“Oh, careful,” I said. “Your hair is going into the sauce. What’s wrong?’
We were at a local barbeque spot and for some reason Suzen was dipping her head right into her food.
“What’s wrong?” I repeated.
“You can be so embarrassing,” Suzen expressed herself.
“What did I do?”
“When the waiter brought your spareribs,” she pointed with her fork towards my plate, “you asked him if they were beef or pork.”
“What’s wrong with that?” I asked.
“Brian,” Suzen’s voice was low, “spareribs only come from pigs. No cows. No little lambs. Pigs! My God, why can’t you get that straight?”
Today, I slunk into my local bookstore and found The Great Ribs Book by Hugh Carpenter and Teri Sandison, whose The Great Wings Book I reviewed last week. This tidy volume begins with a survey of what ribs are:
- Spareribs coming from pigs appearing either Kansas City-style or St. Louis-style.
- Pork Baby Back Ribs: the Rolls-Royce of ribs offering more meat and less fat
- Country-Style Spareribs: cut from the pork loin and featuring lots of meat and just a little bone
- Beef Back Ribs: offering lots of bone and not much meat
- Beef Short Ribs: a combination of meat and bone that is best cooked slowly with smoke to avoid toughness
- Lamb Ribs: fatty and low in meat, these ribs are best smoked or grilled or roasted, but cannot be braised.
The Great Ribs Book continues with discussions about:
- Fresh versus frozen [go fresh!]
- Preliminary boiling of ribs before grilling or smoking [no, no, no]
- How to remove that white membrane
- How to marinate, baste, cut, grill, smoke, roast or braise
In short, you have a complete primer on ribs! And then, the recipes unfold in chapters devoted to:
- Asian style ribs
- American style
- Mexican and Southwester ribs
- Mediterranean and Caribbean ribs
- Fruit-based glazes and marinades
- Braised ribs
I particularly love those fruit-based glazes and this book offers a combination that I would never have imagined: strawberry, soy, habanero and mint. To use this marinade, make it and coat the ribs evenly on both sides. Marinate the ribs, refrigerated, for at least 15 minutes but up to 8 hours for the very best flavor. If you have extra marinade, baste the ribs as they cook.
Yield: about 1 ¼ cups or enough for 2 full sides of spareribs
- ½ cup strawberry jam
- Zest of 2 limes
- Juice of 2 limes
- ¼ cup thin soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons habanero hot sauce
- ¼ cup finely minced ginger
- ¼ cup minced mint leaves
Combine all the ingredients and whisk or stir well to create a uniform mixture. No cooking is necessary.
Source: The Great Ribs Book by Hugh Carpenter and Teri Sandison
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