28 May 2009

A New-to-Me Cooking Experience: Ribs

I feel like I should preface this post by saying I have no opinion on ribs. I don't know if they should be only smoked, or roasted then smoked, or parboiled then grilled, or steamed then grilled with smoke. I don't know if they should only have a rub and no mop sauce, or a rub with mop sauce, or a rub with a mop sauce and a bbq sauce. I am not going to argue with you. I am not even going to present an argument to you. I am just going to tell you I made ribs for the first time in my life. My dad told me that they were The Best Ribs He Has Ever Eaten. (I think it deserved caps, it was said in caps!) My brother-in-law, who might be more of a rib connoisseur than my dad, said they were some of the very best ribs he has ever eaten (less caps-worthy, but still high praise). My sister was also very happy with the less typical (for our family) bbq dinner. She had a couple servings, so I think she must have loved them too. At least when L comments on this entry, she won't ask me when I am going to make these ribs for her. :)

We started with pork spare ribs (yet another topic I am unwilling to argue about - I thought I liked baby back ribs better, then I had spare ribs last night and they were delicious, so I straddling this fence as well). We started with about 4.5 pounds, and I wish that we had started with more like 6 pounds for the number of people who were eating. We also grilled some steaks so people had the option of ribs or steak - and unfortunately my dad only got one bone worth of rib. So maybe I should correct his praise to read The Best Rib He Has Ever Eaten. The recipe I found for my first attempt at ribs naturally came from Epicurious, my favorite recipe source on the planet! It was easy to follow, used ingredients that I think most people who like to cook have on hand, was simple to prepare and, most importantly, turned out the most delicious, finger-licking-good ribs.
The recipe starts with mixing up a spice mixture to create a rub, which I generously spread over all sides of the ribs. The ribs are covered and go into the refrigerator to marinate in the spice mixture for as long as possible. We only had about 4 hours of marination, and I think the ribs would have been even more special if I had rubbed them the night before serving. About 3 hours before you are ready to eat, the ribs are steamed in the oven until the meat is tender and pulling away from the bones. The steaming liquid is really important, and I think imparts a lovely flavor to the meat. It is a combination of cinnamon, apple cider vinegar, onion and apple cider (I subbed apple juice since we didn't have apple cider on hand). After the ribs have spent a couple hours in a low and slow oven, you pull them out to cool slightly before grilling them. While grilling, you liberally douse them with a sweet and sticky mop sauce that puts the ribs over the top. There is lots of sugar and alcohol in the mop sauce, so I fought a few flare ups, but the caramelized brown spots were divine. Definitely try this recipe, you won't be disappointed.

I have added my changes in red - the only changes I made were due to subs for ingredients we already had on hand.

Thanks to my mom for taking the pictures!

Brown Sugar and Bourbon Ribs from Epicurious.com
by Ted Reader
Be sure to remove (or score) the membrane on the underside of the ribs so that the seasonings can penetrate and fully flavor the meat. Even better, ask the butcher to remove the membrane. What to drink: Kenwood Vineyards 2003 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley ($17).
Yield: Makes 4 servings

Basting sauce
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/2 cup apple butter (used homemade apple sauce instead)
1/4 cup bourbon whiskey
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons apple cider (used apple juice instead)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
1 tablespoon (packed) golden brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (used about 1 teaspoon sweet paprika to avoid any heat issues with family)
2 2- to 2 1/4-pound racks baby back pork ribs (used spare ribs)

1 large onion, sliced
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
6 thin rounds peeled fresh ginger (omitted)
1 1/4 cups apple cider

For basting sauce:
Whisk all ingredients in medium bowl to blend.

For ribs:
Mix first 7 ingredients in small bowl. Using small sharp knife, loosen membrane from underside of each rib rack and pull off (or score membrane). Rub 1 tablespoon seasoning mix into each side of each rib rack. Place ribs in large roasting pan. Cover and chill at least 6 hours and up to 1 day.
Preheat oven to 325°F. Lift ribs from pan. Scatter onion, cinnamon stick, and ginger in pan. Pour in cider. Return ribs, meat side down, to pan; cover pan with foil. Roast ribs until meat is tender and begins to pull away from bones, about 2 hours. Uncover; cool at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.
Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Grill ribs until heated through and slightly charred, about 5 minutes per side. Brush generously on all sides with basting sauce. Grill until sauce becomes sticky glaze, about 3 minutes longer per side. Transfer rib racks to cutting board. Cut racks between bones into individual ribs. Arrange on platter and serve, passing remaining sauce separately.


Laura said...

Woo-hoo! She cooked for me!

Seriously these ribs were outstanding. The sauce was unique and really good--I almost always want less vinegar and opt for storebought with homemade sauces, but clearly I have not had good enough homemade sauces before.

HoneyB said...

Oh YUM! I love ribs but I rarely make them! I would use the cayenne myself but I love heat with my sweet sauces, lol, and I would have made my family just live with it. OH, I can be so thoughtless sometimes. ;o)