salt
1 T black pepper
2 t garlic powder
1 t dry mustard
2 T cumin
2 t onion salt
I meant to use onion powder but I'm out so I subbed onion salt and reduced the amount of kosher salt. Those changes are reflected above. I ended up tripling this recipe and ran short of a few things so I went a bit long on others.
With an assembly line, I pried a riblet off the frozen block, dipped it in the honey mixture, let it drip a bit, dipped it in the rub mixture, and set them on foil-lined jelly roll pans (like cookie sheets but with sides). I baked them at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes, rotating the pans twice. I ended up using three pans - my largest one and two medium ones that would fit side-by-side on one rack. They released a lot of liquid, so I definitely needed a pan with sides. At 50 minutes, the liquid was pretty well evaporated and burning, so I shut the oven off, leaving the pans in there, and called my mom.
She agreed with me that since the pieces were so thin, they were likely done and since there was some burning action, I pulled everything out. I cut into one piece to make sure it was done all the way through, and it was.
I could only fit around half the riblets on the pans, so I decided to cook the rest in the crockpot. I was out of rub and some of the spices that made it up, so I just dipped each riblet in the honey mixture and put them in a well-greased crockpot, layering as evenly as I could. I then dumped the remaining honey mixture in the rub bowl and whisked with my fork to get any spices that I could. (There was a bit remaining in a paste form.) I dumped all that in the crockpot and turned it on high for about an hour (starting at 10:30 AM), then switched to low.
Hubs had us bring him some lunch, so I tossed in one of the baked riblets so he could try it. His verdict was that it was plenty spicy (a good thing - he loves spicy!) and a bit dry. Some BBQ sauce would probably help. The instructions indicate to either grill the riblets or finish them on the grill after baking. Since our propane tank is MIA, I just plain skipped that step. I might incorporate it on the frozen ones when reheating them.
Around 5:30, I pulled a riblet out of the crockpot intending to shred it up and give some to Goose for supper. It didn't really shread very easily, so I put the lid back on and let them cook for a while longer. I think I turned it down to "keep warm" somewhere around 8:30. I pulled them out at about 10:00 and spread them out on two plates so they could cool. At that point, they were falling-apart tender.
Hubs got home a bit later and ate two helpings, although he wasn't turning cartwheels over them, which is my hoped-for response. :>) With both batches, I put some in the refrigerator to eat this week and some in the freezer for later. My mom will be here tomorrow (yay!) and I'll let you know what she thinks. That's the other thing about being me - I'm kinda hesitant to try out my concoctions. Hubs is a wonderful husband in that he'll take a bite of anything and tell me at a minimum that it's not too bad!
I didn't get any pictures of the finished product because they weren't exactly picturesque between the burned pans and the 11 PM shadows.
Now, I'd better rescue Goose from her Muppet Show Netflix DVD (Don Knotts guest star!) and feed her some lunch, then get lunch to Hubs in the tractor. After lunch, I plan to mow, except for the spot outside Goose's window, where she'll be napping. Hopefully I can finish that up tomorrow while Mom is here to keep an eye on the little honker.
Hope everybody is having a great day!