Thursday, April 2, 2009

Making Ribs for the First Time

You may have figured out by now that I am generally an adventurous cook. I like a challenge and I like trying new things, so in many cases, the trickier and more bizarre a recipe is, the more excited I am to give it a try. But there are a few fairly typical things that I have actually never attempted to cook myself. One of those things is ribs. And why not? Rib is a pretty uncomplicated cut of meat, isn’t it? They’re generally seasoned simply and cooked slowly, so there’s little concern about tricky techniques and perfect timing to get a rack of ribs that is cooked to perfection and tastes delicious.

A recipe for ribs in the March issue of Gourmet caught my eye as I was flipping through it. Black Pepper Beef Ribs. Doesn’t that sound amazing? Isn’t your mouth watering? I skimmed through it and found that it was, indeed, a very simple recipe, although it did mention that beef back ribs are usually not found sold separately in grocery stores, so it would probably be necessary to order them for a butcher. That meant two things to me: time and money. Ordering from a butcher probably meant that I would have to wait awhile for them, and there was a good chance they wouldn’t be cheap either. I filed the recipe away in the back of my mind, figuring it was doubtful that I would ever draw it out. It seemed that yet again, an opportunity to finally make ribs myself had slipped away.

About a week later, while I was at the grocery store, guess what caught my eye in the meat section? A lovely shrink-wrapped package of beef back ribs, all long and marbled and just waiting for me to purchase them and gobble them up. It was fate! Or maybe it was just that this particular store sold these ribs separately all the time. They weren’t expensive either, so I really had no excuse not to buy them.

And man, was I ever glad I did. They were incredibly simple to make (actually, maybe a little boringly simple—not exactly a challenge), and they came out beautifully. They were so simple to make, I can explain the process to you in a few simple lines:

1. Mix together two tablespoons of cracked black pepper, one tablespoon of brown sugar, one tablespoon of kosher salt, and one teaspoon of paprika.
2. To make enough for four (I made half that), take two racks (5-6 lbs.) of beef back ribs and pat them dry.
3. Rub the spice mixture all over the ribs, getting it good and worked into the meat. Arrange in a single layer in a large roasting pan.
4. Bake uncovered at 200 F for about six hours.
That’s it! Well, that’s it, other than cutting them up and serving them. They were tender, flavorful, and absolutely fantastic. One suggestion for serving: put them on a platter and have people serve themselves. These ribs are HUGE, so a serving of four or so ribs takes up a whole plate and looks a little ridiculous.

Have fun!