Super Bowl is one week away! For me, the Super Bowl is all about the commercials and the food!! (…and the game if my team is in-but they’re not!!) Super Bowl food-another good excuse to indulge so soon after the holidays. What is your favorite Super Bowl food? Do you have a menu list of MVP’s that must be served each year? For us, we have starters, finishers and a halftime show–halftime show is always chili!
This recipe came about one year when we were at our cabin in North Carolina for the Super Bowl. Our cabin is on a mountain, so you have to plan ahead for meals. I had planned the perfect Super Bowl menu, with my second string lineup consisting of smoked rib bites. What I didn’t plan on was the blizzard that arrived. My hubby, being so sweet, said he would attempt to get the smoker going. He probably would have, but as a cook I worried about the temperature being maintained and as a wife I worried about the icy steps he would have to conquer to get the job done. So, needless to say, I had to start thinking of plan B. We don’t have internet at the cabin, so looking up info for smoking meats in an oven was not an option, so I had to wing it! Lucky for us, it worked! (Downside is having to convince my hubby I still need my smoker!!)
Sweet & Smoky Rib Bites: If you have wonderful weather, by all means, get outside and smoke some ribs! If not, here is my trick. First, plan ahead. These rib bites take time, but the investment pays off in the end! I buy the country-style boneless pork ribs, not only for their inexpensive price, but for how many I can get for my money-that comes in handy if having a Super Bowl crowd or a hungry family!! You can certainly do the same with beef ribs. Check for sales especially around “grilling” holidays.
Dry Rub: Have a favorite dry rub? Use it. If not, make you own. My dry rub base is brown sugar followed by chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, cinnamon, red pepper, and salt. (yep, salt, it does help here!) The amount of rub will depend on the amount of ribs. The major player is brown sugar. Use enough to rub into both sides of ribs. However much brown sugar you used, half that amount for chili powder, half that amount for equal parts onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, half that amount for cinnamon, salt, red pepper-adjust to taste. There is a debate as to whether to rinse the ribs. I have always done it, so I rinse the ribs and dry them. If you don’t, just make sure they are dry before rubbing in the mixture. Cut off any excess fat. Get your hands dirty and rub the mixture into both sides. Put ribs into plastic bag and into refrigerator. Best to sit overnight, but even an hour or two will work.
Wood Chips: Use your favorite wood chips. Use about 2 handfuls. I’m using pecan today. Don’t be afraid to mix wood chip flavors! Soak your wood chips in water (or if you want to sacrifice- wine or beer!!). I use a plastic cup. Soak for 30 minutes-1 hour. Drain and save liquid. Make a foil packet to hold your wood chips. Fold over sides of foil, then fold sides up, leaving middle open, like a boat! (NOTE: If you do not have wood chips, add 2 TBSP liquid smoke to 1 cup boiling water and put in bottom of broiler pan, cover and cook.)Put wood chip packet onto a broiler pan and put in oven at 350 degrees. Watch for wisps of smoke. When you see the smoke signal, remove pan from oven. Turn oven down to 250 degrees. Pour in saved liquid from wood chip cup and 1/2 cup boiling water into bottom of pan around the wood chip packet. It is o.k. if your foil packet has set sail and now looks like a little “rowboat to china”. Put top of broiler rack on and place ribs horizontally over openings. Be careful for the bottom pan is hot. Cover with foil making a tight seal. Use oven mitts to work around all sides. Put into oven and bake at 250 degrees for at least 3 hours and up to 4 hours. Remove from oven and set aside. DO NOT open foil. Let that good smoke stay inside and steam the ribs a 1/2 hour longer. Afterwards, remove foil, let cool a few minutes. Transfer to container with loose cover and put into refrigerator. Let sit 2 hours or overnight. Ribs need to be cold to cut, if not, they will just fall apart…which is a good thing if you would like to enjoy them right out of the oven. (You do? O.K. eating the ribs as is? That’s called DRY or cover with barbecue sauce and sear and have them WET.)
RIB BITES: The mess free way to indulge in ribs!! Cut the cold ribs into cubes and put into bowl. If you have a favorite barbecue sauce, pour a small amount (good way to stretch the sauce) of room temperature barbecue sauce over the rib bites, stirring to coat. Proceed to cast iron skillet. (Works great in reheating leftover ribs!)
My preference is a balsamic vinegar and maple syrup glaze. (Reminds me of Chinese style ribs minus the salty soy sauce.) For my 3 pounds of ribs, I use 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar, 2 TBSP maple syrup, and 1 tsp brown sugar. Bring mixture to boil in a small saucepan, reduce heat and simmer 3 minutes. The mixture will reduce and thicken. Pour over the rib bites. Use tongs to toss bites to evenly coat.
Heat a cast iron skillet. Yes, an iron skillet is the key to the sweet smoky success. The heat of the iron skillet will help render out the fat in the ribs and help the sugar (either in glaze or barbecue sauce) caramelize making the rib bites have crispy bits! (That’s my favorite part of anything grilled!!) Heat the skillet over medium heat. Drop rib bites one a time in the skillet-listen for the sear! Do not overcrowd the pan. If needed, do a couple of batches. We worked too hard to get to this point-don’t want to ruin them now!! Cook the rib bites for 2 minutes per side. (They are cooked, we are just heating!)
That’s it! You are done. I dare anyone to tell you they do not look and taste like they are hot off the grill.
If you like, drizzle some extra glaze or warm barbecue sauce over the bites or use extra sauce for dipping. We like ours just the way they come off the grill…I mean out the pan!!
Put your TO COOK IS TO CREATE thinking cap on: What other ingredients could you use as a sauce or glaze for the rib bites? Remember a little goes along way in this method. See what you have on hand, even heated and melted marmalade or jelly can be a tasty treat. (Mix in a little bit of creole mustard or Dijon mustard when melted.) What other leftover sauce do you have hanging out in fridge? Any sweet and sour sauce leftover from Chinese takeout? What else could benefit from the oven smoke flavor? I love to smoke root vegetables, like carrots. The indoor oven style is easier, no lost veggies at bottom of smoker or grill!!
FOOD FUN: It is reported that SUPER BOWL Sunday is the second biggest food event in the year after THANKSGIVING! A whopping 33 million pounds of snacks are consumed!! That’s a lot of snacking! That’s expensive snacking! Chances are your friends are snacking, too! Have a “bring your favorite Super Bowl snack and drink” party. Line the players up as they arrive, starters like chips and dip/wings/rib bites, halftime show-chili, sandwiches, and finishers-cookies, brownies, popcorn. The average Super Bowl party guest list is 12 players, but even six will save you some big bucks!!