**Editors Note: This is the first article featuring a guest writer. I hope to do many of these in the future as this will allow the readers to get different tips/techniques and points of view. Now onto Dan’s first post of lamb ribs.
I first want to say thanks to Chris for asking me to write this article. When we went to Soulard Market together, hit the butcher shop there and saw the lamb ribs beckoning to us, I think we both had a ‘TAH DAAAH’ moment. Admittedly, I have never done lamb ribs before but I have done lamb shanks, lamb shoulder and good ol’ smoked pork ribs so I bought two racks and began planning my approach to some delicious smoked lamb ribs.
I decided to try them two ways. First, I wanted to do something traditional. To me nothing beats a simple fresh garlic, fresh rosemary, salt, pepper and olive oil marinade for lamb. Secondly, I love a good Dijon mustard and balsamic glaze, so I added those ingredients to the marinade and glaze for rib rack number 2.
Then, I got thinking that what goes better with lamb than a big glass of Guinness so I decided to glaze the traditionally marinated rack in a Guinness and brown sugar glaze.
I am going with the tried and true 3-2-1 method of smoking. If you are not familiar, the basics are this: 3 hours on the smoker getting that wonderful smoke flavor, 2 hours wrapped in foil braising which adds another level of flavor and makes them tender, then 1 hour back on the grill getting good and glazed up.
Prep was really easy. There is a thin skin/membrane on the back of the ribs. This skin should be removed. Typically with pork ribs, this can be a bit of a trick. However, I found with the lamb ribs that I could easily slide my hand under the membrane and simply peel it off. That is really all of the prep that I did.
Marinade 1 (for Guinness glazed ribs)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
4 to 5 cloves of garlic
2 to 3 fresh sprigs of rosemary (leaves removed from stems and chopped)
Fresh ground pepper
Peal and chop the garlic. Then, add some sea salt to the chopped garlic on the cutting board. Use the back of your knife to smash the salt and garlic together into a garlic paste. (see picture). Add the garlic to a mixing bowl and whisk together all ingredients. Pour over one of the prepped lamb ribs and let marinade overnight (or at least 4 hours).
Same ingredients and method as Marinade 1 PLUS
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
Approx 3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
I first add the Dijonto the mixing bowl, then the balsamic and whisk together. Doing this first helps the marinade to emulsify better. Then add the garlic and rosemary. Next, slowly whisk in the olive oil until mixed in. Add salt and pepper to taste. Marinade ribs in marinade overnight or for at least 4 hours.
1 bottle of Guinness Stout
¼ cup of packed brown sugar
1 Tablespoon ground coriander seeds
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
Mix all ingredients together in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Lower heat and let simmer until it reduces down to about ½ cup and is like syrup. Then, strain through a fine mesh strainer. Set aside.
Oh man did this smell good when it was cooking. Being a beer drinker and a home brewer, this smelled like heaven. The Guinness mixed with the brown sugar and spices reminded me of that wonderful aroma of my stock pot boiling away right after I add the malt extract to my home brew. Sweet malty spicy goodness. (You beer connoisseurs know what I mean!)
Dijon and Balsamic Glaze
4 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
3 Tablespoons brown sugar
Salt and pepper
Whisk all ingredients together and set aside.
Onto The Smoker We Go
Step one: Pop open a bottle of your favorite beer to keep you company while you prep the grill or smoker.
Next, I pulled the ribs out of the fridge and let them come to room temp while I prepped the smoker. (Dijon and Balsamic marinade is on the right)
Once the coals are going, I turn off the propane and move the charcoal to the front of the grill. I had cherry wood soaking all morning. I added one ½ thick stick of soaked cherry to the coals to add a touch of smoke. ( I wound up adding 3 cherry sticks total. One each hour of smoking)
I then salted and peppered the ribs and added the ribs to the grill and added the lid.
Here is a hint. I have been smoking on the same smoker for a while now. I have tested different amounts of charcoal, adjusting the vents and placing the meat different ways on the grill until I finally got it tuned in.
I marked on my grill where to set the vents so that I know I can get a constant 250 degrees going at all times.
I realize that this is not a purist approach. I do not have a thermometer at grate level monitoring the temperature at the meat level. However, I have measured the difference from what the built in thermometer reads to what a thermometer at grate level reads and it is about 10 degrees less at grate level. So, from testing, I know I am running the temp at about 240 degrees. Perfect for low and slow.
Don’t be afraid to experiment, and when you find what works for you, go with it!!
Now to sit back and monitor the ribs for three hours.
On To Braising
1 bottle of beer (I used Boulevard Brewing Bully Porter)
½ cup Balsamic Vinegar
½ cup water
3 cloves of garlic
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 Bay leaf
Mix all ingredients in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil and then turn off the heat. I bring it to a boil so that the liquid does not have to heat up on the smoker and it will already be hot when I add it to the foil pouches.
After three hours on the smoker the ribs are ready to be put into foil pouches and braised for 2 hours in the braising liquid. I use one long strip of foil per rack of ribs. (I doubled up on the bottom of the pouch to prevent leaks). I place the ribs on one side of the strip of foil, fold the foil over the ribs and seal all of the edges except the front.
I then ladle in about half of the braising liquid into each of the two pouches, seal the front edge and place the ribs back on the smoker for another two hours.
Glaze ‘Em Up
After two hours, the ribs are ready to be pulled out of the foil and glazed. I took the ribs off of the grill and dumped the charcoal out of the holder directly onto the charcoal grate, added more coals and lit them until they were evenly heated and burning good and hot. Then I spread the coals evenly.
I brushed on the glazes, one rack with theDijonand Balsamic and the other with the Guinness Glaze. I brushed the top of the ribs and placed them face down over the hot coals and brushed the glaze onto the back of the ribs. Flip and repeat about 4 times.
NOTE: This is the 1 in the 3-2-1 process, but since the ribs were finished cooking and I was only glazing them, this process really only took about 15 minutes.
And finally – the finished product!!
Dijon and Balsamic Glazed on the left, Guinness Glazed on the right.
I love those tasty bits where the sugars in the glaze get dark and crispy (not burnt, mind you). To me the way to go is to glaze them over really high heat and let the glaze darken and crisp up and get good and yummy!!
Lamb Ribs 2 ways with Grilled Asparagus, Onion, Tomato and Feta Salad.
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