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Post subject: Six simple steps add up to great ribs from your backyard gri  PostPosted: May 26, 2006 - 09:34 AM

Sergeant Major
RECIPE after article...... Very Happy

The world of barbecue is ecumenical enough to include Jamaican jerk, Javanese sate and Japanese teriyaki - not to mention Texas brisket, North Carolina pulled pork and Seattle alder-smoked salmon. And, of course, ribs.

You know what I'm talking about: a meaty rack of ribs, speckled with spice, scented with wood smoke, basted with barbecue sauce and lustrous as an Old Master canvas. The sort of ribs that are tender but not too tender. A rib should have some chew to it. They should be moist but never soggy. To judge from the sheer diversity in ribs - from Memphis dry rub pork ribs to Korean kalbi kui (grilled short ribs); from Texas dinosaur bones (beef ribs) to Australian spice-rubbed lamb ribs - they are universal in their popularity. Yet how to prepare perfect ribs is a matter of near-endless debate.

For some, the process involves direct grilling over a bed of coals. (This is the preferred method at the famed rib restaurant Rendezvous in Memphis.) For others it involves smoking over low heat for the better part of an afternoon in a pit fired with hickory or other hardwood. Europeans like to spit-roast ribs on the rotisserie - a ritual also followed in Brazil.

Then there are the various preliminary techniques and heresies. For example, do you peel a rib? (Yes.) Should you parboil or bake it? (Definitely not, unless you want to serve mush, not meat.) Do you use a dry rub? (Sometimes.) A marinade? (Sometimes.) Barbecue sauce? (Only at the end.)

And what about smoke? Is it really necessary? (Yes, if you're trying to achieve the complex flavor of traditional American barbecue, although in many parts of the world, wood smoke is not part of the barbecue tradition.) This invariably leads to another of the age-old debates: charcoal, wood or gas?

I've just spent a year writing a book on ribs, so I know it's impossible to cover all of the fine points of rib-making in a couple of paragraphs. But I can offer seven secrets for making great ribs this Memorial Day. I can even include a recipe that's as close to failproof as possible.

1. Choose the right rib. Ribs come from hogs, steers, lamb, veal and even bison, and from each animal there are multiple cuts, ranging from spareribs to short ribs to rib tips. If I must pick only one, I'd take pork baby back ribs, which weigh in at around 2 to 2 1/2 pounds per rack. The meat is exceptionally tender and well marbled (fat equals flavor), and the even rectangular shape of the rack makes for even cooking and equitable serving.

2. Peel the ribs before cooking. You'll find a papery membrane on the back of a rack of ribs. The membrane impedes absorption of spices and smoke flavors, and it's tougher than the rest of the meat. To remove it, place the ribs, bone side up, on a work surface; insert a slender implement, such as a butter knife or the tip of a meat thermometer, between the membrane and one of the ribs. Pry it up from the bone. Then, using a dishcloth or paper towel to get a secure grip, gently pull off the membrane.

3. Season the ribs. The seasoning can be as simple as salt and pepper or your favorite barbecue rub, or as complex as an Indian tandoori marinade. When using dry seasonings, you can cook the ribs immediately (although you'll get a richer flavor if you let them cure in the refrigerator for a few hours). When using a marinade, let the ribs marinate for 3 to 4 hours in the refrigerator.

4. Light the grill. Great ribs need to be smoked, and this is infinitely easier to do over charcoal than on a gas grill. I like to cook baby back ribs using a technique called smoke roasting. In a grill set up for indirect grilling (coals raked into 2 mounds at opposite sides, aluminum foil drip pan in the center), preheat the grill to medium (325 to 350 degrees). This is hotter than the temperature used by the low and slow boys in Kansas City and Texas, but for me, the higher temperature produces a crisper, moister rib. To smoke the ribs, soak 1 1/2 cups hickory, cherry or other hardwood chips in water to cover for 1 hour, then drain. Toss half of these chips on each mound of coals.

5. If cooking a lot of ribs, use a rib rack. This device enables you to cook four racks of ribs in an upright position in the space in which only two racks would lay flat.

6. Apply the sauce at the end. If you put it on at the beginning, the sugar in the sauce will burn before the rib meat is fully cooked. One of my favorite techniques is to brush the sauce on just before serving and move the ribs directly over the fire to sizzle the sauce into the meat.

7. Know how to tell when ribs are cooked. Check the ends of the bones. When the meat has pulled back about 1/4 inch, the rib is generally cooked. Another test is to try to pull two bones apart. The meat should be tender enough to tear, but not so tender it falls off the bone.

Chinatown Ribs

Yield: 4 servings

1 cup hoisin sauce (see note)

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder (see note)

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/3 cup Chinese rice wine, white wine or dry sherry

3 tablespoons Asian (dark) sesame oil

5 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

5 ( 1/4-inch-thick) slices fresh ginger, peeled and crushed

3 green onions, white part bruised with the side of a cleaver, green part
minced and reserved for optional garnish

2 racks baby back ribs (4 to 5 pounds total)

Vegetable oil

1 1/2 cups wood chips or chunks (preferably cherry), soaked for 1 hour in
water to cover, then drained

To make the marinade/sauce, place hoisin sauce, sugar and five-spice powder in
a nonreactive mixing bowl; whisk to mix. Add soy sauce, wine or sherry and
sesame oil; whisk until sugar dissolves. Stir in garlic, ginger and white
portion of green onions.

Peel membrane from back of ribs. Place ribs in a nonreactive baking dish just
large enough to hold them. Pour 2/3 of the marinade over ribs, turning to coat
both sides, spreading marinade all over ribs with a rubber spatula. Reserve
remaining marinade for serving. Cover ribs and marinate in the refrigerator for
at least 4 hours or as long as overnight. (The longer they are marinated, the
richer the flavor.) Ribs also can be marinated in large resealable plastic bags.

Set up grill for indirect grilling; prepare a medium fire. Oil grill grate.

Drain ribs well; arrange on grate, bone side down, over drip pan away from
heat. Toss half the wood chips on each mound of coals. Cover grill and cook
ribs until dark brown and crisp on the outside, yet tender enough to pull apart
with your fingers, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. Replenish coals as needed. When ribs
are cooked, the meat will have shrunk back from the ends of the bones by about
1/4 inch.

Meanwhile, transfer reserved marinade to a saucepan; gently simmer for 3
minutes over medium heat. Let cool to room temperature, then strain it into a
serving bowl. Transfer ribs to a large platter or cutting board. Cut the racks
in half widthwise or into individual ribs. Brush or drizzle ribs with some of
the reserved marinade/sauce; sprinkle with green onions. Serve immediately.
Pass remaining sauce at the table.

Per serving: 924 calories; 67g fat (65 percent of calories from
fat); 23.5g saturated fat; 246mg cholesterol; 52.5g protein; 26g carbohydrate;
20g sugar; 1g fiber; 1,799mg sodium; 113mg calcium; 714mg potassium.

Note: Hoisin sauce and five-spice powder are available in many
supermarkets and in Asian markets.


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