Monday, March 3, 2014

52WoC Week 8: TV Show Inspired - Freddy's Ribs (House of Cards)

Netflix's House of Cards may be one of the greatest TV shows of all time right up there with The Wire. Kevin Spacey plays the conniving Congressman Frank Underwood from South Carolina who is unrelenting in his quest to advance his career. He does take breaks here and there and most of them involve Freddy's BBQ Joint. Freddy is a good friend of Frank's and makes what Frank considers to be the best ribs in the DC area. The ribs, and to a greater extent Freddy, play a big part in Frank's life and in the plot of House of Cards. I'm trying to be sparing with details as to avoid spoilers but this show is simply remarkable. I knew when making something TV themed, it had to be related to this show and nothing was more obvious than Freddy's ribs.

I dedicated approximately 21 hours of my life meticulously trying to learn every detail about Freddy's ribs. That's 26 episodes of political drama just to learn about some ribs1. So let's go through what I learned. Frank is from South Carolina so I assumed the ribs would be Carolina style; after all, they are his favorite ribs in the DC area. The thing is, Carolina doesn't have a particular style of ribs. They are known for their pulled pork and mustard or vinegar sauces. In eastern Carolina they are known for their whole pig BBQ but that clearly was not what Freddy was doing. Also in season 2, it's very clear that Freddy is from DC. DC isn't known for a specific type of BBQ. So what does this mean for my ribs? It simply means I went with a dry rub and finished them dry. I watched the episodes and based off the appearance of the ribs, they looked dry except with the dark as molasses sauce on the table. This is another clue that the ribs aren't going to be Carolina style - you rarely see such dark sauces in Carolinas. I kept my ribs dry and used a basic BBQ rub that isn't too far from something used on pulled pork in the Carolinas.

As of this posting, it's currently March. As such, this recipe is a oven rib recipe. It is very clear on the show that Freddy smokes his ribs but between me being lazy and the Houston weather being fickle, I ended up making these completely in the oven. The ribs will still pack that smokiness thanks to the smoked paprika and smoked sea salt and will be incredibly juicy and tender. These are not fall of the bone ribs, but rather tender enough to have a good clean bite off the bone. I like to think Freddy would respect my ribs but I'm not quite sure I could lure Frank Underwood away from Freddy's.

Freddy's Ribs

Qty Ingredient Procedure
4 tbsp smoked paprika
  1. Combine all spices to create rub.
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp cumin
2 tsp cayenne
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp mustard powder
2 tsp black pepper
1 rack St. Louis Ribs (roughly 5 pounds)
  1. Season both sides of the rib with smoked salt. Massage rub into both sides. Wrap in cling wrap and refrigerate for 4-18 hours.
  2. Preheat the oven to 275°F.
  3. Bake on a foil lined baking sheet (with enough foil to eventually wrap around the ribs). Bake for 2.5 hours.
smoked sea salt2
12 oz light beer
  1. Pour the beer over the ribs and seal the foil. Bake for another 1.5 hours.
3 tbsp brown sugar
  1. Combine any excess rub with brown sugar. Add sugar mixture to the ribs.
  2. Finish ribs on the grill or place into a 350°F oven until the sugar caramelizes. About 20-25 minutes.

You know that expression behind every good man there is a better woman? Same thing is true for ribs: behind every good rib there is a better rub. I love my rub and that's why I let the ribs sit in it for the better part of a day. You can go with a shorter time but I personally think the flavor the rib suffers. Start by combining all the spices listed above. Lay the rack of ribs on a large piece of cling wrap. When I say large, I mean large enough to eventually wrap the ribs up like the tastiest Christmas present ever. Season heavily on both sides with the smoked sea salt. Follow the sea salt up with the rub making sure to massage it into the meat. Wrap it up and throw in the fridge for 4-18 hours. You may have noticed I didn't stay to take the silver skin off. For this rib recipe I prefer leaving it on as it helps keep the ribs together and let's them be cut perfectly.

Preheat your oven to 275°F. Crimp together two sheets of aluminum foil together lengthwise and make sure it is air tight. You will eventually put liquid on these sheets and you do not want it to leak out. Place the foil on a baking sheet and follow it up with the ribs. Place in the oven for 2.5 hours. Pour a light beer over the ribs and tent the foil over the ribs and crimp it tight. You essentially are steaming the ribs at this point. In terms of beer I used a Bud Light because someone left that in the fridge but any beer would work for this. Don't waste something tasty though. Return to the oven for another 1.5 hours.

If you have any rub left over, combine with 3 tablespoons brown sugar. If you have no rub left over, remake the rub mixture and approximately save 1/3 to combine with the brown sugar. Cover the ribs in the brown sugar mixture. Return to the oven at 350°F for 20-25 minutes until the sugar caramelizes. If you can grill, I prefer finishing them over hot coals. I prefer to eat these without sauce but if you desperately need sauce, I will post my Carolina style sauce soon. Sorry about the photo quality below, it's the best picture I had to show the crust.

  1. Clearly I was watching to see what Frank Underwood do, he just makes the show so engrossing.  
  2. This is by no means necessary but it does make the ribs taste smokey. Not as smokey as smoking your ribs but definitely solid for oven ribs.  

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