It must’ve been almost noon when I decided to mosey on out to fire up the smoker. Shorts and a t-shirt were the dress of choice, as the impending storm and dropping temps were still a ways away from once again changing our seasons within the same 24 hour period. Complemented by hickory chunks and an evenly scattered amount of cherry wood, a small handful of burning embers were tossed in towards the middle of the pile of hardwood coals, commencing a low and slow cook that would take the better part of 6 hours. But that was my plan, you see. Because on the night preceding this day, I thoroughly coated an extremely meaty rack of baby back ribs with a standard barbecue rub, but one that wasn’t particularly heavy on the sugar. My plans were to add in the sweetness later in the process, in a different way. Anyway, that rack of ribs was taken out this morning, inspected to my liking, and then rubbed down once again, doubling up the flavor that was to be the base of my Cherry Smoked Guajillo And Mexican Vanilla Ribs.
Once laid in their reserved spot above the 200 degree wisps of smoke and sauna-like coals, the only thing left to do was wait a bit. And get started on that finishing sauce. Easy was best on this weekday, so I grabbed a bottle of generic sauce, not too hot, not too sweet, and not too smokey. Just sauce, because that’s all I need for the base. Meanwhile, I dissected a couple of previously dried Guajillo chiles, cutting and deseeding before adding them to a couple of cups of boiling water, for rehydration purposes. Once back to their softer, gentler state, they can be put into a cup of barbecue sauce, along with any additional flavor enhancers you’re in the mood for. I added a little white pepper, a little brown sugar, and a couple teaspoons of Mexican Vanilla extract, which just happened to be hanging out right there in front of me on the shelf. Hey, I don’t know why, but I saw it, it called to me, and I answered. With the Guajillo being a deeper flavored chile, used in those rich, thick, red sauces and pastes that we’ve grown to love in Mexican foods, I thought a little Mexican Vanilla would complement that rich flavor while adding a bit of sweet to the milder spice. Yeah, sometimes I think about that type of stuff, haha. This saucy mixture was all put into a blender, or food processor, or in this case, a ninja, and quickly transformed into a smooth, almost creamy Mexican tinted barbecue sauce with a smokey, slightly peppery taste, harboring a back of mouth finish that hinted at that vanilla addition. Meanwhile, that boiling water that hydrated the peppers wasn’t going to waste. I took about a half cup of that, added it to equal parts apple juice and bourbon and used that as my misting spray for those baby backs. After a couple of quality checks on that bourbon additive, the pit jockey’s cut, as I like to call it, we hit the 4 1/2 hour mark on this smoking adventure, and it was time to play paint the ribs with the Guajillo and vanilla barbecue sauce. Using brushstrokes that both entertained me and provided great one-coat coverage, this thick sauce hung on those ribs like spam jelly on the side of the can. I don’t know, that’s just what popped into my mind, hehe. Another hour above that low and slow ring of fire, and these beauties were shellacked with that sauce, looking as tender as they could without falling apart. The taste would be the unknown in this smoke session, and I had only hoped that the flavor was as good as the appearance. The cherrywood and hickory aroma complemented the scented waves of the pepper and vanilla infused sauce. When you talk about layers of flavor, these chunky ribs carried their weight in potential taste and texture. First I noticed the traditional barbecue and smoke flavor, but quickly finished with that rich, creamy sauce, infused with hints of Guajillo spice and Mexican vanilla.
The sauce draped itself over the tender and juicy ribs, adding flavor and dimension to every bite of these baby backs, leaving you wanting for another bite. You’ll be dragging your rib bones across the plate, wiping up the extra sauce drippings so as to not let any of it go to waste.
Because Life Is Better Wood Fired