If you know me well, and by now I think you do, then you know I like pork. Within the broad category of pork, it's nearly impossible for me to pick a favorite cut what with bacon/pork belly vying for the top position along with pork shoulder, either barbecued or roasted in the Italian style. But my blog editor is demanding and unreasonable and she insists for the purposes of this post that I pick just one. So here it is: country-style ribs.
Surprised? It's true! Country-style ribs are well priced, quick and easy to grill, and absolutely scrumptious. My simple treatment of them has been known to elicit marriage proposals. Be careful when serving them in mixed company or things can get awkward real quick. That said, it's important to note that country-style ribs are different from spareribs. My understanding is that country-style ribs aren't actually ribs at all but are cut more from the shoulder area. That would explain the different texture and why they don't require a lot of time on the grill to cook up tender and juicy and amazing. Ten minutes often does the trick. Cooking is best done on a hot charcoal grill, searing them over direct heat for several minutes on each side, then moving them to the cooler perimeter to complete the transition from rare to medium-rare. But they can also be done on the stovetop in an ovenproof pan with a thin film of olive oil and finished quickly in a medium oven.
These ribs are completely awesome. I'm not exaggerating. They're perfect in the fall with apple and cabbagey dishes. If the recipe looks simple, that's because it is and you should make it and see for yourself. If I can't convince you that anything could possibly be better than bacon, well then you'll probably want to head over to Amuse Bouche to find out how to make your own. Either way, you're in for some serious swinish satisfaction.
Tammy's Yankee Non-BBQ Country-Style Ribs
Nothing against southern barbecue spareribs. I would gladly eat those anytime, anyplace, but these have a charm all their own.
1-2 lbs. country-style pork ribs
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 Tbsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. dried rosemary (or 1 Tbsp. fresh)
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. fennel seeds
1/2 tsp. dried sage
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
Pinch or two of cayenne pepper
Build your fire and get things hot. I do this by removing the top grate from the grill, filling one of those metal chimney starter things almost to the top with charcoal, stuffing newspaper in the bottom, resting it on the bottom grate, and setting fire to the newspaper so the whole thing starts smoking. Then I let the coals ash up for about 20 minutes while I get the meat ready.
Make your rub by mixing the olive oil and all the other herbs and spices together in a small bowl. If it doesn't look like enough rub for the amount of meat you have, add more oil. Pat the ribs dry with paper towels and then rub them all over with the herb mixture. You can let the meat sit overnight in the fridge or for a few hours at room temperature before cooking, but I'm usually cobbling this together at the last minute. Also, I've already started the grill, so let's get cooking!
With oven mitts, dump the blazing hot coals into the grill (NOT onto your feet), add a whole bunch of new coals on top, and replace the top grate. I let things heat up for 5-10 minutes, then scrape down the grate. Place the meat over the hottest part of the grill for a minute or two (depends on how hot your fire is). You want substantial grill marks before flipping. Repeat on the other side. When appropriately grill-marked, turn back over and move to the sides of the grill where the heat is less intense. They can sit there for anywhere from 2-7 minutes to get to medium rare. Poke at them until they feel right or just cut into one to test. You can cook the meat in batches so if you have four on the direct heat, once you move them to the indirect heat, add the new meat to the middle. Remove to serving dish as they finish cooking and let rest five minutes. There's probably still plenty of heat on that grill, so throw some zucchini on there. While you're at it, maybe some onions. Or fennel. Then, after dinner, wrap up some beets and just leave them on the covered dying grill overnight. Pick them up in the morning and plop them in the fridge before you leave for work so you have the makings of a beet salad that night.
If you'd rather stay inside the house for these ribs, preheat the oven to 350°F. Heat a large ovenproof skillet on medium-high and add a tablespoon of oil. When the oil is shimmering, sear the ribs in batches so they get a nice terracotta-colored crust, 2-3 minutes per side. Flip and repeat, removing to a plate, until all the ribs are done. Then nestle them all back in the pan and place in the oven until they reach the desired doneness. This could range from 3 to 10 minutes depending on thickness, so check often. Remove from oven and let rest.
Country-style ribs: Chestnut Farms, Hardwick, MA