So, it’s been a LONG time. Primarily because I really wasn’t getting much joy out of grilling, but also because I was lazy. I know, that’s not an excuse, but it’s what it is.
This past Saturday was Traeger Day. It’s a holiday that we don’t normally get to celebrate because we’re usually at Pimlico for the Preakness. Didn’t happen this year (thanks, COVID-19), so we opted to make tasty foods.
The menu was some new stuff and the old reliable macaroni & cheese. We’ll start with dessert, because dessert, duh! The High Priestess saw a pineapple upside-down cake recipe and thought about repurposing her late mother’s recipe, but doing it on the Traeger.
In order to bake it, she dug out the trusty Lodge cast iron skillet and got everything ready to go. The published recipe suggested 350 degrees and 30 minutes. Turned out to be more like 50 minutes, but the end result, well, was pretty near perfect. Dense and moist with plenty of flavor. Used apple wood pellets and it made for a nice, fruity flavor that was not overpowering.
Next up was the macaroni & cheese. I’ve modified this over its many iterations, mostly in terms of the amount of milk and also the type of cheese. My biggest change has been a 50/50 min of Velveeta and white American. To me, it absorbs the smoke well and also makes for a nice color, not the toxic waste color of straight Velveeta. I’ve experimented with different cheeses on top, too, and I usually just go with a basic mild cheddar. I’ve tried the smoked cheddar and it didn’t translate well. As for pellets, my default is hickory.
There’s not a lot that I can say about COVID-19 that’s good, but it has made us attempt to work through the freezer and refrigerator. One thing that has been in my freezer since last year has been a couple racks of pork ribs. I’ve never tried making ribs before. I just don’t always have a hankering for them… they can be messy and I’m much more likely to do a Boston butt as opposed to anything else.
For whatever reason, though, I thought “Why not?” I figured if they were bad, we could always grill up some burgers and we’d be good to go. I dug out my book from the last Traeger shop class and got to work. The ribs were nice. Very meaty. I trimmed them up, got rid of the excess fat and the silvery skin on the bone side. Coated them with pork & poultry rub and put them on the Timberline. Used pecan pellets. I missed a few apple juice spritzings, but they were developing a decent bark. Once I got the internal temperature to 165, I took the ribs off, wrapped them in foil, added some apple juice, and back to the grill.
Once they reached the 204 degree mark, it was time to get sauced. I’m a big fan of Kansas City-style sauce. I prefer a more tomato base, rather than the vinegar of the Carolina style. I found a sauce from Big Green Egg that is a nice blend of flavor, yet isn’t so think you can’t work with it. Slathered that on the rib racks and back on the smoker to let it set. One thing to keep in mind is a lesson from Diva Q… sauce is a condiment, not an ingredient. It’s there to enhance the natural flavor of the meat and smoke, not drown it out. So, I apply enough to cover the meat side and let it go at that. I usually serve sauce on the table just in case people want to add their own, but that’s the way it is.
We had some friends due to stop by to pick up booze (I managed to get through to the PA Liquor Store website and place an order) so we offered dinner as well and everything was well-received. There are still some leftovers, but I’m pleased to report that the ribs have reheated well. I also add a little extra milk and reheat the macaroni & cheese on the stovetop. This helps keep it from drying out.
In all, a pretty successful Traeger Day celebration. I’m not sure how frequently I will do ribs, but I’m very pleased with how they turned out. I think my next big cook will be a lovely Wagyu brisket from Snake River Farms. I’m in the mood for some meat candy.
As an aside, I also gave the Traeger a good cleaning yesterday. I’m not totally obsessive, but a clean grill is a happy grill. I’m usually not one to recommend a specific product to clean, either, but I can’t say enough about the Traeger brand cleaner. The amount of stuff that I’m able to get off the grates simply by spraying the cleaner and using paper towels is unbelievable. I imagine that if I were to use something more abrasive, they would look like new. It also doesn’t seem to leave a residue that jacks up the food, either.