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The best memories of Katie’s and a recipe for smoked blackberry ribs

The best memories of Katie's and a recipe for smoked blackberry ribs

I was exactly one month into my 18th year when my mother died suddenly, so I’ve spent much of my life as that little fairytale duck who wandered around looking for his mother. It just happens to me that I have met many generous women who were willing to share their guidance and wisdom with me as I stumbled on my life path.

One of my first mentors/surrogates was: Harriet Robin, the mother of my childhood best friend. It’s exciting that over the years Harriet and I have become friends ourselves, and I’ve also become friends with hair lifelong best friend, Anne Leonhard† Both ladies are skilled and passionate home cooks and together they enjoy a second career as culinary school instructors, mostly at The New Orleans Cooking School, where their classes are sold out due to their mutually engaging style and cheeky, bubbly humor. It should be like making gumbo with Laurel and Hardy. These lifelong friends were recently judges on the first season of Peacock/NBC’s “Baking It”, and they co-wrote a cookbook/memo, “Across the Table: Recipes & Stories from Two New Orleans Friends (2017).”

A few years ago I took Harriet and Anne, both born and bred, card-carrying Y’ats to Katie’s Restaurant, a shockingly good restaurant that neither, shockingly, had ever been to. We started our belt-breaking lunch with Charcoal grilled oysters half swimming in buttery goodness and toasted Parmesan cheese† and a crawfish fritter— a puff pastry filled with savory mudbugs, caramelized onions, and Provel cheese topped with a spicy aioli. The highlight of the meal was the arrival of Scottie’s CNN Blackberries and Jalapeno Ribswhich are smoked slowly and drizzled with a stunning glaze of fresh blackberries, thinned with jalapeño juice.

Harriet: “Oh Mercy, oh my god! These are the best ribs I’ve ever had in my life! Wait, no, this could be the best thing I’ve had it! I’m going to take some home to Maw-Maw!” Side note: Maw-Maw, Harriet’s mother, was still doing well, enjoying things like jalapeño glazed ribs at age 101.

Chef Scott “Scottie” Craig: “Tell me about the ribs: Katrina is the best thing that ever happened to me. It changed my life.”

Days after the disaster, Scottie’s friend met a group of CNN journalists looking for a mobile kitchen. He connected them with Scottie, who had lost both his home and his business to flooding. “I was desperate. I found them a mobile kitchen and they helped me with the deal. I would stick like glue.”

Scottie set up shop at the CNN outpost in a parking lot near Lee Circle. Inexplicably, Arthur J. Robinson, aka “Mr. Okra’, were among those with high-level connections who were allowed to roam the city at will. Whether or not he woke up in a sparsely populated, utterly deserted place, in those dark days Mr. Okra happily kept his pickup truck loaded with fresh fruits and vegetables and drove around town shouting through a megaphone what things he had. For sale.

“I have no idea where he got this stuff from, but every day it was ‘I have blackberries!’ It looked like he had blackberries just coming out of his a– So I bought blackberries CNN headquarters kept sending piles of baby backs What to do? This is it I’m still getting calls from CNN agencies across the country asking for these ribs.”

Photo credit Sam Hanna for New Orleans Magazine

Chef Scottie’s CNN Blackberry Ribs

Serves 4

2 racks of best quality baby back pork ribs

Rib Rub (recipe follows)

Blackberry BBQ Sauce (recipe follows)

fresh, whole blackberries, if desired

Rub the ribs evenly with the Rib Rub.

Smoke the ribs on a prepared outdoor smoker for 4 to 5 hours until cooked through. Refrigerate the ribs until well chilled. See NOTES below for a method of smoking the ribs in the oven

Prepare an outdoor charcoal or gas grill for indirect cooking. Generously brush the ribs with the sauce and grill until well-heated. The sauce should be thick enough to stick to the ribs.

Serve the spare ribs with other sauce and fresh, whole blackberries, if desired.

Rib rub:

  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons granulated garlic
  • 2 teaspoon granulated onion
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.

Blackberries Barbecue Sauce:

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 20 fresh blackberries
  • 30 pickled jalapeño slices, finely chopped
  • pickling liquid from jalapeños
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients except pickling liquid, salt and pepper in a saucepan. Puree with a stick blender. Place saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring often, until sauce thickens, about 10 minutes. If the sauce gets too thick, thin it out with some of the jalapeños’ brine juice. Taste. Add salt and pepper as desired.

NOTES: 1. To smoke the ribs in the oven, preheat oven to 225ºF. Cover the bottom of a roasting pan with hickory or oak chips and add enough water to create a shallow pan bottom and moistening chips; don’t drown them. Place a rack over the chips and place the rubbed meat on the rack. Cover the entire roasting pan tightly with foil, making a tent at the top to allow the smoky-flavored steam to circulate around the meat. Bake for 4 to 5 hours, or until the meat is cooked through and tender. Carefully remove the foil from the pan. Brush the ribs with the blackberry BBQ sauce and cook under a high grill, watching closely, until nicely crisp and browned, about 5 minutes.

2. While Scottie uses this divine sauce to baste the juicy, tender ribs he serves at Katie’s, it would work equally well on chicken, pork, duck, or vegetables. “Damn, use it on tofu. But whatever you do, don’t use this on those awful, greasy St. Louis-style ribs,” the chef warns. “They suck. Only use skinny baby backs.”