Suzi's Blog

Sweet and Sour and Fiery Ribs

My favorite cuisine? Well sort of Mexican, Southwestern, Thai, French, Italian, Japanese, Chinese. You know what I mean.

I like a lot things and the “most liked” can depend on the time of day, the smells on the street, how long since my last pasta gorge, or how long since I ate some great ribs.

Ribs. No matter what the “cuisine” I can do the ribs. It can be a Chinese restaurant with those red gems, or a Thai place with ribs floating in broth, or a barbecue place with smoke in the air. It’s always the ribs. Yes, the next morning, even after brushing my teeth, I’m still getting stands of meat from between my teeth. But, you know what? Those strands can still taste great.

This recipe for Sweet and Sour and Fiery Ribs comes from The Great Ribs Book by Hugh Carpenter and Teri Sandsion. It’s a universalist recipe that can be applied to ribs of any denomination: beef, pork, or even lamb. Beef is the meat of choice, though, for these.

Here you will find sweet flavor from honey, sour from vinegar, and heat from chipotle. Plus lots of overtones from tomato paste, cinnamon, and cilantro. There is flavor aplenty here.

When we make these, we don’t marinate for just the 15 minutes minimum. We go the whole hog [or whole cow] and let the sauce penetrate for hours and hours. I know there are discussions about how long you really need to marinate something. I am of the firm belief that you have to give all the flavor molecules equal opportunity to penetrate and offer up their tasty secrets.

I have to say that on a Sunday afternoon or early evening, when your football team is the race for playoff spot, you have a choice. You can be in the stadium, with the rain and snow, cheering your team on and then braving the 3-hours of snarled traffic to get home. Or you can be watching on your big screen, munching these ribs and having a beer or some sangria. What you do is up to you. I don’t drink and drive.

Sweet and Sour and Fiery Ribs

Yield: Serves 4


  • 6 pounds beef ribs or ribs of your choice
  • ½ cup honey
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup distilled white vinegar
  • ½ cup chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
  • ½ cup tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro sprigs
  • 6 gloves garlic, finely minced


Remove the membrane from the underside of the ribs if it is still present. If you are not sure, talk to your butcher when you buy the ribs.

To make the sauce, come all the remaining ingredients in a food processor fitted with a metal bland and puree. Makes about 2 ½ cups.

Coat the ribs evenly on both sides with half the sauce. Marinate the ribs for at least 15 minutes and up to 8 hours. Reserve the remaining sauce to serve with the ribs [or you may be basting with it if you are oven roasting or grilling; if you are a sauce freak and paranoid, just double the recipe; you can use leftover sauce the next day on your sandwich instead of mayo].

Cook the ribs using the technique you prefer: grill, smoke, or roast. Since winter is upon us, the instructions for roasting [indoors!] are presented below.

Once cooked, serve by cutting each side of the ribs into single ribs or half or one third side slabs. Serve at once with the accompanying sauce.

How to Oven Roast Ribs

Preheat the oven to 350⁰F. If your oven has a convection setting, set the oven on “convection” at 325⁰. Place the ribs on a wire rack, meaty side up. Place the rack on a foil-lined baking sheet on the middle oven rack. Place a small pan of hot water in the bottom of the oven, and roast the ribs until the meat begins to shrink from the ends of the bone. Brush the meaty side with reserved marinade one or two times during the roasting. Do NOT turn the ribs over. Approximate roasting times: pork baby back ribs and country-style spareribs for 75 minutes, spareribs and beef ribs for 90 minutes, and lamb ribs for 40 minutes. Don’t overcook that lamb!


Source: The Great Ribs Book by Hugh Carpenter and Teri Sandsion.



Strawberry-Habanero Marinade for Spareribs [the ones that come from pigs and not cows]

“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.

Strawberry-Habanero Marinade

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