Barbecued ribs are a classic to celebrate this holiday at the height of the Summer. In Brazil, barbecue means grilling large pieces of meat that were seasoned with coarse salt and pepper… and nothing else. No marinades, no rubs, no extra flavors. Because I was raised with that concept, I sometimes twisted my nose at American barbecue, particularly those in which the meat is suffocated by seasonings.
Then one day I found myself in an Oklahoma rib joint, where I tried barbecued pork ribs for the first time, all sticky, messy, gooey and covered with a screaming-red barbecue sauce. I shook my head in disbelief – why mask the flavor of the meat with all that stuff? – but the first bite clarified the issue forever: barbecue sauce is awesome, funky, and sexy! It turned those ribs into a life-changing experience! Seriously, from that day forward I was hooked, and soon became a barbecue sauce snob. It has to be just right, without liquid smoke and without excessive sweetness. A little hickory flavor is acceptable, even desirable, as long as it’s subtle. For the most part the bottled, grocery store varieties fail my personal test. Instead I make my own sauce and exclusively use it on pork ribs. It’s a match like Romeo and Juliet.
(adapted from Easy Basics for Good Cooking, 1987)
2 slabs of pork ribs (baby back or spareribs)
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1 onion, thinly sliced (no need to peel)
salt and pepper
juice of the lemon
for the barbecue sauce
1 cup tomato ketchup
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup red vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tsp paprika (smoked, if available)
1 tsp mustard
1 tsp chili powder (hot)
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt
Remove the membrane from the underside of the ribs (use a paper towel to grab it and it should peel off easily). Place the ribs on a rimmed baking dish, cover it with the lemon and onion slices, season with salt and pepper, and squeeze the lemon juice all over. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 2 hours at 300F.
Meanwhile make the barbecue sauce by mixing all ingredients in a saucepan and bringing to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring every once in a while. If not using the sauce right away, refrigerate.
When the ribs are baked, remove the aluminum foil, discard the lemon and onion slices, and any liquid accumulated in the bottom of the baking pan. Brush a good amount of barbecue sauce all over the ribs and either refrigerate for a day or two, or proceed with the final cooking right away.
To finish the ribs in the oven, place them in a 425 F lightly covered with aluminum foil, for 45 minutes. They will look like this at the end of the baking time. Uncover, brush a little more barbecue sauce on top of the ribs, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until nicely browned on top. You can also finish them in a medium grill until cooked to your liking. Serve the ribs with additional barbecue sauce on the side.
to print the recipe, click here
Comments: People may split into two camps when it comes to barbecued ribs: those who want their meat falling off the bone, and those who prefer to work a little hard and nibble the meat from the bone. I’m part of the first group. Life is hard enough, and I want my ribs (rather, the pig’s) tender. 😉 If you’re on my team, then these ribs are almost all that you need for your 4th of July dinner. Close the deal with this dessert, and you are in for a memorable meal!
ONE YEAR AGO: A Golden Sandwich Bread
TWO YEARS AGO: Ossobuco Milanese