Welcome to the Feedbag, where all the dumb questions about food, drink, cooking, eating, and accidental finger removal you've been embarrassed to ask can finally receive the berating they goddamn deserve. Also: answers. Send all your even-vaguely-food-related questions to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject "Feedbag." All of them.
How the fuck do you make ribs? I tried it once, where I seasoned the shit out it (mmmmm dry rub) left it on the grill for a while, then added bbq sauce near the end so it would caramelize and get all gooey and burnt and sticky and taste amazing. The ribs were tough and a little too chewy for my taste. I'm lost. Help?
Aaron, there are as many different ways to prepare ribs as there are undersexed provincial weenies in Valvoline baseball caps to care wayyyy too much about them. Dry rub weenies versus barbecue sauce weenies. Charcoal grill weenies versus the ludicrous smokers-only idiots, and then both of those groups versus anyone who dares assert (correctly) that perfectly delicious ribs can be made in a regular oven. These sad, poorly-endowed goobers congregate, online and in the real world, to wag their Truck Nutz at each other and make the inarticulate porcine grunting sounds which are meant to be understood as advocacy for their various rib-making techniques. It is exactly—exactly—as sexy as it sounds.
The great news is, you can tune out all of those weenies, because there's really only one trick to making tasty ribs, and it's this: very low heat, very slow cooking. Really, that's all there is to it. Once you've gotten that part down, your ribs will be tasty, whether you go for a dry spice rub or a gloopy barbecue sauce or a thick mustard coating or some unholy combination of all of them; whether you use your oven or a shitty charcoal kettle or a propane grill or a dumb, dumb, incredibly dumb backyard smoker; whether you remove the membrane from the ribs or leave it on; whether you cook them naked or wrap them in foil or friggin' banana leaves or whatever the hell. Low heat, slow cooking, tasty ribs. That's the important part.
200 degrees is a good temperature for cooking ribs. Use indirect heat if you can. Give them at least four hours, but probably more like six or eight, until the meat just slides right off the bone and breaks apart when you press it against the roof of your mouth with your tongue. And, for God's sake, if you like gloopy, messy barbecue sauce, fucking use gloopy, messy barbecue sauce. What matters is whether your ribs taste the way you want them to taste, not whether they appease the culinary standards of the kinds of guys who segregate their fucking Zubaz pants into "casual" and "formal" categories.
Regarding breading while cooking, well, pretty much anything. How do you get that shit to stick? Let's say I want to pan fry some chicken breasts. Pretty reasonable thing to do, right? So I'll pat them dry, hit them up with some beaten egg, then dip in Bisquick or panko. By the time the breasts are cooked through, all of that glorious coating can be found at the bottom of the pan, NOT enveloping my tasty chicken. What's the deal with that?
This is pretty straightforward, Ryan. Which is to say, boring. Thanks a lot, asshole.
After you've patted the chicken (or fish, or vegetable, or Dr. Scholl's orthotic shoe insert, or whatever) dry, roll it in some plain flour first. Shake off any excess flour, and then coat the chicken or fish or entire sleeping cat with your beaten egg and breadcrumbs. And, don't just go directly from coating Darren Rovell's stolen iPhone with breadcrumbs to frying it in oil; gently shake the excess breading off, and then give what's left a few minutes to sit, so that both starchy layers (the initial flour coating, and the breadcrumbs or Bisquick or crushed crackers or whatever) have some time to absorb the egg and get sticky. Then fry it. Oh yeah, fry it. Fry the fucking shit out of that phone.
And then, grim and gimlet-eyed, eat it. Eat it slowly. Chew it thoroughly. Do it for justice.
So. An initial coating of flour beneath the egg and breading, and then time for the breading to adhere to the food. That's really all there is to getting the breading to stick. Bo-ringggggg.
I bought a single eggplant the other day. No plan, just saw it and was like "hahaha hurrdurr, I'm going to make this eggplant."
I like your style, buddy.
Just a faint idea that I'd be able to conjure some sort of garlicky Greek masterpiece.
Do you have a millennia-old Burneko family eggplant greatness-unlocking technique for the vacuous, blankly staring masses?
Padraig, the only thing millennia-old about the Burnekos is my car.
Or at least ideas or recipes, garlicky and Greek or not?
You can always slice the eggplant into disks, salt and dry them, coat them with breadcrumbs and grated Pecorino cheese, fry them in a pan with garlic, layer them in a baking dish with slices of hardboiled egg and homemade tomato sauce, and bake the resulting casserole-like result in the oven for a while, except that that's a whole complicated thing with fucking steps and fucking fire hazards and fucking parsimonious dorks whining about hardboiled eggs and authenticity and mew mew mew, and fuck all that.
Slice the eggplant into disks. Brush them with olive oil. Sprinkle them with good salt. Grill them over charcoal until they are attractively browned on both sides. Serve them with some crumbled feta and good tomatoes and lots and lots of wine. That's pretty tasty. Chew on a garlic clove if you're all that committed to garlickiness.
I often read recipes that require you to saute garlic, which is fine. Who doesn't love garlic?
- Bob's girlfriend
But here is my problem. The recipe will say something like "with heat at medium-high add your chopped garlic, be careful not to burn it!" After many instances of adding chopped garlic to a pan on medium-high heat and burning it every damn time I need to ask, what the fuck? I have now taken to lowering the heat to medium-low whenever I add garlic and that seems to work fine. But, is there something you can do to keep the garlic from not burning on such a high heat? Do you have to constantly stir it as it cooks? Or are all these people who write recipes completely full of shit and taking joy in me burning the garlic every time?
You're probably familiar with seeing this instruction in stir-fry recipes, where the garlic (as well as everything else in the wok/pan) is meant to be in constant motion for the very, very brief time of its cooking, and to be removed from the heat virtually as soon as it becomes fragrant. In this case, the garlic won't really have an opportunity to burn, because it won't be in contact with the actual cooking surface for more than a few moments.
You're probably also familiar with seeing this instruction in a lot of recipes for other things, too, because recipe-writers are assholes.
Look. Who the hell knows why recipe-writers do this, but they do it, and it's annoying. Trust your instincts. If the heat in your pan is high or medium-high, you're going to have to keep the garlic moving so that it doesn't burn against the cooking surface, and you're not going to want to cook it for more than a minute or so. If you're sweating aromatics in oil at the beginning of a preparation, you should be doing it over gentler heat (think medium-low or low-medium or whatever), and you should do the onions first and only add the garlic a minute or two before the end of that stage of cooking. You can cook garlic over higher heat without ruining it, but if you're having bad luck with that, it's perfectly OK to back off the heat and give yourself a break.
As for what to do about asshole recipe writers and their unhelpful garlic instructions, you could probably do worse than breading and eating their iPhones.
Albert Burneko is an eating enthusiast and father of two. His work can be found destroying everything of value in his crumbling home, or in shorter form on Twitter @albertburneko. You can find lots more Foodspin at foodspin.deadspin.com.
Image by Jim Cooke. Pig via Shutterstock.