Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Why Coffee is our Secret Ingredient to Making Amazing Baby Back or Spare Ribs by Cleo Coyle

Coffee? Yes! A quick bath in a few simple cups of coffee is our secret for making the most amazingly juicy, tender, and flavorful ribs. The reason? Most marinades contain some sort of acid—vinegar, lemon or other fruit juice, even alcohol. But too much acid makes meat mushy. (Likewise, boiling ribs robs them of flavor and destroys good texture.) But coffee contains just enough acidity to help the tenderizing process, yet preserve the meat’s texture. 

There are two additional ingredients that will help you create spectacular ribs. One is salt. It’s not only a flavor enhancer, it also breaks down the connective tissues, which creates tenderness. Sugar is the final ingredient that helps to evenly brown and caramelize the surface without drying it. Putting it all together, here is our quick and easy, one pan marinade for making heavenly pork ribs...

This recipe will work with baby back ribs (pictured above)
or spare ribs, shown in my photo below...

To download a free PDF
of this recipe that you can
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Click here for free recipe PDF.

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A Note from Cleo...

My husband and I love the advantages of doing our ribs this way. A simple bath for one quick hour in a few cups of coffee not only provides a fast, foolproof marinade, it also allows us to have fun experimenting with new barbecue sauces every time we make the recipe. 

We might have a tangy sauce one week, a spicy sauce another week, or try a mustard-based sauce. We enjoy experimenting with new sauces and brands on the market and this recipe allows us to do just that. So have fun and eat with joy! ~ Cleo

Cleo Coyle's
Coffee Ribs


2 - 4 pounds pork ribs (baby back or spareribs)

2 - 3 teaspoons coarsely ground sea salt or Kosher salt  

1 teaspoon white pepper

2 - 3 cup brewed coffee, cooled

1 cup (or so) barbecue sauce* with at least one key ingredient (*see below)

*Key Ingredient: Your barbeque sauce will provide the third secret to great ribs—some form of sugar, which promotes the caramelization of the meat’s surface. So look for a BBQ sauce that contains one of the following: sugar,
brown sugar, molasses, corn syrup, or honey.

(1) Right out of the refrigerator, the cold ribs should be placed into a large pan and sprinkled with half of the salt and pepper on all sides. Separate ¼ cup of your BBQ sauce and rub all over the ribs. 

(2) Add the cold coffee to the pan, cover with cling wrap and marinate at room temperature for one hour. At the thirty minute mark, flip the ribs to coat evenly. Do not marinate for longer than 1 hour. 

(3) Preheat your oven to 350° F. Place a grilling rack over a roasting pan (as shown in my photo). Coat your grilling rack with nonstick spray. Remove ribs from marinade, and discard the liquid. Do not rinse the ribs. Once again, you salt and pepper both sides, then place ribs on the grilling rack, fat side up. 

This recipe will work for baby back ribs or spare ribs.
The photo above shows spare ribs ready for the oven...

Cooking process (total time 90 to 100 minutes):

1 - Cook for 20 minutes, fat side up, and flip.

2 - Cook for 20 more minutes, fat side down

3 - Flip ribs over (fat side up again), paint with BBQ sauce, and cook for a third 20 minute period.

4 - Flip the ribs again, paint with sauce, and continue cooking for a fourth 20 minute period.

5 - Flip one more time (fat side up) and apply the rest of your sauce. Kick up the oven to 375° F. and cook 10 to 20 minutes more. 

Coffee Spare Ribs
resting before cutting...

Coffee Baby Back Ribs
resting before cutting... 


Many pitmasters advise that correctly cooked pork ribs should not have meat falling off the bone (don’t shoot the messenger, but this means they’re over-cooked). When you take a bite, the meat should come off with a slight tug, leaving a clean bone (as shown below)...

The meat should be tender and juicy with a gentle chew (like a good steak). After the ribs are done, let them rest for 15 minutes before cutting to allow juices inside the meat to re-collect, and...

Click here for the
free recipe PDF.

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Eat (and read) with joy! 

~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries 

Alice and Marc in Central Park. 
Together we write as Cleo Coyle. 

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Monday, May 22, 2017

Sheet Pan Mac and Cheese

The inspiration for this came from Food Network and Cook's Illustrated. My version still needs some tweaking, but it was well received by everyone who tried it.

I was in awe when I read in Cook's Illustrated (and they do a *lot* of testing!) that it wasn't necessary to make a roux for Mac and Cheese. I could hardly believe my eyes. So in this recipe, while I did start with butter and flour, I didn't make a roux. I just plain threw everything in. How easy is that?

Then Food Network threw me for a loop when they suggested sheet pan Mac and Cheese. I love that! More of the wonderful topping for everyone.

So I combined the ideas and did it my way. There's nothing remarkable about my ingredients here. Most of my changes had to do with ingredients that I didn't have on hand. Embarrassing, but true. For instance, the Food Network recipe called for Panko and cream cheese. Both are staples in my house, but I was out, out, out! One makes do, right?

The cream cheese probably would have made for creamier pasta, so I'm very willing to give that a shot. On the other hand, the way I made it would be perfect for a buffet or a large gathering because it cut and held up so beautifully.

I need help on the topping though. There's a place where my mom and I like to get Mac and Cheese. It's wonderful. But I haven't been able to figure out what they use for a topping. Maybe I'll be sorry if I know, because there may be things in it that I'd rather not eat. So I used breadcrumbs, fresh Parmesan, and a sprinkling of sea salt. It was okay, but we can do better. What's your favorite topping for Mac and Cheese?

You'll note that the topping got a little bit brown in places. It still tasted great, but watch the time. That was 25 minutes in my oven. Next time, I'll go for 20 minutes.

When I was making this, I started wondering how many cups are in an 8-ounce block of cheese. Oh my word. There are all kinds of answers online. I understand that not all cheeses have the same density, so a recipe is probably more accurate if the measurement is by the cupful. Most of the answers hovered around two cups of shredded cheese equaling one 8-ounce bar, give or take 1/4 of a cup. 

For the record, I used two 8-ounce packages of Cabot Vermont cheddar cheese. I measured it somewhat imprecisely, because it all depends on whether you tamp it down in the cup or not. So I'm telling you exactly what I used in the recipe instead of a measurement.

Sheet Pan Mac and Cheese

1 pound elbow macaroni
1-2 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups 2% milk
1 tablespoon prepared yellow mustard
1 8-ounce bar of Cabot Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese
1 8-ounce bar of Cabot Medium Cheddar Cheese
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1 cup breadcrumbs
sea salt to taste (I used Sea Seasonings Maine Made Sea Salt with Sea Veg)

Cook the macaroni according the the instructions on the package.
Move the oven rack to the upper position and preheat to 450.
Shred the cheddar cheeses.
Butter the sheet pan.

Melt the butter in a large pot. Add the flour and stir with a whisk. Add the milk and mustard and whisk, pressing out any lumps. Add the cheddar cheeses. When they are incorporated, add the macaroni and heat until it bubbles. Pour into prepared sheet pan. Mix together the breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese. Scatter over the top. Season lightly with sea salt.

Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Spread mac and cheese on a baking sheet.

Bake at 450!

It cut so nicely!