With any luck, you wind up with a really good meal all to yourselves.
We had planned to end our Labor Day weekend with a barbecue/bonfire get-together with two good friends of ours, and to that end we spent much of Monday prepping for an enjoyable evening with them out on the patio.
First I precooked some baby back ribs -- ironically, ribs we'd bought to feed The Kids but never got around to making earlier in the week. I know there is a lively debate among barbecue fans about the relative wisdom of precooking ribs before finishing them off on the grill. My very old-school mother believed it was necessary to boil ribs into scary grayness before doing anything else with them; while I didn't want to do that, I was also uncomfortable with the thought of grilling them raw. So I tried something I'd read online: I seasoned the rib rack with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, sprinkled four sliced garlic cloves and some sliced green onions over the meat and then poured s braising mixture of one part balsamic vinegar to three parts water over and around the ribs. This went in the oven for not quite an hour. The ribs emerged juicy and aromatic, with a lovely basting liquid to reserve for the grill.
Meanwhile I marinated a couple pounds of chicken thighs in a mixture of orange juice, olive oil, kosher salt, just a splash of balsamic vinegar, garlic, green onion and a healthy spoonful of Great Lakes Tea and Spice's Northern Exposure Chicken Seasoning, a tasty mixture of herbs and spices that reminds me of Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute.
After the ribs cooled, I rubbed them with a mixture of Great Lakes Tea and Spice's smoked paprika; brown sugar; freshly ground pepper; seasoned salt; thyme; basil; a little dry mustard. (The measurements were by guess or by golly, but I used about 2 tablespoons of paprika and about one tablespoon of sugar as the anchor ingredients.) And then we waited for the appointed hour...only to learn that one of our friends, who is on call for emergencies, was summoned away, and her partner wanted to stay home until she got back.
We looked at our refrigerator, bulging with meat in various stages of flavoring and containers of prepared salads. (Lest you think we're food purists -- sometimes potato salad and baked beans from Meijer's deli are darned good to have on hand.)We said -- "Yay -- more for ourselves!" (Sorry, friends.)
After getting the charcoal ready we added about a cup of soaked maple chips -- this was a new experiment on our part. We placed the chicken thighs on the top rack of the grill, grilled them for a bit, then added the ribs to the bottom rack to brown them.
Good stuff. My own favorite was the chicken -- the citrusy, garlicky marinade had permeated the meat nicely and glazed the thighs a lovely golden brown. FT favored the ribs; and I will say that the combination of the smoked paprika and the slightly piquant marinade was darned tasty. I'll also give a shout-out to two Meijer's specialty potato salads, the bleu cheese and the three-potato...yummy.
We hope we can get our pals back here for another barbecue...we might have to reprise this menu.