Mr. Piggy’s Revenge: Grilled Chipotle Baby Back Ribs [or the best ribs you'll ever have in your life]
“How was the Q?” Suzen asked me. I had just returned from two weeks in Austin and, true to family, tradition, I had made the rounds of some Texas barbeque joints. Both old friends like Rudy’s [where you can fuel your car with Shell and your tummy with rich ribs] and some new spots.
“Well,” I began carefully, “some of it was very good and some okay. But I did not have anything outstanding.” And that’s the truth. I don’t want to denigrate Rudy’s, which is quite good, but I haven’t bitten into ribs that make me cry for a long, long time. That’s bizarre because in Texas you are never out of sight of at least one of these three things:
- A church
- Someone wearing a football jersey for the University of Texas or the Dallas Cowboys.
- A garish neon sign or a fading hand-painted sign for barbeque
In Texas, they take those three things seriously. One Super Bowl Sunday, I was checking into a Dallas hotel. The man in front of me was wearing a Washington Redskins football jersey. “Sir,” the desk clerk cautioned him, “I strongly advise you not to go out on the street wearing that jersey.”
Oh, there’s a fourth thing you always see: gun racks.
After I unpacked my bags from Austin, I turned to the mail. And there, as if God loved me, was a copy of America’s Best Ribs by Ardie Davis and Chef Paul Kirk. There are wonderful recipes here: from Kentucky, Arizona, Minnesota, … Folks from Texas, and Tennessee and The Carolinas may be upset at that, but great barbeque is out there. It can, however, be hard to find the truly great ribs.
Barbeque chefs are very special. They have those cook-offs where thousands of people test their rib fantasies. The chefs feature family recipes they claim have been honed for generations. And the recipes themselves are named with boldness. It’s not “Great Ribs” but “Best Damn Fiery Things You Ever Dared to Consume.” Modesty is not in order here.
Now, America’s Best Ribs includes Mr. Piggy’s Revenge: Grilled Chipolte Baby Back Ribs. Ah, how comforting: revenge on behalf of the pig? And “grilled chipotle?” Smoke upon smoke?
Suzen saw this recipe and was all in. We spent a warm spring afternoon buying ingredients, cleaning the grill, planning the meal. We woke up the next morning to 4” of snow. No grilling. We followed the recipe below except for baking the ribs for 2 hours until that blackening meat was just sliding off the bone. We still basted for just the last 30 minutes.
The recipe is not hard, but it involves both a dry rub and a sauce. That sauce is mixed but not cooked. The rub? It’s got 12 things in it. If you were starting from scratch, you might just add a tablespoon of each one. Not here. There’s a tablespoon of this, a teaspoon of that, a ½ teaspoon of something else. This is precisely the “tuning” you’d expect to see in a recipe that has, in fact, passed through generations of cooks and countless slabs of ribs.
The result: the best ribs ever. You take this one to a ribs cookoff, and you are going to win. Serve this to your family, and you will be a culinary hero. Eat a few yourself with a cold beer, and you will be happy.
Mr. Piggy’s Revenge: Grilled Chipolte Baby Back Ribs
Yield: serves 4 to 6
For the rub:
- ¼ cup white cane sugar
- 2 tablespoons seasoned salt
- 1 tablespoon onion salt
- 2 teaspoons garlic salt
- 1 teaspoon celery salt
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 2 teaspoons lemon pepper
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon dry mustard
- ½ teaspoon ground chipotle chile
For the ribs:
- 2 slabs baby back ribs
For the sauce:
- ½ cup tomato-based barbecue sauce
- 1 ½ tablespoons orange marmalade
- 1 ½ tablespoons chopped chipotle chilies in adobo sauce
- ¼ cup water
Heat a cooker to medium to medium-high.
Combine all the ingredients for the rub n a small bowl and blend well. Season the ribs all over with rub.
Combine all the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl and set aside.
Oil the grate and place the ribs on it bone side down over direct heat. Cover and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until pull-apart ender, turning every 5 to 7 minutes and glazing with the sauce during the last 30 minutes of cooking.
