This weekend David Leader’s Independence Day plans would give his family, friends and community a taste of Americana.
Leader, 25, a native Northlander, is the executive director of the Main Street Parkville Association, a job that includes coordinating downtown Parkville’s Fourth of July festivities and fireworks at English Landing Park, near the Missouri River.
Leader also likes to create flavorful events to mix it up by grilling or smoking meats for friends and family in his Riverside backyard.
Q: What does the Fourth of July mean to you?
A: This is a day to really be grateful for our freedoms and the many men and women who serve our country. The 60 or so Parkville Main Street small-business owners show what it means to be part of a community, which supports being good neighbors. The buildings here range from being built in the 1880s until the 1940s, and there’s a lot of old-fashioned values of hard work with a love of country and community that run up and down this street.
It hasn’t always been easy for these businesses here — especially when the Missouri River comes out of its banks — but it looks like we’re not going to have to contend with a flood for the parade and fireworks this year.
Q: Is grilling and smoking a way for you to relax, because in your career you seem to be busy keeping all the plates spinning?
A: I love the process of smoking meat. It’s something I relish doing for special occasions, and having my girlfriend, Nikki, and my family and friends all enjoy the finished product. To me there’s nothing better than dedicating a day to creating something delicious by coaxing the smoke from a fire into a good piece of meat. It’s a process that takes patience and dedication, but it sure is rewarding at the end of the day.
Q: When did you get bit with the barbecuing bug?
A: I am proud to be from the Kansas City area, where good barbecue is just part of our collective identity. That being said, my dad, Dennis, is the cook in our family, and I learned many skills from him. He taught me how to build a fire, so you get the right air circulation, and the importance of using good wood — like cherry — to impart a distinct flavor to the food. My mother, Deborah, is an excellent baker, with ancestors who were professionals in the kitchen. I was raised with the idea that a connection to food is also a connection to family.
Q: Will you be too busy this weekend to stick some slabs in your smoker?
A: I’m going to try and make some ribs during the day. I might also put on a brisket and a chicken or two. When I’m out by the grill, I feel very grounded, with a connection to nature and a sense of home.
I enjoy making these ribs, because it has the heat from the rub and the sweet from the glaze. There’s nothing better than pulling these off the smoker, and as you’re eating them, the meat is falling off the bone.
Mary G. Pepitone is a freelance writer who lives in Leawood. She also writes a nationally syndicated home column. Send email to her at email@example.com to nominate a cook.
For a complete listing of Parkville’s activities surrounding Independence Day, go to: parkvillemo.org/upcoming-events/parkville-july-4th-celebration-2016. Community events begin on June 30 and culminate in a fireworks display on July 4.
Leader of the Pork (Ribs)
Makes 6 servings, about 2 ribs in each serving
For the rub:
1 tablespoon cumin powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 (5-pound) rack pork ribs, membrane removed
For the glaze:
1/2 cup bourbon
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1/4 teaspoon prepared dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Prepare a hot fire on one side of a charcoal grill and set grate on highest setting. To imbue more flavor, add cherry, apple or pecan wood chips to fire.
To prepare rub: In a small mixing bowl, whisk cumin, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, brown sugar, salt, cayenne and black peppers together.
Completely coat rack of ribs with dry rub and place on side of grill without coals, over indirect heat.
Place lid tightly on grill and smoke meat for 4 hours, monitoring to ensure smoke still emanates from the fire and flipping rack of ribs occasionally for an even smoke.
To prepare glaze: In a small mixing bowl, whisk bourbon, brown sugar, tomato paste, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, garlic, mustard, black pepper, salt, paprika and cayenne pepper together.
During hour 5 of smoking, brush glaze on rack and turn it over every 15 minutes.
On a cutting board, use a sharp knife to cut ribs into serving size portions of 2 to 3 ribs.
Per serving: 430 calories (62 percent from fat), 27 grams total fat (10 grams saturated), 83 milligrams cholesterol, 10 grams carbohydrates, 28 grams protein, 945 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber.