Mike complained loudly last night as I was pre-roasting pork ribs for CBC that I always make ribs for Jim (host of the Eyeopener) and never for him.
There is some truth to this. OK, a lot of truth. But who makes ribs for dinner on an average Tuesday night? Or ever, really, unless it’s someone’s birthday, or a baarbecue, or some other sort of big event? The only time we ever get ribs is when Mike plays the Palomino or my mom picks up take-out from Swiss Chalet.
I adore ribs, but they are so high in fat that I never feel right about making them for myself. I reserve them for making other people happy. Well-made ribs are the best way to win friends and influence people.
Then again, I’ve eaten a lot of black bean soup this year, dammit. So I bought a big rack of pork back ribs today, and popped them in the oven this afternoon. This is the secret to ultra-tender ribs: prebaking them. Some people boil them, but I find that too messy and awkward, what with the giant pot of water on the stovetop. All I do is plop them on one of my cookie sheets (make sure it’s rimmed – those suckers have a lot of fat on them), cover them with foil and bake them at 300°F for about 2 hours. If you want, you could rub the meat with a dry rub first. This would have been a good idea, except that I planned to make the honey-garlic-ginger-soy version I made for Jim (et al) this morning. Sadly, when I went to mix up the sauce, I discovered there was only about a tablespoon of soy sauce left. Thankfully we have half a case of Canadian Club BBQ sauce in the basement, left over from some samples they sent, so we used that.
(As an aside, I’m always amused when people rave about the depth of flavor Canadian Club whiskey adds to its BBQ sauce; when you read the ingredient list, the whisky comes second to last, after modified corn starch and before xanthan gum. Of course brown sugar and sugar are the first two ingredients.)
I didn’t feel like expending any more energy on this meal beyond the ribs, so threw a few small potatoes on the oven rack above them. Baked potatoes are something I hardly ever make, except as a vehicle for a scoop of chili, but they seem the penultimate ballast to ribs. Great - greasy ribs and buttery baked potatoes. I made some peas and opened up a tub of spring greens to ease my conscience a bit.
Still, it was not a healthy dinner. Mike is now lying on his back on the couch, groaning. I’m thankful for my stretchy pants, and am already anticipating a nice meal of barley and lentils tomorrow. Neither of us feel like taking W to the park now, despite the fact that it’s still sunny and beautiful outside. Ribs seemed like a good idea at the time.
I have to go digest now.
Oven-Roasted Barbecue Ribs
If you want to grill your ribs, you can do the initial cooking in the oven (up to a day or two in advance) and then finish them off on the grill.
Dry Rub (enough for 2-3 racks of ribs)
2 Tbsp. paprika
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. salt
2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. oregano
2 racks spareribs, trimmed of excess fat
1-2 cups barbecue sauce
If you want to use the dry rub, combine all the ingredients for it and rub the ribs all over with the mixture, covering both sides. Let them stand at room temperature for an hour, or wrap them well in plastic and refrigerate them for up to 24 hours to intensify the flavors. If you aren’t using the rub, just sprinkle the ribs with salt and pepper. Keep any extra rub in an airtight container – it will last for about a year before it starts to lose its punch.
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Place the ribs meat side up on a rimmed baking sheet, and cover the pan completely with foil. Bake them for 2 hours. Remove the foil and slather the ribs generously with barbecue sauce. Roast for another hour, until the meat is very tender and starting to fall off the bone.
If you want to grill your ribs, cook them in the foil for 2 1/2 hours. (They can be made ahead up to this point, and then refrigerated for up to a day before you need them.) Brush the ribs with sauce and grill over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes.