Chile rubbed beef ribs

Do you want the good news or the bad news? Let’s go with the good news first, shall we? The shortest day of the year is done and dusted. That was on December 21st, in case you were stuck at the office Christmas party and didn’t notice. Spare a thought for Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland which has a whopping 4:07 hours of sunlight on the shortest day of the year. But I checked, and it rained there that day so the 4+ hours is probably a bit on the optimistic side.

The bad news? Winter isn’t done yet. Officially it’s not over until March 20th. It feels like Winter might be overstaying its welcome, don’t you think? What if we asked Spring to arrive sooner and ‘encouraged’ Winter to take a well deserved early retirement? And face it, just because the calendar says Spring doesn’t mean Winter won’t be holding on to us with his/her grubby little mittens.

Winter is sleet, snow tires, colds, flu, Christmas credit card bills and down coats so large they make you feel like the Michelin man. But – and there’s always a but – it’s also slow cooked food that simmers so long in the oven that it makes you want to weep when you take your first bite. This isn’t food for a Spring or Summer day – this is hearty, stick to your ribs, “I ain’t going out in that” weather food.

So buck up. Winter isn’t for wimps but these chile rubbed beef ribs are.

2-3 Servings

3 lbs beef ribs

1 clove garlic

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp ground ginger

¼ tsp Chile de Arbol powder (Cayenne pepper)

1 tsp Chile Chipotle powder

1 Tbsp brown sugar

Sea salt

Preheat oven to 250°F

Using a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic and cumin seeds together until the seeds are crushed and the garlic is a paste. (If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, you can finely chop the garlic and blitz the cumin seeds in a spice mill) Add in the ginger, chile de arbol, chipotle chile and brown sugar and mix.

Rub the marinade into the beef ribs, coating all the surfaces. Wrap each rib snugly in plastic wrap or place in a container with a cover. Refrigerate overnight. Remove from the refrigerator, unwrap and sprinkle each rib with some sea salt. Heat an oven proof pan on the stove to medium high heat. Sear each rib on all sides so it is nicely browned. Cover and place in a low oven or you can cook these in a slow cooker. Cook until the meat is tender and falling off the bone –at least three hours.

Serve warm with mashed potatoes or creamy polenta. It’s even better – if that’s possible – the next day.

 

Halloween Heat Wave

Halloween feels a bit unfair. Think about it. Kids get to dress up, go out and bag boat loads of candy. And adults? Gosh, we get to dole the candy out and hope some wise acre doesn’t decide to toilet paper our trees or plaster our windows with shaving cream. And have you noticed that kids don’t just grab the candy, say thanks and take off? Now they give your candy the once over like they’d been expecting a Godiva gift box.

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Sour grapes? Okay, maybe. Let’s face it – I’d like a pillow case full of sugar packed chocs too. And why can’t I dress up like a vampire/ghost anymore?

The answer is simple: you can. Take back Halloween. Own it. Make it yours. Put on that DVD of Psycho. Crack open an extra bag (or three) of candy and eat yourself silly. Go ahead. It’s only once a year.

And while you’re at it, invite a like-minded friend or two over for some Halloween-inspired Butternut Squash Soup. You can sip it in between chowing down on mini Mars bars.

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Chile Spiked Butternut Squash Soup

Makes about 5 cups of soup which is enough for me or 3-4 normal people

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced (about 1 cup)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 butternut squash, around 2-2 ½ lbs.
3-4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
whipping cream (optional)
1 dried whole Negro chile
¼ tsp Chipotle chile powderSea salt flakes

Sauté the onion in a pot in 1½ tablespoon of the olive oil over low heat. While the onions are cooking, peel the butternut squash and chop it into cubes. Remove the squash seeds and reserve. When the onions are soft but not brown, add the crushed garlic and cook for another minute or so.

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Add the cubed butternut squash and the Negro chile. Stir and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add 3 cups of the stock, cover and cook until you can insert a knife easily into the squash.

While the soup is cooking, rinse the squash seeds to remove the fibers around them. Place the seeds in a frying pan and toast for a minute or two. When the seeds have dried out, add the remaining ½ tablespoon of oil and the chipotle chile powder and a sprinkle of sea salt. Cook over medium heat for a few minutes until the seeds are lightly toasted but not burned.

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When the squash is cooked through, remove the Negro chile, remove the stem and seeds and chop it up. Return the chopped chile to the soup. Puree in a food processor or with a stick blender. Check for seasoning and add more chile powder if you’d like an extra bite. Add more stock and/or cream so the soup has a pourable consistency.

Serve in bowls with a drizzle of cream and topped with the chipotle squash seeds.