You only have one chance to make a first impression. Keep that in mind the next time you eat with strangers.
I went a dinner party hosted by my friends Karen and Crystal this past Saturday. They live about an hour-and-a-half from me, and the other guests were local. I was excited about helping with hors d'oeuvres, spending time with my old friends, and the opportunity to make new ones. I packed a bag, sent Gus the Wonder Dog to overnight camp, and hit the road.
Karen and Crystal planned a very seasonal menu, perfect for Memorial Day weekend (the unofficial start of summer, marked by the opening of swimming pools, men in seersucker, and increasingly hot temperatures). We had corn and red onion salad with basil, fantastically flavorful baby back ribs, and sauteed asparagus. A pound cake garnished with lemon curd and berries rounded out the meal. It was summer on a plate.
Maybe I enjoyed everything a little too much. In my enthusiasm, I managed to dribble rib sauce down my shirt. Onto my right breast. Nice! After a little grief from another dinner guest — she borrowed my camera and documented the stain — I marched upstairs to my suitcase, found another t-shirt, and quickly changed.
Rubbed with dry spices and allowed to sit overnight before spending a long time in a low oven, the ribs were tender and delicious. The kind of ribs that get a person (me) into trouble. Crystal graciously shared her recipe, a riff on Alton Brown's. Be careful: wolfing down ribs too quickly could result in stained clothing.
Crystal's Baby Back Ribs
Adapted from Alton Brown
Use for 3 racks of pork ribs.
2 cups light brown sugar
1/4 cup chile powder
1/8 cup chipolte chile powder
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon cardamom
1/8 cup cumin
1/8 cup smoked paprika
close to 1/4 cup Italian seasoning
1/8 cup thyme
1 tablespoon onion powder
1/3 cup kosher salt
1 cup white wine
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
2 garlic, minced
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Preheat the oven to 225 degrees Fahrenheit.
Combine all of the dry rub ingredients and mix thoroughly. Spread the rub evenly on the ribs — the coating will be fairly thick, though this recipe makes enough for more than one batch. Wrap the ribs in heavy aluminum foil, shiny side out, and marinate at least one hour (Crystal's ribs marinated overnight) in the refrigerator.
Combine all of the glaze ingredients in a microwave safe bowl and heat on high power for 1 minute. If nuking isn't a option, combine everything in a small saucepan and heat until the honey dissolves.
Remove the ribs from the refrigerator but keep them wrapped in foil. Place them on a jelly roll pan and cover with the glaze. Bake at 225 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 1/2 hours. To test if the ribs are done, twist them in the center — if the middle ribs turn easily, they're ready.
Take the foil packages from the oven and pour the liquid contents into a medium saucepan or skillet. This is most easily accomplished by snipping off one end of foil. Bring the liquid to a boil and cook for a minute or two, reducing to sauce consistency. Brush the glaze onto the ribs and broil until caramelized. Slice the rib slabs into 2 bone portions, place in a bowl, and toss with the remaining glaze.