The New Q: Smoke-Braising

There's no reason that you have to choose between braising and barbecuing. While working on a new backyard barbecue cookbook, I discovered that the two techniques can be combined with awesome results. Start off by smoking or grilling the meat. Next, prepare a braising liquid in the kitchen and bring it to a boil. Put an oven-proof roasting pan on your grill directly over the hot part of the fire. Carefully add the hot braising liquid to the pan on the grill and return it to a simmer with the heat of the coals. Put the meat in the liquid and continue smoking, turning the meat every half hour or so. Finally, wrap the pan in aluminum foil to finish cooking.

You can use lots of different meats including pork butt, leg of lamb or chicken. Beef short ribs do especially well with this technique. Try it out this weekend -- here's a recipe:

Smoky Beef Short Ribs in Ancho-Molasses Sauce

Six ribs fit perfectly in a standard-size roasting pan. Be forewarned that the roasting pan is hard to clean afterwards. You can also substitute a disposable aluminum roasting pan to eliminate clean-up if you like.

6 beef short ribs (square cut) 2 tablespoons grill rub 2 ancho chiles, stemmed seeded and softened in hot water Half an onion, chopped 3 garlic cloves 1 tablespoon vegetable oil 12 ounce can cane sugar-sweetened root beer 1 cup molasses

Light a charcoal grill. Season the ribs with grill rub and place in a baking dish. Put the baking dish on the grill over medium hot coals and turn the ribs when they start to sizzle. Continue cooking in the dish for an hour, turning to caramelize on all sides. Puree the ancho chiles with the soaking water in a blender. Heat the oil in a skillet and add the onion. Cook until softened, about five minutes. Add the garlic and chile puree cook for a few minutes. Add the root beer, bring to a boil, then simmer.

Add wood chips or chunks to the hot charcoal. When the ribs are well-browned, pour the molasses over each rib, turning to coat. Then add the root beer mixture to the baking dish. Cover the grill and allow the ribs to smoke and simmer for another hour, turning often. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and allow to steam for a half an hour. Remove the pan from the grill and put the ribs in a serving dish. Stir the braising liquid and molasses in the pan together and pour over the ribs. Serve immediately.

Makes 6 ribs.

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