Monday, May 5
Making Ribs without a Grill
Yesterday my local market had a rack of heritage breed pork ribs. They looked so interesting, and even though I had never made them before (I'm ashamed to say), they looked too good to pass up. Everything I've heard about ribs reinforces slow cooking on a grill. But I had no charcoal and I was hungry. Was this a stupid move? Turned out no, not really.
The idea of slow heat in a shield of sauce is that the moderate heat and moist environment encourages tough connective tissue in the ribs (or any meat) to transform into gelatin. That's how we get that falling-off-the-fork tenderness that we all love in ribs, roasts and stews.
For ribs, brushing with barbeque sauce over a slow fire does the trick. Since grilling wasn't an option yesterday, I broke out the shallow braising pan with a tight lid and got it simmering with just a little stock. I looked for beer at first in the far reaches of my fridge, but all I had was Guinness in the crisping drawer, and I wasn't convinced that would taste all that great.
The 8 rib piece I had bought braised for about an hour and forty-five minutes, just barely bubbling. I watched Hitchock's Rebecca and had a glass of wine while they simmered away in the braising liquid. Definitely a recommended step.
Out of the Braising Pan Into the Fire
About 20 minutes before they were completely braised, I turned off the heat on the top of the stove and switched on the oven set to 400 degrees. As the stove warmed up, I made sauce. I didn't want to use a recipe so I started started with two tablespoons of soy sauce, a teaspoon of prepared mustard, a teaspoon of tomato paste, two heaping tablespoons of honey, a teaspoon (at least) of Frank's Red Hot sauce and a bunch of black pepper. It was decent, but it needed a little vinegar. After a few more adjustments, I decided to add a dash of bitters and some thinly sliced garlic. It was good, so I stopped while I was ahead, and I honestly don't know if the bitters helped.
The sauce was pretty viscous and when I spooned it onto the ribs, so it stuck well. I put the whole thing into a roasting pan and let it go for 20 more minutes. It caramelized nicely and finished tenderizing. They were done!
All in all, slow smoked ribs are better. There's no question. But for ribs in two hours without a grill, I have to say this braise then roast method was a winner, and I'd do it again.