All of a sudden, I was in charge. That’s how Dad always taught me to do things. He’d micromanage every detail while I concentrated on technique. Once I had the basics down, he’d step back quietly and let me figure the rest out on my own.
He did that when he taught me how to read, how to clean the bathroom, how to paint, how to mow the lawn, how to drive, and now I was in charge of something more important than the car or the house – the grill.
With Dad, it’s all about the craft. Without a good product, your effort is worthless, so you might as well take the time to do it right, and do it well.
Back when we still had our charcoal grill, instead of the monstrous 200-pound smoker with the electric wood pellet hopper he loves so much today, he taught me the ways of fire and metal and meat.
Scrape down the grill bars, empty the ashes, fire the coals, and wait for the smoke to change color. After the smell had curled into the collective nostrils of the neighborhood, we lifted up the grill and poured the hot coals in, squinting our eyes from the updraft of heat.
“Barbequing is all about timing,” he said. “Most people either overcook or undercook their meat, because they don’t know how to do it right.” Dad’s burgers are better than most restaurants. “They use store-bought patties and leave them on for too long," he said. "The meat dries out, or gets really greasy, and you have to grimace your way through an entire meal.”
He plopped a couple of handmade patties on the grill. We made small talk while he demonstrated how and when to flip the burgers.
He handed me the spatula and stepped inside. I stood there uneasily, waiting for the meat to explode or something.
It was a little thing, but it seemed important, a pure crystal of classic Norman Rockwell Americana made real – a dad teaching his son how to barbeque on a clear summer night in Anytown, USA. Blue smoke rose from the grill while I waited for just the right moment to flip the meat.
Blackberry-Jalapeno St. Louis-style spareribs
The following ribs recipe is from the Costco Connection catalog and has quickly become a favorite in our family.
3 racks of St. Louis-style spareribs
For the dry rub:
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
8 teaspoons garlic salt
8 teaspoons chili powder
4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoon celery salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
For the liquid seasoning:
1-1/2 cups apple juice
1/2 cup blackberry preserves
2 tablespoons reserved dry rub mix (recipe above)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
4 cloves minced garlic
2 teaspoons jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
For the finishing glaze:
1/2 cup white vinegar
5 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
5 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
5 teaspoons reserved dry rub mix (recipe above)
1-1/4 cups dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 tomato paste
1/4 maple syrup
3 tablespoons mild-flavored molasses
2 tablespoons blackberry preserves
1/2 teaspoon jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1/4 teaspoon hot chili sauce
1. In small bowl, combine dry rub ingredients. Reserve 2 tablespoons of dry rub for the liquid seasoning mixture and 5 teaspoons for finishing glaze. Apply remaining rub to both sides of ribs.
2. In small bowl, mix liquid seasoning ingredients; set aside.
3. Preheat grill to 250 degrees F. indirect heat. Place ribs on grill grate, meat side up. Close lid; cook for 2-1/2 hours.
4. Prepare 2 double-thick sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Lay one rack, meat side up on each sheet.
5. Pour 2/3 cup liquid seasoning over each rack. Tightly close foil packages. Return ribs to grill and cook, covered for 1 hour.
6. In small, nonreactive pan, mix the first four finishing glaze ingredients. Bring mixture to a boil and remove from heat. Stir in remaining ingredients with wire whisk until combined.
7. Carefully unwrap ribs; discard foil and juices. Brush glaze on both sides of ribs.
8. Return ribs to grill and cook, covered, for 10 minutes or until glaze begins to caramelize.
9. Transfer ribs to a platter and cut; serve with remaining glaze to pass.