This recipe is, for me, a good example of how well improvisation works out in the kitchen. I think cooking should be fun and experimental, with a good base knowledge of flavors and experience. It helps if you read a lot of recipes, and understand flavors that happen in certain kinds of recipes, so you can experiment with a high percentage of success. For example, I know, from reading a lot of recipes, that oregano features in a lot of Mexican food, so when I make tacos and enchiladas and Mexican inspired salad dressings, I tend to include some oregano, which helps me achieve the flavors that I want. Same goes for the fact that I no longer try to exclude fish sauce from Thai recipes. I just use it, even though I want to exclude it (because I find it vaguely gross), as it really helps achieve the flavor that I’m looking for.
So, with ribs, you probably want something vaguely smoky and tender, but within those parameters, you have a lot of room to mess around. You could try braising ribs in beer. You could go less barbecue sauce-y and braise ribs in mostly onions, garlic and white wine. You could integrate more Mexican flavors, bringing in more cumin, oregano and chile powder (note I said chile, not chili. Chile powder is ground red chiles, chili powder is a spice mix including garlic powder, black pepper, onion powder, chile powder and probably some other stuff). You could go more Indian, tossing in some coriander, turmeric, tamarind paste and coconut milk. Oooo, that sounds delicious, I should have done that. My point is, ribs are a good place to experiment, so follow the recipe if you want, but it’ll probably turn out better if you decide how you want them to taste, and focus on the flavors that will achieve that.
Baby Back Ribs, kinda sorta loosely based on Alton Brown’s recipe and method:
Dry rub, this is enough to coat about 3 racks of ribs, adjust as needed for what you’re making:
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp chili powder
2 tbsp onion powder
1/2 tbsp dry mustard
1/2 tbsp cumin
1/2 tbsp thyme
1/2 tbsp oregano
1/2 tbsp chipotle powder
1/2 tbsp garlic powder
2 tbsp kosher salt
a bunch of turns of fresh cracked black pepper
Mix all that together and spend some time rubbing into the meat, on all sides and surfaces. Put them in a casserole dish of some type, and cover it with plastic wrap. When you’ve done that, let them sit in the rub in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, and up to 24, the longer the better, really.
2-3 tbsp tomato paste
3 tbsp honey
4 tbsp brown sugar
4-5 tbsp apple cider vinegar
3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp dry mustard
about 1/2 cup water (this would be a good place to use wine, or beer, or beef stock, or whatever instead of water)
more black pepper
When you think the ribs are ready to be cooked, turn on your oven to 250 degrees. Keep the ribs in the casserole dish (or roasting pan, or something similar) and pour the liquid over the ribs. Cover the dish with tinfoil and let it braise in the oven for 2 1/2 hours. After 2 1/2 hours, drain the braising liquid from the pan, and bring it to a boil on the stove, thickening and becoming a sauce. Brush the sauce back on the ribs, bring the oven to broil, and broil them, with the sauce on, uncovered, for a few minutes, maybe 5-10 or so. You want to see some blackening, there should be a bit of a crust happening on the ribs. If I had a grill, I would grill them on high heat at this point, as my mom does, but I don’t have a grill, so the broiler it is.
LET THEM REST FOR 10 MINUTES BEFORE YOU CUT THEM. When you’ve done that, cut them how you want – singles or doubles or whatever, and serve. They are pretty saucy- I LOVE barbecue sauce, and I didn’t even consider putting additional sauce on them. They were tender, and tasty and fantastic.