Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Braising Back Ribs

I don’t often cook back ribs...but when I do…I prefer to braise them.

Stay hungry my friends.

Perusing the meat section at the local grocery last week looking for inspiration I spotted the largest slabs of back ribs known to man. Saturday was cold so my interest was not in grilling or BBQ. The word baby had nothing to do with these back ribs. They weren’t cheap but they were huge with a disproportionate meat to bone ratio. It is unusual for me to see this in a back rib.

Then I recalled an oven braised back rib recipe we are both quite fond of.

Since back ribs have minimal fat content low and slow BBQ isn’t one of my options for them. They dry out too quick leaving little juicy meat for my taste. But in the middle of winter they make a fine Oriental style bone.

The trick to the best back ribs (to me) is braising them in an oven. A fine rub and a good braising liquid seal the deal. These taste more like the ribs served in Chinese restaurants than anything coming off the Weber.

It helps to keep a well-stocked herb and spice cabinet. When buying on impulse I am confident there is no need to concern myself with buying some herbs and spices we may not have in stock. We buy most of our favorites in bulk at GFS. I can’t knock Penzy’s brand or other specialty retailers who stock the freshest herbs and spices. In my experience I have found that some herbs such as bay leaves are items where you can really tell the difference when purchased at a specialty retailer.

We grow our own herbs in the summer and dry them for winter use such as basil, oregano, thyme and rosemary. You can’t beat fresh herbs. But I usually gag at the price of out-of-season fresh herbs at the grocery.

Spice comes from seeds and herbs come from leaves. Some spices I buy whole then roast and/or grind them myself.

This rub is similar to most with a slight twist and lots of brown sugar. Since we are now officially empty nesters we cook one slab, the following proportions are for two slabs:

8 T brown sugar
1 T Kosher salt (use less if the slab is cryo-packed)
1 T chilipowder
½ t ground black pepper
½ t cayenne
½ jalapeno seasoning (we use chipotle powder)
½ t Old Bay seasoning
½ t thyme
½ t onion powder

Before rubbing the ribs with the spice mixture I create a special foil pouch from heavy-duty aluminum foil. The idea is to create a tube of foil that the slab sits within. The ribs get rubbed with the dry ingredients and sit in the pouch for at least one hour in the refrigerator. The foil should he at least four inches from the ends of the slabs. The foil is brought over the top lengthwise and pinched. The short ends should be rolled up.

After a few hours in the refrigerator the foil rib packet is should be allowed to sit at room temp for at least half an hour. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

The braising liquid.

1c white wine
2T white wine vinegar
1T worcestershire
1T honey
2 cloves garlic chopped (we use up to five cloves since there is never enough garlic)
Microwave all liquids in a safe container on high for one minute.

Place the foil pouch in a rimmed baking sheet. Unroll the foil ends to create a “snorkel” in which to pour in the liquid, then pinch the ends in an upward position so the liquid stays in the foil pouch. Divide the liquid in half, one for each pouch/slab if you are making two.

Braise for 2 ½ hours at 250 degrees.

Carefully remove the pouch from the oven and transfer the braising liquid to a pan. Simmer and stir until the sauce reduces by a half, creating a glaze. The process is complete when you are able to drag a spatula through the liquid leaving a clear trail behind.

Place the slab(s) onto a grate situated in the baking sheet and brush with the reduced sauce/glaze.

Broil until the sauce caramelizes, about five minutes should do but watch carefully so not to burn. Cut into two rib portions and toss in a bowl with the remaining sauce/glaze. Serve.

I prefer a chewy spare rib that needs to be gnawed off the bone if BBQ’ing. With these braised back ribs the bone separates easily, it is an entirely different experience. These literally fall apart.

There is no swiney flavor or par-boiled taste. There is an intoxicating Oriental flavor similar to five-spice.

I cannot think of a better way to enjoy back ribs.


Dan from Madison said...

If you are going to cook back ribs, this looks like the way. That is the largest rack of backs I have ever seen.

Chris from Colorado said...

I made these last weekend, only I smoked them for 1 1/2 hours first. The best.

Gerry from Valpo said...

Starting the ribs in a smoker sounds great. I was in a lazy mood Sunday so we made these as is. Maybe experimenting with liquid smoke in the braising liquid is in order.

These were huge back ribs, never seen anything like them. Most of the time I see bone on both sides of the rack. Nothing baby about these. They would have stood up to BBQ very well. Must be a seasonal porky thing.

The price of pork is very high lately due to the high price of feed and farmers cutting back production.

Thank you ethanol.