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The secret to great ribs is in the rub


For summer, keep to the best of the comfort foods. Topping the list of seasonal favorites are great ribs, tender and meaty with a spicy kick.

You don't need a smokehouse or any special equipment other than your oven to make great ribs. There are two basic styles of ribs: braised wet and roasted dry. I prefer the braised method for ribs with a tender texture, but the roasted version is terrific for developing flavor.

The ribs are rubbed with a spice blend. It caramelizes along with the juices of the meat during roasting to develop a deep, rich flavor. The slower, longer cooking time renders much of the fat, leaving tender, lean meat.

I prefer pork baby back ribs because they are small and very tender. The larger pork ribs are big but quite fatty. There are also huge beef ribs and even veal ribs if you can find them. If you like lamb, request lamb ribs for a really special meal.

Trim away excess fat and any connective tissue. Combine the spices and generously rub across all the surfaces of the ribs. Lay the ribs arch side up in a roasting pan. Allow the ribs to marinate for about 1 hour.

Sift the spice ingredients together. Slowly stir in the liquid seasonings to form a paste. The paste is easy to rub across the ribs in a heavy coating. Liquid seasonings tend to run off the ribs, but the dry paste sticks on throughout the cooking time.

Place the roasting pan uncovered on the lower rack of a 350-degree oven. Roast for about 3 hours, until the ribs are tender. The ribs may be served immediately or individually wrapped in foil and refrigerated for up to three days. The refrigeration with the spices tends to develop a deeper spice flavor.

Reheat the ribs by baking in the foil at 350 degrees until hot, about 20 to 30 minutes. Unwrap the ribs and serve.

For extra-smoky flavor, heat your grill and then take the finished roasted ribs, whether freshly cooked or reheated, and place on the grill arch-side down, cooking until slightly charred (about 5 to 10 minutes). Turn over for a couple of minutes and serve.

The dry spice rub develops substantial flavor and almost a sauce finish from the juices of the ribs mixing with the spices. Some may prefer their favorite barbecue sauce.

Ribs are great with cole slaw, salads, corn bread, potato salad and baked beans.

Roasted Baby Back Ribs

Serves 4

1 1/2 cups mild to hot paprika

1/2 cup dry mustard

1/4 cup garlic powder

1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon ground ginger

1/2 cup honey

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

Beer as necessary to form a smooth paste

4 slabs baby back ribs, about 1 1/4 pounds each trimmed weight

sauce to taste

In a medium bowl, sift together the paprika, dry mustard, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, black pepper and ginger.

In a small bowl, combine the honey, red wine vinegar and Worcestershire sauce. Slowly stir the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients, adding a favorite beer as necessary until a thick smooth paste is formed.

Rub the spice mixture generously across all surfaces of the ribs. Place the ribs arch side up in a roasting pan without overlapping. Marinate for about 1 hour.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the roasting pan on the lower rack of the oven, cooking ribs until tender, about 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Test doneness by inserting a skewer into the meat; it should meet with little or no resistance.

Remove ribs from the oven and allow to rest about 15 minutes before serving, or wrap each with foil and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

(Reheat the ribs by baking in a 350-degree oven in the foil until hot, about 20 to 30 minutes. Unwrap the ribs and serve or continue with recipe).

Heat the grill for a smoky finish. Place the ribs on the grill, arch-side down, cooking until slightly charred, about 5 to 10 minutes. Turn over for a couple of minutes and serve.

Cut the slab of ribs into 3 sections and arrange slightly overlapping on the serving plates. Spoon a little of your favorite barbecue sauce over the ribs or on the side.

Per serving: calories, 247; fat, 9 grams; cholesterol, 74 mg; sodium: 172 mg; 36 percent calories from fat

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