Smokey, Sweet, Tangy, Sticky: Ribs for a Summer Night

August 13, 2010

Ian Knauer’s Sticky Balsamic Ribs are my favorite recipe from Gourmet’s last July issue. Smokey, sweet, tangy and sticky, they’re wonderful party food on a star-filled night when you can eat outdoors. The meat falls off the bones into your mouth in a very appealing way. Serve them with tiny new potatoes roasted with onions and whole cloves of garlic, sliced tomatoes, corn and a big salad and you’ve got a pretty perfect dinner. After making them again and again, I’ve made a few changes to the recipe that we published.

The important thing to remember is that they need a full day to marinate, so you have to think ahead.

Mash 12 large cloves of garlic with a teaspoon and a half of salt until it’s a wonderful mush of a paste. Stir in 3 tablespoons of chopped rosemary, 3 tablespoons of dark brown sugar, 3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, 2 teaspoons of cayenne, 1 1/2 tablespoons salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper. Rub it all over 4 racks of baby back ribs (8 pounds). Pack the meat into a large plastic bag and let it rest in the refrigerator for a day or so.

Put the ribs in 2 pans (they should be in a single layer), add a half cup of water to each pan, cover tightly with foil and roast at 300 degrees for about 3 hours, until the meat is very tender, adding more water to the pan as needed.

Add a cup of hot water to each roasting pan and stir around, scraping up the good brown bits. Pour into a large measuring cup and allow the fat to rise to the top. Skim it off, put the remaining liquid in a skillet, add a cup of balsamic vinegar (this is the time to use the industrial kind) and a half cup of brown sugar, stir, bring to a boil and reduce it to a cup or so of glaze. This will take 15 or 20 minutes.

You can do all this ahead of time, which is very convenient if you’re having a party. Just before serving, brush the glaze all over the ribs and grill over low heat for about 5 minutes, just to give it a taste of smoke. Brush with more glaze and dig in. This will make a gloriously grubby meal for about 8 people.

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  • If one does not have a grill (or sadly any outdoor space), would you just skip the last step of the cooking? or replace it with broiling or more time in the oven?

  • Ruth Reichl says:

    Mousebouche: Not a problem; just broil them for 5 minutes or so at the end. You won’t get the smoke, but you will get the char and the ribs will still be terrific.

  • Emily says:

    Recently reconnected with my wonderful copy of MMMMMM! after 25 years and I found my foodie roots. Miss Gourmet terribly. Thank you for helping launch my kitchen skills a long time ago and more recently feeding my passions.

  • jai says:

    Even the best miss an editorial flub from time to time. Thought you might want to know about the one in your rib post.
    “Mash 12 large garlic cloves of garlic”

  • Ruth Reichl says:

    Emily – I can’t believe that I wrote Mmmmm 40 years ago. And I still find myself using a lot of those recipes, even though the publishers made me make a lot of changes so that they would be more “accessible.” They objected, for instance, to the fact that I used ground lamb in moussaka; in 1970, ground lamb was hard to find in American supermarkets. And we had huge argument about the fact that I called for hoisin sauce. On the other hand, nobody thought twice about including pig’s ears.