Simple Art of Cooking: A Memorable Barbecue

Baby back ribs.
Baby back ribs. Photo credit: Thogru/Wikimedia Commons

Just because Memorial Day Weekend has passed and July 4 is weeks away, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be having great barbecues!

Outdoor grilling is part and parcel for the holiday weekend. When I think of barbecue, I immediately think about the wonderful aromas that waft from the grill. So if you’re firing up the grill this weekend and planning to invite guests consider grilling ribs, to accompany a couple of do-ahead salads such as an herb rich potato and/or vegetable salad.

Strawberries will be overflowing at local farm stands soon, so whip up a refreshing strawberry sundae. You can fill in the blanks for this celebratory menu. Roasted nuts and perhaps some olives with a chilled rosé will get you off to a fine start.

Steven Raichlen wrote the ultimate cookbook on Barbecue, The following recipe is adapted from ‘The Barbecue Bible’ (Workman Publishing)
Serves 6 to 8

8 pounds pork spare ribs
2 teaspoons Spanish paprika
12 grinds freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons firm packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon each celery salt, cayenne, garlic powder, dry mustard, ground cumin

1. Remove the thin, papery skin from the ribs by pulling it off in a sheet with your fingers, using the corner of a kitchen towel to gain a secure grip, or with pliers. Combine the ingredients for the rub in a small bowl and stir to mix. Rub two thirds of this mixture on both sides of the ribs, transfer to a Pyrex (lasagna) dish, cover and refrigerate for 4 to 8 hours.

2. Set up grill for indirect grilling by placing a large drip pan in the center on the lower grate as the food cooks over the drip pan. Place charcoal or wood chips in the bottom of a chimney starter (most favored by grill buffs) and pile a few sheets of crumpled newspaper on top. Place the chimney on the grate. Light a match to the paper and soon the coals will be blazing hot. When the coals are ready—this could take about 20 minutes—lift the chimney and dump out the coals on either side of the drip pan. If using a charcoal grill, preheat to medium. If using a gas grill, pre-heat grill to high: when smoke appears, reduce the heat to medium.

3. If using wood chips such as hickory or mesquite, presoak chips in a smoker box (for gas) or aluminum loaf pan (for charcoal) for 20 minutes then place over the ashen coals. For charcoal preheat grill to medium and toss half the wood chips on the coals. For gas, preheat grill to high: when smoke appears, reduce heat to medium.

4. Arrange ribs on the hot grate over the drip pan or unheated side if gas. The grill is always covered, and the vents in the lid regulate the heat (open to raise the temperature, close to lower it). Cover the grill and smoke-cook the ribs for 1 hour.

5. Toss remaining chips on the fire if using charcoal or wood chips. Continue cooking the ribs until tender and almost done, about 1/2 to 1 hour, longer for baby back ribs, somewhat longer for spareribs. If using charcoal, keep adding a few coals to the side of the grill until meat is completely tender and has shrunk back from the ends of the bones. Transfer to a cutting board and slice between the ribs for serving.

A no-holds barred strawberry sundae
Serves 6

1 pint strawberries, rinsed and hulled
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon sugar
1 pint strawberry ice cream
1 pint strawberry sorbet
6 teaspoons strawberry liqueur, such as Fraises Des Bois

1. Cut half the strawberries into thin slices and set aside. Place remaining berries in a blender or a food processor and purée. Scrape puréed strawberries into a bowl, add the lemon juice and sugar and stir to mix. (Can prepare this step up to  several hours ahead and refrigerate as necessary.)

2. Divide large scoops of strawberry ice cream in the bottom of parfait or sundae glasses. Place a scoop of strawberry sorbet over the ice cream and divide equal amounts of strawberry purée over the top. Spoon over sliced strawberries and drizzle 1 teaspoon of liqueur over each sundae. Serve at once.

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