Another pig bites the dust: ribs

So “Nibbles” in the Guardian reports this morning on having attended a rib masterclass (!!) at the Chicago Rib Shack, which I take it is the UK’s latest capitulation to Americuisine (and the photo is theirs too). As my recent adventures with pulled pork reveal, I myself am on this curious bandwagon, looking for ways to recreate the melt-in-the-mouth meat tenderness and flavours that only real smokers and probably a century of practice delivers in authentic southern BBQ pits.

Nevertheless, I made some ribs yesterday that I would happily have paid good money for (but which I hadn’t, because this is one the great things about ribs and other varieties of pork that get treated in this way: the meat is CHEAP!).

As usual, I had to do plenty of research to figure out the best way to fake delicious ribs without smoking them, and as usual, I ended up following a combination of the best advice from various sources.

First, courtesy of Irma Rombauer and the Joy of Cooking, I parboiled the ribs for 3-4 minutes. This apparently helps to get rid of unwanted fat. Although mine were spare ribs (as opposed to baby back ribs, which have less fat), they didn’t seem excessively fatty to start with, and the parboiling didn’t obviously get rid of any of it, so I’m not sure how much this step actually contributed to the final deliciousness. But that’s how it started.

After cooling, I slathered them with a mixture of marmalade, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, salt, pepper, and chilli sauce (not quite a dry rub; not quite a liquid marinade), wrapped them up in foil and let them sit in the fridge for a good 4 hours.

About 4 hours before dinner, I added a good splash of white wine to the packet, into a low oven (150C) they went, and there they stayed for the next 3 1/2 hours or so, turning them once underway (different sources suggest cooking times from 2-4 hours at a fairly low heat, so I gave it the slow-food extreme). During this time they basically steam inside the foil, and therefore smell very delicious, but don’t get the required colour. This happens at the end, when you open them up, baste well with the juices, and grill them for 5-7 minutes on each side until they are dark, sticky and on the verge of burning. (This would obviously be a good time to finish them on live coals for a hit of smokiness; I’ll try that next time).

The result was pretty amazing. The meat just slipped right off the bone, and we were left with sticky fingers and happy mouths. Who needs a Chicago Rib Shack?

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