BABY BACK RIBS WITH TOMATILLO GLAZE

Ribs are one of Phil’s favorite meals, and my default recipe has been on the blog for quite some time.  This version is different because instead of the regular barbecue sauce it calls for a tomatillo glaze. Much lighter in terms of sugar content, but very flavorful.  I actually made the exact recipe from Mary Sue Milliken a couple of years ago, but this time I tweaked it and to our taste it was close to perfection.  If you always make ribs with the red, sticky barbecue sauce, try this version for a totally different take. The tomatillos give them a brighter flavor, so get those napkins ready, and dig in!

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BABY BACK RIBS WITH TOMATILLO GLAZE
(inspired by Mary Sue Milliken’s recipe)

for the dry rub:
2 racks of baby back ribs
2 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large lemon, sliced
1 large lime, sliced

for the tomatillo glaze:
1 shallot, diced
3 tablespoons olive oil
10 tomatillos, husked, washed and roughly chopped
1 Serrano chile, sliced
1 large bunch fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
2 to 3 tablespoons maple syrup
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat oven to 325°. Combine first 5 ingredients in a small bowl. Place each rack of ribs on a double layer of foil; sprinkle rub all over ribs. Wrap racks individually and divide between 2 baking sheets.

Bake ribs until very tender but not falling apart, about 3 hours. Carefully unwrap ribs; pour any juices from foil into a 4-cup heatproof measuring cup; reserve juices. Let ribs cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the tomatillo glaze: In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, saute the shallot in the olive oil until golden. Add the tomatillos and Serrano chile and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens, 30 to 45 minutes. Add the reserved rib pan juices (discard the top layer of fat) and cilantro and cook an additional 10 minutes. Puree in a blender and add the maple syrup. Cook over low heat for 10 minutes, stirring constantly and being careful not to burn. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Turn the oven heat up to 450 degrees F, or heat the grill. If finishing the ribs in the oven, brush generously with the glaze and bake another 10 minutes per side, basting with the glaze every 2 to 3 minutes. To grill, generously glaze the ribs and grill 5 minutes per side, frequently brushing with additional glaze. Cut the ribs apart and serve hot with extra glaze on the side.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

dry rub

 Ready to go into the oven, low and slow does it!

tomatillo glaze

Comments: My default recipe is similar in the overall method of cooking the ribs covered, low and slow, then adding a glaze and blasting it in a very hot oven or grill.  But usually I skip any dry rubs and simply season the ribs with salt, pepper, lemon slices on top.  I decided to change gears this time and after searching cookbooks and websites for the ultimate dry rub, I came up with this one. Not overly spicy, but if you like more heat pump up the cayenne and that should do it.

The tomatillo glaze makes the ribs shine! The recipe makes more than you’ll need for brushing during the final phase of cooking, so warm some up and enjoy with your meal.  Leftovers would pair well with a pork tenderloin or grilled boneless chicken breasts.

closeup1The meat is falling off the bone tender, the glaze is a little tangy, a little sweet, a little spicy and plenty delicious! Great recipe, definitely a perfect option for those living in the USA with the 4th of July celebrations coming up…

This post is dedicated to my Dad, who left us 11 years ago today.
He would have loved these ribs…

Papai

ONE YEAR AGO: Ten Years Ago

TWO YEARS AGO: Someone Got a Summer Shave

THREE YEARS AGO: Border Grill Margaritas

FOUR YEARS AGO:  Goodbye L.A.

FIVE YEARS AGO:  Vermont Sourdough

BABY BACK RIBS ON THE 4th OF JULY

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.

OVEN-BARBECUED RIBS
(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.

ENJOY!

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!

A PIE FOR YOUR 4th OF JULY

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ONE YEAR AGO: A Golden Sandwich Bread

TWO YEARS AGO: Ossobuco Milanese

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