In continuing the cooking series.
Sadly, these aren’t the ribs I finished last night. We were sadly short handed, and I wasn’t able to get any shots during the process. My assistant had to fill in for her mother thanks to a nasty flu bug that put her little brother in the hospital, so there was some scrambling yesterday to do the extras.
The quest for perfect ribs is a common theme in kitchens. Chefs have their favored methods, and BBQ in this country is even more varied than the quest for the perfect hot dog.
Last night, I was able to complete a proper Kansas City BBQ with baby back ribs. We lost a game to the Islanders, after a lackluster performance early in the game–though, some bad calls by the refs put nearly half the first period down guys thanks to penalties–but the ribs, were damn near perfect.
Did a Chipotle Mac & Cheese, potato salad, a carrot and raisin salad that was OK. The Chicken Mornay that I’m fairly proud of as well, though it got upstaged by the ribs.
Ribs, are one of those items that folks will argue back and forth over. Perfect preparation, perfect sauce, perfect spice. I won’t get into the minutia of possible comparisons, and just deliver what we did, and then you can tweak that on your own.
I’ll distill down a bit, since I doubt that most folks are going to do 150lbs of ribs at a time, and less than 8 gallons of sauce. We’ll work with baby back ribs, and we’ll assume that you get them from your butcher cleaned and ready to go.
First off, you’ll need to marinate these puppies. A minimum of 24 hours. Minimum. This is, just so you’re prepared, a three day process. Good ‘Cue ain’t for folks who want to rush. The good news is that you can do the sauce on the day you start your ribs actually cooking, and I’ll get to the sauce in a bit. Swears. We’ll do a simple set of 8 racks of ribs. Good for a 4 really hungry folks, or 8 less than greedy people, and more who are just peckish.
1G Teriyaki sauce
2C Apple Cider vinegar
2C Frank’s Red Hot
1C Lime Juice–yes, bottled is fine.
4 Roasted Poblano peppers–peeled and diced
4 Canned chipotle peppers–yes, add the sauce.
1/2C Chopped garlic
1C Chopped onion
1/2C Chopped ginger–fresh. Quarter that if you’ve only got dry.
1/2lb Brown Sugar
1C Chopped parsley–fresh. Quarter if you’ve only got dry.
If you’ve got a beurre mixer, this a great opportunity to buzz everything together. If not, then a food processor to all the ingredients and blend with a whisk.
Your ribs need to go into a pan that all of them can stand up in. Heaviest piece of bone on the bottom, and in a standing row, thinnest bone side up, and all curving the same way. I use a 6″ full size stainless hotel pan.
That way the ribs have room to lay out full, and still have a little room for the marinade to bathe all of them. You can pack 8 baby backs in one of these puppies, easy. Pour in your marinade cover the ribs, and leave only the tips of the bones showing, if that.
Cover and set aside in your ‘fridge. Ignore them, and do something for the rest of the day. Maybe take your SO out for a nice dinner, or finish some puttering around the house. Under no circumstance fiddle with the ribs. Just leave them the hell alone and find something else to do for at least 24 hours. Take in a movie, do your taxes, maybe read a story to the kids.
After 24 hours, you can get started. Set your oven to 350. Bring out your pan of marinated ribs, and use a little parchment paper to cover your pan, then foil over that. You don’t want marinade bubbling to hit the foil–it makes a mess, and the acid tends to play merry hob as well. Pop the pan, ribs and all, into the oven. Set a timer for three hours. You can get your sauce started now, if you like, or buy a sauce if you don’t want to bother. Mind you, brought up in the South by a good KC lady, my opinion of folks who buy sauces is less than charitable, but over the years I’ve mellowed and allow that some folks’ weren’t raised right, and that’s hardly their fault.
BBQ–Kansas City Style
2 Spanish onions–small dice
1/2 C Chopped garlic
2C Bourbon–I am NOT a fan of the Jack Daniels, because of the filtering process that gives that almost petroleum aftertaste, and that will lovingly transfer to your sauce. I don’t recommend it. Evan Williams works just fine.
2C Tomato juice
3C Chopped tomatoes–yes, you can used canned.
1C Brown Sugar
1/2C Frank’s Red Hot
6T Fresh ginger. 2T dry ginger.
3T Cracked black pepper
1C Parsley–Chopped, fresh. Quarter that if you use dry.
2C Hot hot black coffee.
Salt to taste.
Start with a heavy bottomed pan.
Start of sautéing your onions with a touch of oil. As they go clear, add in your garlic, and stir for about a minute. Deglaze with your bourbon. Yes, be careful for flare up if you’ve got naked flame, because the bourbon will ignite when it hits the oil if you’re pan doesn’t have high enough sides. Let your bourbon cook off the alcohol after it comes back to a boil.
Start with your tomato juice, then ketchup, then tomatoes, Red Hot. Then your molasses, brown sugar, ginger, pepper, parsley, and honey. Bring the mess up to a simmer, and let it stay there for a good three hours or so. Nice low simmer. Stir occasionally.
By the time your rib timer goes off, you should have enough time to fetch them out of the oven, uncover them, and set them aside to cool on the counter a bit. You want don’t want to pop the whole pan into your ‘fridge unless you really hate your refrigerator and everything in it. Or you’ve got a walk in unit. I’m lucky enough to have a walk in, but for the home cook, just set them on the counter, and let them cool so you can pull your sauce. Before you do, add the fresh coffee to the pot, and whisk the sauce nice and even. Yes, fresh. Don’t bring old, busted coffee into your sauce. Coffee has all those complex flavors that need to get blended into your sauce–and old coffee has lost a lot of oils and broken down a bit. You like your guests, use the fresh stuff.
Both the sauce and the ribs need to sit over night. Rinse and repeat your previous waiting plans, or mix it up a bit. The important thing is to let the ribs sit overnight, and the sauce as well.
Day of service, you’re going to want to fish your ribs out of the marinade. Be careful, because after three hours at 350 degrees, they’re damn near falling off the bone already. Cold is the only way to handle them right now. Dust them off with your favorite BBQ spice or grill spice. A Chiptole BBQ, a Montreal Blend, whatever. Nice and bold, with heavy pepper flavor, and a decent salt and spice bite. Dust both sides. When you’re ready for service, reserve some sauce to brush onto your ribs. NOT YET, though.
There are two methods you can use here now. You can just grill and go. It’s messier, but has the satisfaction of the grill, and making a mess. Or you can grill, and then sauce, and finish in the oven. That’s up to you. In either case, you need to get a pair of long tongs to carefully lay your ribs onto your grill long ways pointing up your grill. Convex side first. Grill for marks, then take your tongs and gently flip them over. Now you can apply sauce with a brush, or you can grill, and then set aside on a baking sheet. If you mean to grill them off, again apply a little more sauce on the bottom, and then, flip again. And then transfer the puppies onto your serving plate.
If you opt to finish them in the oven, then you need to carefully rub them with sauce from your reserved bowl. I prefer to use gloves and do it by hand. It’s more sure to get sauce on every nook and cranny. Place them on a sheet pan, concave side down. Bake them for about 12-18 minutes. Just enough to get your sauce bubbly, and slightly caramelized. Just a little searing action, but not much. Bubbly sauce on the outside is your watchword. Not blackened. Bubbly.
Grilled or finished in the oven, sauce your ribs from the fresh and uncontaminated supply–pour on with a ladle, bottle it up and pour, but you want that last fresh mopping sauce. Carve your ribs into the size you want, and serve. Or lay the whole slab of ribs onto a plate. I like to garnish with a little green onion and maybe some diced red pepper, but scallions are just fine.
Tuck in, and toast your patience.