The shadows followed me around the yard, as if they were intent on knowing what I was doing at every single moment. That was a good sign. It meant that the sun was out, strong, and finally warming the surroundings just as the calendar would normally predict. It took a bit longer this year, creating for some restless folks, obviously suffering from the ol’ cabin fever syndrome. Admittedly, I was one of them. But today would be an outdoor day, grilling up a unique recipe for Black Pepper Ribs With Whiskey Vanilla Glaze straight out of the newest release from Steven Raichlen, aptly named Project Fire, and available now. Flipping through the advance copy as soon as it hit my mailbox, I decided to try the Black Pepper Ribs With Whiskey Vanilla Glaze, because, well, why not? But mainly because the ingredient list matched what I had on hand. Easy choice then, eh?
The ribs were rubbed with a familiar combination, but in unfamiliar amounts, consisting of equal amounts (3 Tbsp) freshly cracked black peppercorns, smoked paprika, sea salt, and brown sugar, then topped off with 1 teaspoon of celery seed.
The ingredients meshed into a great looking mix with a rich, deep color.
It even got a deeper color after sitting in the fridge for a bit, al least a couple of hours. I was already starting to feel a little giddy over what these were going to turn into after the cook.
Once laid on the pit, my natural inclination would be to fix a nice cold frosty pitmaster beverage and commence to lollygagging around pit-side to commune with nature. But not today, because we still have that whiskey vanilla glaze to prep, remember?
Gather a 1/4 cup of one of your favorite brown waters, in this case it was Bulleit Rye Frontier Whiskey, and add it to 1/4 cup packed brown sugar, 1/2 stick of butter, and about 1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract.
Bring it all to a quick boil, and keep simmering for about 4 minutes until you get a syrupy, aromatic glaze. Once the ribs are about 30 – 60 minutes away from being done, take the glaze and do your best Picasso moves on those ribs, covering the surface until it’s a palette of glossyshiny, sticky, shellac. You’ll notice the ribs transforming into a sticky and flavor packed slab of meat, which already makes this a worthwhile rib-eatin’ session.
After a few minutes, go ahead and repeat the process. If desired, you can save some of the glaze to drizzle over the finished product. I did not, because I’m obviously undisciplined when it comes to saucing and glazing smoked meat. What can I say?
Once the glaze is set, plate the Black Pepper Ribs With Whiskey Vanilla Glaze on a tray or board, stand back, and watch them disappear.
I have to tell you that I went into this with just a bit of skepticism on how these flavors would all mesh together. Would the cracked peppercorns overtake the rest of the rub? Would that glaze be too sweet, and just drown out the other spices?
I’ll tell you something. Those flavors not only worked together, but they complemented each other perfectly. The rub was transformed into a subtle flavor blend from the glaze, and the sweetness of the Whiskey Vanilla Glaze was lessened by the spices and freshly cracked peppercorns of the rub, leading to a multilevel taste profile that was outstanding. I can’t wait to try some of the other recipes in Project Fire, but coming from Steven Raichlen, you know they’ll always be worth a look.
Because Life Is Better Wood Fired