Monday, May 30, 2011

Baby Back Ribs... in the oven?

Today marks the official start of barbecue season so how could I resist cooking up some baby back ribs.  Thanks to Stillman's Farms, I picked up an especially lovely rack at the farmers' market.  The ribs weren't bad, either!  (bah-dah psh!)  I can't help but be a little *saucy* when talking about barbecue...

A side note and one of my favorite bits of CPI (that's Cocktail Party Information, for those not in the know): according to my French friends, (and, of course, the French are always modest when it comes to their language), barbecue originates from a French phrase.  Referring to a whole pig being roasted on a spit and the path of that spit, it's either from 'barbe a queue' or 'barbe au cul' depending who you ask, translating to either 'beard to tail' or 'beard to ass'.  Yummy.

Back to my ribs.  Despite all of this talk of barbecue, I actually made my ribs in... the oven!  Don't yell at me!  I know there are purists out there who are clutching their pearls spatulas, but it works and it's delicious.  Besides, my downstairs neighbors moved this weekend and took the grill with them.  Not that I was ever a grill master.  I'm allowed *one* flaw, right?

In addition to being downright delicious, this method for cooking ribs is quick and easy.  Baby back ribs are ideal for this method as they are already tender and cook pretty quickly, but I did make these about two years ago with beef ribs with success, (and a bit more cook time).

First we're going to make a rub and let the ribs marinate a bit:
- Start by trimming up your rack.  Remove any excess fat and that membrane on the one side if it's there.
- In a bowl combine the following:

  • 2 tbsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp whole grain mustard
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 2 tbsp apple cider or white wine vinegar
- Mix the ingredients together and spread evenly on both sides of the ribs.
- Wrap in plastic wrap and let refrigerate a minimum of four hours, (longer is better).

While the meat is marinating, you can go ahead and make your sauce.  I made an awesome sauce the first time around, but I didn't write it down.  I think this is a pretty good approximation.  I want to stress that barbecue sauce is very personal for preference.  This one is quite tangy with a nice little sweet kick on the side and just a bit of background heat.  Taste it as you go and adjust the seasonings accordingly.

- In a small pot, combine the following:
  • 1/2 c. ketchup
  • 2+ tbsp whole grain mustard
  • 1/4 c. blackstrap molasses
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/4 tsp minced garlic
  • 1+ tbsp apple cider or white wine vinegar
- Stir continuously over low heat until the sauce is hot and the flavors begin to develop, about 10 minutes.
- Adjust from here.  I didn't stray too far from these proportions and I thought it was pretty tasty.
- Allow the sauce to cook a full 20 minutes, stirring to prevent burning, then remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat your oven to 375 about two hours before you want to eat.
-  Line a pan with foil and place the ribs on it curved side down.
- Cover the ribs with another layer of foil, shiny side down, and press down to seal the edges.
- Bake ribs for one hour.
- After one hour, take them out and remove the top layer of foil.  They should already look pretty tasty.
- Brush the sauce on thickly, flip them over, and brush it on the other side.
- Return the ribs to the oven for 10- 15 minutes, then repeat brushing the sauce on.  I thought two coats was perfect, but you could go another round if you like really saucy ribs.
- Cook the ribs another 10-15 minutes.  If you want them to blacken a bit, you can pop them under the broiler but I didn't find it necessary.  You could probably also do this stage on an actual grill if you were so inclined.
- Remove the ribs from the oven.  Let them rest a bit, then carve them up!

Seriously, one taste of these and you will be an oven rib convert.  The great part is you can easily keep an eye on them while doing other prep work in the kitchen.  No need to worry about setting the bushes around the grill on fire while you're inside otherwise occupied.  That's definitely never happened...


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