Friday, May 15, 2009

Test Kitchen: Spicy and Sticky Baby Back Ribs

In the May edition of my recipe testing from the pages of Food and Wine magazine, the majority of you voted on having me test out the Spicy and Sticky Baby Back Ribs recipe. That’s a perfect choice with picnic season starting up soon!

The recipe is actually from New Orleans chef Donald Link, who was featured in the May edition for his use of spices in his recipes. Apparently, he uses a lot of spices in his baby back ribs rub (like eight) but the recipe boiled it down to five. You can get the recipe from the Food and Wine Web site here. Of course, in my testing—being the Single Guy—I cut the measurements in half to reduce the servings. How did it hold up? Well, come into my kitchen and see…

I have to say, most of the ingredients are pretty common in most pantries. I had most of the spices already, except for dry mustard. I never cooked with dry mustard and didn’t realize it came in this form. Now, I actually had a container of old mustard seeds and I guess theoretically I could have pounded it down into powder form, but I decided why make a mess? So I just bought a small canister.

The testing actually started the night before because you have to make the spice rub and then coat your baby back ribs, then cover with foil and let sit overnight in your refrigerator. I rubbed it all over ribs I got from Whole Foods, and I have to say they looked really pretty, I think because of the brown sugar crystals.

The next day I was ready to cook the ribs. Again, you have to plan ahead because you have to cook the ribs for 3 hours at a low temperature (250 degrees). While I had the ribs in the oven, I worked on the BBQ sauce. It was super simple, just combining all the ingredients in a saucepan and then letting it simmer until thick (recipe says about 30 minutes but it took a bit longer with my pot).

After three hours, I brought my ribs out and started to coat them on both sides with the BBQ sauce. But they were so tender that they started to fall apart when I tried to flip them. I guess because I was cooking fewer ribs than what the recipe called for, I probably could have cut back on the cooking time by maybe an hour. Another thing I realized is that it really didn’t make sense to coat both sides since the back was mostly bone and really didn’t need sauce. So I would suggest just basting the top and not worry about flipping it. Then it went under the broiler to get some nice brown and crispy parts.

Because I was doing the whole “flip both sides” theory under the broiler, my ribs actually spent more time in the broiler than necessary (recipe says 10 minutes but I think I did 10 minutes each side), so my version turned out a bit more black than brown. But they were definitely bits of crispy caramelized parts.

As you can see, my ribs didn’t turn out the perfect color because of too much time under the broiler, but it definitely was fall-off-the-bone tender.

My tips and warnings about this recipe:

  1. The hot sauce you use really will make the difference, I think, on the taste of your ribs. If you like extra spicy, then use a really hot hot sauce. The recipe didn’t specify what kind of hot sauce to use. I ended up using what I had in my refrigerator, which was actually an old bottle of hot sauce I bought from Vietnam that they use to squirt over pho soup noodles. It’s more of a sweet hot sauce that I like, and so it was perfect for me in the ribs.
  2. Like I said, the ribs get so tender it’s hard to flip over to baste both sides, so just baste the top side with the meat and forget about the bones underneath.
Ease of cooking: I thought this was a really easy recipe to make. It definitely takes a lot of time and planning because of the fact you start the night before with the rub and then the long time in the oven. It’s a great dish to make on a slow Sunday, which is what I did. I really liked the idea that you could have grill-like food such as ribs that comes out of the oven. (That’s a big plus for me since I have no grill or patio where I live.) (Picture to the right is from Food & Wine pages.)

Taste: I was expecting a lot of complexity in the sauce because of the different spices used, but their individual flavors were a bit muted except, of course, for the hot sauce. It tasted initially like any other BBQ, but I did feel that as I ate it, I got hints of different flavors in the back of my mouth. So very subtle. I wouldn’t say the taste was “wow, this is different” but more like “hmmm, not bad.”

Overall Grade: A-

Take a minute and vote on the poll on the upper right column to tell me which recipe from Food and Wine’s June edition I should cook up in my test kitchen.


Anonymous said...

yay! I'm glad I found your blog. Someone just gave us a huge slab of frozen pork ribs and without a grill or BBQ, I've been wondering what to do with it!

Carolyn Jung said...

Wait a sec. You don't eat fried foods, but you eat ribs? =)

Single Guy Ben said...

What are you saying Carolyn? Are you saying they deep fry ribs? Huh? Next you're going to say there's no Santa Claus. Oh, no he did-nt.

Mrs. L said...

Deep Fried Ribs? Oh I'm so there!

As for voting for next month? If it has bacon in it you know that will be my vote!

foodhoe said...

SGB, those ribs look ridiculously good! And you did them in the oven? I always thought ribs were done on the grill! I love Coleman's hot mustard and have 4 big tins in my pantry...