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
Just Grill This by Sam Zien, The Cooking Guy, is one of those books you might take a quick glance at and then just pass on by. Sam’s picture on the cover of this paperback is intentionally nerdish and this clearly is one of those guy‑beer‑meat‑grill books that you might not have high expectations for. It turns out, nerdy guys using a grill can sometimes be very tasty. Not the guy. The food.
We’ve made several things from the book and loved them. Sam is creative with a not-too-many-ingredients mentality and this rib recipe is an example. It’s his version of those dark red Chinese ribs you love to buy but could never figure out how to do yourself. Now you can. These are restaurant class ribs.
You certainly can adjust the ingredients here. We had strong hoisin sauce from Chinatown so a ⅓ cup, which the recipe calls for, certainly gave the ribs a “hoisin” tang. When you make the sauce, dip you finger in, taste test, and make your personal flavor corrections.
Brian liked these ribs. He took the picture the night we cooked them. He insisted on the big shot above for the blog. Ya know, he’s not very subtle about dropping hints.
Chinese BBQ Ribs
Yield: serves 4
- 2 racks pork back ribs, about 4 pounds
- ¼ cup white vinegar
- ½ cup soy sauce
- ½ cup honey
- ⅓ cup hoisin sauce
- 2 large cloves garlic, mince
- 2 teaspoons five-spice powder
Preheat the oven to 400⁰F.
Place the ribs and vinegar in a large baking or casserole dish. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 75 minutes, or until very tender.
Mix together the soy, honey, hoisin, garlic, and five-spice powder. Set aside.
Remove the ribs from the oven and carefully lift off the foil. Watch out for the steam!
Preheat the grill to medium-high. Place the ribs, meat side down, on the grill. Baste the back with the sauce.
Cook until they start to develop grill marks and turn over. Now baste the top. Baste a bit more while they finish and then one extra basting after they’ve been removed and just before you serve them.
Recipe Source: Just Grill This by Sam Zien