Saturday, June 6, 2009
The Summer Saturday Succulence: Molé-Rubbed Ribs
(Facebook Readers: Please click here to read this week's entry -- for whatever reason, Facebook doesn't want to import all the pictures. Thanks!)
Let me start by saying this -- these ribs don't have to be made on a Saturday. For that matter, this isn't exactly traditional Molé, either. It is, however, quite easy to make, fall-off-the-bone tender, and redolent with pork-y deliciousness.
A lot of people like the idea of cooking ribs, but they hold themselves back -- they think they need a grill, or a smoker, or a big barbecue pit to get the flavors and textures best associated with road-side stands, ice-cold Cokes, and the summer sun.
The truth of the matter is that ribs are easier to make than you might think; indeed, all you need is an oven and a long, lazy afternoon.
Makes 1 Rack
1 rack raw pork ribs, spare or baby-back
1 Tablespoon Cocoa Powder
1 Tablespoon Garam Masala Paste
1 Tablesoon Smoked Salt
1 teaspoon Dry Mustard
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/4 Cup White Wine
2 Tablespoons White Vinegar
1 Tablespoon White Sugar
Start with your ribs (as seen at the top of this post). For this recipe, I used baby-backs, although, to be honest, I usually prefer the fattier, larger spare-ribs -- they're more forgiving as far as overcooking is concerned and have better pork flavor.
Of course, you don't want your ribs to be too fatty; try and select a rack with decent marbling, but avoid leaving large clumps of fat hanging off the sides. A sharp paring knife and 10 minutes will have you in tip top shape.
Although I failed to take a picture -- and I have no idea why -- you'll want to score through the hard membranes on the back of the ribs. See the top of the ribs, as shown above? Turn the rack over, and cutting between each rib (but without cutting through the meat on the other side) use your pairing knife to slice through the rubbery, hard white stuff. This will allow it to retract to the bone during the cooking process, and keep you from having to fight through gristle with your teeth later. Man, I wish I had a picture.
Next, you'll want to gather your spices.
Clockwise, from top, you'll see the Garam Masala (found in any Indian grocery), smoked salt, dry mustard, cracked pepper, cinnamon, and cocoa powder.
Yup, cocoa powder.
For whatever reason, I find it does a wonderful job tenderizing meat. I don't know why, and haven't bothered finding out. All I know is that it does the job, while providing a dark, bitter-sweet savoriness to the pork meat. Paired with the Garam Masala (for spice and heat), smoked salt (for smokiness -- duh), mustard (for heat), pepper (can't have ribs without pepper), and cinnamon (pork and cinnamon is a match made in heaven -- hey, that almost rhymed...but not quite), this mix provides a wide range of flavors to delight your guests' palates.
(Editor's Note: Although Garam Masala paste is used here, some stores will only carry Garam Masala powder. If you find this is the case in your neighborhood, still use a tablespoon, but add two tablespoons of olive oil to the entire spice mixture.)
Mix all the spices together, and rub those ribs!
Wrap the entire thing in foil as well as you can -- you want to try and make a water-tight package. Feel free to use several layers (heavy-duty foil helps). Pop the entire thing on a cookie sheet, and refrigerate it overnight.
The next day, open up one end of the foil package and pour your wine inside (this is why it has to be watertight). Tilt the pan for a moment to distribute the liquid evenly, and then seal everything back up.
Place the ribs into your oven, and turn it on to 250 degrees F. Let cook for two hours.
At that point -- being careful to not get burned on the steam -- slice open the top of the foil package. Place back into the oven for an additional two hours. Every 30 minutes, brush the ribs with the vinegar/sugar mixture. The acid will continue to tenderize and cut through the unctuous nature of the meat, while the sugar will help develop a nice, caramelized crust on the whole thing.
Remove the ribs from the oven, let rest for 15 minutes, slice into individual ribs, and serve. The final product:
This recipe really couldn't be easier, and the dry rub is flavorful enough that no sauce is needed (although, certainly, they're your ribs, feel free to do as you'd like). Now, are these as good as those roadside ribs? It's hard to say; certainly, these require less vigilance to pull off, and I've never gotten any complaints about the flavor. And perhaps that's the thing -- there's room in the world for any number of rib preparations -- while this may not be "traditional" barbecue, it's still very, very delicious. Give them a try. I think you'll like what you find.
Music: The Cramps --"Her Love Rubbed Off"