Lately, I’ve grown tired of barbecued ribs. This, of course, has nothing to do with any inherent shortcomings of the dish itself. Rather, it’s a result of the vast majority of homemade versions being made the same lazy way: Buy a rack, slather it in some sort of sweet, faux-smoky, seriously processed BBQ sauce, and grill until it’s all encased in a layer of charred carbon thick enough for a diamond to be found within its depths.
This past weekend, then, I finally perfected my own take on what’s become a ho-hum standard. I’ve made several different versions over the past few months, and yesterday--July 4th, appropriately enough--I finally hit on the right balance of components. It’s a combination of dry-rubbed and wet-sauced, and, as it comes out beautifully following a relatively quick stint in the over (about an hour and a half), it’s perfect for all of you no-grill-owning, city-dwelling swine lovers like me.
Here’s the recipe.
2 lbs. baby-back ribs in a single rack (perfect to fit on a cookie sheet)
1/2 tsp. whole coriander
1/2 tsp. whole mustard seed
1/2 tsp. whole clove
1/4 tsp. whole black peppercorn
1/4 tsp. whole white peppercorn
6 cardamom pods, seeds removed
2 tsp. dark brown sugar
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 Spanish onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp. honey
1 tsp. Sriracha
1 tsp. habanero-based hot sauce
1/4 cup whiskey, preferably Jack Daniel’s
splash of Worcestershire sauce
splash of black vinegar
splash of dark sesame oil
Dry Rub: Grind coriander, mustard, clove, peppercorn, and cardamom using a mortar and pestle. Transfer to a small bowl, add salt and brown sugar, and mix well. Set aside.
Wash ribs, dry thoroughly, trim as necessary, and remove silver skin from bottom side. Massage the dry rub into both sides of the ribs, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
Sauce: Season and sauté onions in olive oil until golden brown. Add garlic and sauté until golden brown. When they reach the appropriate color, squeeze the orange into the pan. Add ketchup, Worcestershire, whiskey, honey, Sriracha, habanero hot sauce, sesame oil, and black vinegar. Simmer for 7 minutes over low heat. Check and adjust seasoning as necessary. Remove from heat, let cool to room temp, then puree in a blender. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, pre-heat oven to 300 degrees F. Unwrap ribs, place on cookie sheet, and cover with aluminum foil. After 45 minutes, add a layer of the barbecue sauce to the top and let cook for another 15 minutes. Turn oven up to 325 degrees F. Flip ribs, add a layer of sauce to the underside, and let cook, covered, for another 15 minutes. Uncover ribs, flip them right-side-up, add another layer of sauce, and broil under a low flame for 3 - 5 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling and starting to caramelize. Remove from oven, let rest, and slice into individual ribs.
I served these ribs with homemade pickles (cucumber, radish, and cabbage) and corn on the cob, and paired them with the excellent Voodoo Brewery “Black Magick of the Sun” Ale with Spices. The juniper on the nose and floral peppercorns on the palate paired perfectly with the more aromatic nature of the ribs’ dry rub. There was also an orange-oil note in the beer that highlighted the fruitier components of the sauce, as well as the dark, almost roasted quality that cooking had brought out in the cardamom and clove. It’s a tough beer to drink a lot of on its own, but with these ribs, it was fantastic, and utterly gulpable.