Ribs are not for not for neat freaks, prissy, controlling, or napkin dabbing fussbudgets. They are get down and dirty, use your hands, and be prepared to get hosed down afterwards kind of eating.
I didn’t really grow up eating BBQ’d ribs. My parents were steak people. Filet mignon or New York striploin all the way. Or the occasional Ribeye. And if it wasn’t steak, it was burgers. Or the occasional sausage. But I really don’t remember ribs on the grill all that much. So it was always a treat to go out and order ribs at a restaurant. The concept of grabbing at bones and gnawing away at them with some amazing fruit for the labour was just so rewarding. And they weren’t something I learned to cook myself till I got married.
BBQ’ed ribs are in a class all their own. Dry ribs, Asian ribs, short ribs, they are everywhere. And the whole package of grabbing at one, and having the meat fall off the bone, getting sauce all over your face, and licking your sticky fingers afterwards makes ribs more of an event than just a regular meal. And that’s probably why we want to be in a group of friends and family when indulging.
Here in the GTA, there are some great Rib Fests to attend all throughout the summer. You can sample every sort of rib there is, with some of the spiciest, sticky sauces on the planet. Walking around and exploring all the different booths, by some of the best and award winning rib chefs from across the continent, and sampling rib after rib, washing them down with a cold beer or cider, with a side of cole slaw and cornbread. Heaven! And I’m sure you’ve probably got a grill, so summer is covered. But what about winter? Why should we sacrifice our love of ribs due to the grill being covered in a layer of snow? Unless of course, you are a true Canadian, and chisel the grill out from under the snow and ice for just such opportunities, shivering in front of the grill to brush your rack of ribs with a touch more sauce?!
That’s where these ribs step up. These have been my go to for a few years now. I found the recipe in a Food and Drink magazine and have never looked back. Jim adores them. And they are so easy to whip up. Okay, ‘whip up’ may be a tad premature. You do need to let the ribs sit covered in a fabulous dry rub overnight in the fridge. And the next day, they are baked low and slow in a 250F oven for a good 3 hours, till almost falling off the bones. But really, there is so little hands on time, that you can use your time the way you want: take a nap, reorganize your sock drawer, get caught up on your Netflix binging. You know what I mean.
Cooking it low and slow with the rub, wrapped in tin foil, and then basting with the sauce and setting the temperature is what will you give the most sought after Bark. That crusty, deep dark, rich, sweet, chewy jerky like rind infused with incredible flavour. That pure mahogany that turns almost a shiny liquorice black lacquer. The burnt ends are like candy. I won’t get into the chemistry of it here, but read it for yourself, if you’re a true food nerd at Amazing Ribs.
The recipe calls for making you own BBQ sauce. It is an amazing, rich, deep and spicy sauce, brought together with cider vinegar, beef broth, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce and molasses, along with a wonderful combination of aromatics sautéed in butter. The dry rub is also the most amazing dry rub I’ve ever used. The dry rub combines brown sugar, dry mustard, ground fennel, sweet paprika, cayenne pepper, and a coarse sea salt and ground pepper. So easy and yet what a rub it is as in sinks down into the meat. And what’s even better, they both make enough to cover four racks of ribs. So whether you are feeding a crowd, or just two of you, make up the whole recipe, and store what you don’t need in the fridge for future rib baking. I can’t tell you what a treat it is to be looking through the fridge and come across the BBQ sauce and be reminded of that rack of ribs in the freezer that you got on sale. Dinner for tomorrow: done!
So it’s a great recipe for tomorrow (if you have ribs in the fridge or freezer (the ingredients for the rub and sauce are all pantry staples) Or if you want to prepare them for a group, it’s a fabulous make ahead recipe. Prepare the rub and sauce a few days in advance so that they in the fridge and ready to go. You can even slow roast the ribs, cool back to room temperature and refrigerate with the BBQ sauce a couple of days in advance. Then the day of, all you need to do is take both out, let return to room temp and grill or bake and baste till perfectly done. This way, the day of a gathering, you can put your attention to other details. Beer. Salad. Cornbread. Beer.
GO-TO SPICY AND STICKY BABY BACK RIBS
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 3 tbsp kosher salt
- 1 tbsp dry mustard
- 1 tbsp ground fennel
- 1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tbsp sweet smoked paprika
- 4 racks baby back ribs (about 2 1/2 pounds each), membrane removed from the underside of each rack
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 small onion , minced
- 3 garlic cloves , minced
- 1 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1 cup ketchup
- 1 cup cider vinegar
- 1 cup beef broth
- 1/4 cup hot sauce
- 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tbsp unsulfured molasses
In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, salt, mustard, fennel, black pepper, cayenne and paprika.
On 2 large rimmed baking sheets, sprinkle the spice mix all over the ribs, pressing and patting it. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat the oven to 250F. Pour off any liquid on the baking sheets, cover the ribs with foil and roast for about 3 hours, until the meat is tender but not falling off the bone. Pour off any liquid on the baking sheets.
Meanwhile, in a saucepan, melt the butter. Add the onion, garlic and thyme and cook over moderate heat until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add the ketchup, vinegar, beef broth, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce and molasses and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 30 minutes.
Preheat the broiler and position a rack 10 inches from the heat. Brush the ribs liberally with the barbecue sauce and broil for about 10 minutes, turning and brushing occasionally with the sauce, until well-browned and crispy in spots.
Transfer the ribs to a work surface and let rest for 5 minutes. Cut in between the bones and mound the ribs on a platter. Pass any extra barbecue sauce on the side.
The roasted ribs and barbecue sauce can be refrigerated separately for up to 4 days. Return to room temperature and broil just before serving.
This recipe calls for 4 racks of ribs. If you want to make just one or two racks, I would still suggest making the entire rub and sauce. You can always refrigerate the unused portions.
Adapted from Food and Wine