Smoked Baby Backs, Apricot Chicken, and Marinated Artichoke with Cauliflower Gratin and Southwestern Slaw

Sometimes you practice and practice and then it is Showtime! With friends in town, it was time to cook all day and see what happened.

For the ribs, a spicy New Mexico style rub, 6 hours of smoking and a finishing Cherry-Chipotle Barbeque sauce (both recipes from Karen Putman's "Championship BBQ Secrets for Real Smoked Food") ... and as long as I had room on the smoker I might as well smoke a pastrami for sandwiches later... right?!

Pictured above:

Smoked Baby backs with a Cherry Chipotle bbq sauce, Chicken Skewers with an Apricot glaze, Southwestern Slaw, Cauliflower Goat Cheese Gratin, and Smoked marinated Artichoke

For the baby backs: Cooking method is avg 230 degrees on a smoker. 2 1/2 to three hours smoking with a mixture of charcoal, oak and hickory or fruit wood such as cherry. Spray with apple juice every half hour or so. At the end of that time, wrap the ribs in foil (adding about a 1/4 cup of apple juice) and place back on the smoker for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Un wrap and place back on the grill for about 1/2 hour while glazing with sauce. (Rub and Sauce recipes courtesy Karen Putman's book "Championship Barbeque Secrets for Real Smoked Food")
Note: This cooking method is to produce ribs that are firm and pull cleanly off the bone; for "fall off the bone" ribs leave them in the foil a little longer.

Cherry Chipotle Barbeque Sauce
2 cups Ketchup
1 cup Cherry Preserves
1/2 cup Cherry Juice
1/2 packed brown suger
3 tsp cider vinegar
1 1/2 Tbsp chipotle pepper sauce
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp onion powder

Blend and simmer for about 10 minutes for flavors to blend

For the Chicken Skewers: Four or so chicken breasts sliced into thin strips and threaded onto pre-soaked bamboo skewers. Place on grill... when you flip them over glaze the cooked side, and when you take them off glaze the other side.

Apricot Glaze: (Adapted from Karen Putman's book above)

1 C Apricot preserves; 1/4 C maple syrup, 1/4 C packed brown Sugar, 3 tbsp Cider Vinegar, 1 tsp grated or minced fresh ginger, fresh ground black pepper

For the Marinated Artichoke: (recipe courtesy Artichokes.org)
(Recipe for 4 artichokes, 8 servings ½ artichoke each)
This recipe is perfect for the lazy cook, since all preparation can be done the previous day. The slightly smoky taste compliments the nuttiness of the artichoke and no dip is necessary, although some might want to use additional marinade for dipping.

Ingredients: 4 large artichokes, ¼ cup balsamic vinegar, ¼ cup water, ¼ cup soy sauce, 1 T minced ginger, ¼ cup olive oil

Slice artichoke tops off, crosswise. Trim Stems.
Boil or steam artichokes until bottoms pierce easily, or a petal pulls off easily.
Drain artichokes. Cool. Cut each artichoke in half lengthwise and scrape out fuzzy center and any purple tipped petals.
Mix remaining ingredients in a large plastic bag. Place artichokes in the bag and coat all sides of the artichokes. For best flavor marinate in the mixture overnight in the refrigerator but should marinate at least one hour.
Drain artichokes. Place cut side down on a grill over a solid bed of medium coals or gas grill on medium. Grill until lightly browned on the cut side, 5 to 7 minutes. Turn artichokes over and drizzle some of the remaining marinade over the artichokes. Grill until petal tips are lightly charred, 3 to 4 minutes more.
Serve hot or room temperature

For the Cauliflower-Goat Cheese Gratin: (Recipe Courtesy Bobby Flay)

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 pound Monterey Jack cheese, coarsely grated (cooks note: I used Pepper Jack)
2 cups grated Parmesan
6 ounces goat cheese, cut into small pieces
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Layer the cauliflower, heavy cream, and the 3 cheeses in a medium casserole dish. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes or until the cauliflower is soft and the sauce has thickened slightly. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Cook's Note: Recipe can be doubled and made in a roasting pan.

For the Southwestern Slaw: (recipe Courtesy Ellie Krieger)

1 medium jicama, sliced into thin strips (about 3 cups)
1/4 head red cabbage, thinly sliced (about 5 cups)
1 red onion, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup lowfat buttermilk
1 tablespoon lime juice
Salt and pepper

In a large bowl, toss together the jicama, cabbage, onion, and cilantro. In a small bowl whisk together the mayonnaise, buttermilk, lime juice, salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and toss to combine.

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