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Dig In The Ribs

images-3This month I am embracing all things American – In the kitchen anyway. And what more quintessentially an American dish can there be than BBQ ribs? Our Yankie cousins across the pond are so passionate about cooking them that huge national competitions are held every year to celebrate this particular form culinary jiggery pokery.

Every May in Memphis, Tennessee over 250 teams from 50 States compete for the title of Grand BBQ Champion and a prize of $100,000 – Yes, you read that correctly A HUNDRED GRAND! Just for grilling a bit of pork. But this is no ordinary cook off this is primal, this is ‘Man make fire’, this is cooking as blood sport.

In the States all the supermarkets stock what they call baby back ribs which is not something you will find easily in the UK. I asked my butcher why this was and he explained they come from the top of the rib cage and that in the UK butchers don’t tend to separate them from the loin to which they are also connected. So every time you are nibbling at that really succulent bit of meat attached to the bone of your pork chop you are eating baby back ribs. Spare ribs on the other hand are from the belly end and have much less meat on their bones. A polite word in your butcher’s ear should be enough to secure you a rack or two but if not you could always give it a whirl with spare ribs instead.

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So, armed with a couple of racks of baby backs I decided to have my very own cook off – albeit a cook off against myself. I prepared each with a completely different marinade / basting sauce and set out to see which one would win the prize. I fired up the BBQ and did all the pre-requisite marinating, basting and braising and gave them both a damn good licking from the flames of my Webber. But just like children I found it impossible and ,dare I say it, unfair to choose between them. So I ate them both.

This is the food for which phrase ‘finger licking good’ was invented as these juicy little babies leave you with no choice but to pick them up with your hands and eat like a caveman. They came off the grill so tender that the shreds of meat just fell away from the bones. Sheer heaven just as they were but next time if I can be trusted to wait until the ribs are cool enough to handle I’m going to try shredding the meat from the bones and serving it in a bun for the ultimate porky sandwich

Rum n’ Coke Ribs – serves 4

2 racks of baby back ribs

1 cup of dark rum

3 cups of full fat Coke

1 1/3 cups tomato ketchup

a splash of Tabasco

2 crushed cloves of garlic

4 tablespoons hoi sin sauce

Method:

The night before, mix all the ingredient together and marinate the racks in a non metalic container in the fridge.

Reserving the marinade remove the ribs and place on a baking tray in a gentle oven ( 150°c / gas mark 4 / 300°F) for 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat the BBQ about 45 -60 minutes before you want to cook and when the coals are glowing beneath a layer of white hot ash place the ribs on the grill and cook for 20 minutes basting throughout with the reserved marinade.

Cut between the bones and served heaped on a warmed platter with some lime wedges

Ginger and Soy Glazed Ribs – serves 4

2 racks of baby rack ribs

For the braising liquor:

1 thumb sized piece of ginger chopped roughly

5 stalks of lemongrass bashed with a rolling pin or other heavy blunt instrument

1 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1/2 cup brown sugar

3 cups water

For the glaze:

3/4 cups ketchup

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1/2 cup rice vinegar

2 tablespoons mirin

2 teaspoons soy sauce

3 cloves garlic crushed

1 thumb sized piece of ginger chopped roughly

Method:

Pre heat the oven to 150°c / gas mark 4 / 300°F. Place the braising ingredients into a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes and remove from the heat.

Place the ribs in a deep baking dish and pour over the braising liquor. Cover tightly with foil and place in the oven for 1 1/2 hours. Allow to cool in the liquid. This can be done the day before if that simplifies matters for you.

Make the glaze by combining the ingredients in a heavy based saucepan and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Preheat the BBQ about 45 -60 minutes before you want to cook and when the coals are glowing beneath a layer of white hot ash place the ribs on the grill and cook for 20 minutes basting throughout with the glaze.

Cut between the bones and served heaped on a warmed platter with some lime wedges

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