Transfer the ribs to a cutting board and let them rest, covered loosely with aluminum foil, for 10 to 15 minutes. While the ribs are resting, boil the remaining sauce for 1 to 2 minutes, if desired, before serving with the ribs
Source: America’s Best Ribs by Ardie Davis and Chef Paul Kirk
Have you ever gotten to a recipe on the web and not had a clue how you made it there? Well, this time I do know every step of my path. My grandson wanted a pie, and I wanted a good crust. So I did some local shopping there in Austin and found Southern Pies by Nancie McDermott. In the back of the book is a marvelous list of food sources, including the Southern Food Alliance. The blog there led me to www.communalskillet.com. This site is a treasure trove of recipes seeking to preserve Southern traditions and culinary skills. If you go to this site you will, quite simply, fall in love with the array of wonderful recipes and the quality of the site.
This recent recipe calls for Cheerwine, a Southern soda that is cherry flavored. While most of us don’t live in places where you can easily buy Cheerwine, you can order on line, the beverage is planned for national distribution, and I supposed you could improvise with say Dr. Pepper. I hope that is not heresy to the kind folks at Communal Skillet.
Suzen and I have not made this recipe yet, but it’s on our weekend agenda. You can read the recipe and know that it is a winner.
The rest of this post uses the words directly from www.communalskillet.com. They deserve full credit and I hope you visit them often for culinary inspiration. Suzen and I surely will.
M: “Legend born in the South, Raised in a Glass.” What makes Cheerwine so distinctively Southern? The short answer would be that since it first hit the market it has only been sold in Southern states, but there is something about this heavily carbonated, cherry flavored soft drink that just *feels” like the South. Founded in Salisbury, NC in 1917 by L.D. Peeler, who bought the recipe for the Kentucky based “Mint Cola” and renamed it for it’s effervescence and burgundy color. It was an instant hit throughout North Carolina and eventually expanded its distribution into South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia and throughout the Southeast. Last fall, the company announced plans to expand to National distribution by 2017, as this beloved Southern secret gains countrywide attention. Can’t wait until 2017? See how far you’ll have to drive here or just have it shipped. Love those longnecks.
So how does it stand up in barbeque sauce? Coca Cola has a well known history as a cooking ingredient in everything from cake to, well, barbeque sauce. For my money, this recipe stands up with the best of them. As a rule, I prefer to do things from scratch. So when I see a recipe that uses packaged products as ingredients, I tend to shy away. And this one uses not only cheerwine, but also A-1 steak sauce. But you know, that’s my hang up and cooking Southern has forced me to play through that. In for a penny. It’s recipes like this one that makes me more than happy to get over myself.
I’ve made this both as an oven roast and cooked on the grill. I prefer stepping outside and firing up the grill. Especially when we’re seeing sunshine and 80 degree days in early March. It’s good to live in the South.
Recipe: Cheerwine Barbeque Chicken
Summary: Tangy sweet sauce with a hint of cherry made from the South’s best kept soda turns your roasted (or better still, grilled) chicken into something special. From The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook
- 1 T Butter
- 1 tsp Minced Garlic
- 1 c Ketchup
- 1 c Cheerwine
- 3 T Worcestershire Sauce
- 1/4 c A-1 Sauce
- 1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper
- 1/2 tsp Black Pepper
- 1/2 tsp Dry Mustard
- 2 T White Vinegar
- 7 Lb Chicken Thighs
- In a saucepan, saute garlic in butter for a minute or so.
- Whisk in ketchup, Cheerwine, Worcestershire sauce, A-1, cayenne pepper, black pepper, dry mustard and vinegar and bring to boil.
- Reduce to simmer 20 minutes (until sauce thickens).
- Let cool and refrigerate to chill.
- Combine sauce and chicken in a storage container, making sure chicken is completely coated.
- Refrigerate 4 hours to overnight.
- Cook in 350 degree oven until an internal temperature of 170 degrees is reached (about an hour) OR grill on charcoal or propane grill at medium heat 15-20 minutes (with either method, baste with remaining sauce halfway through) until hitting that internal temperature of 170 degrees.