I am sorry. I realize many of you (including yours truly) are in the middle of losing those few pounds packed on around Christmas. I don’t do this to be mean, it’s just that I walked through the front door of my parents charming townhouse in their adorable retirement community, took one whiff of all of the tamales and red chile and sweet baked things so common in our house at Christmas time and said to myself Damn, barbecue ribs sure do sound good. My craving became even more intense when I popped over to the local green market, mother in tow, and had to cross the path of a barbecue food truck stationed next to the organic veggies, free range chickens and eclectic kitchen wares, complete with a built-in smoker. People – the spiced scents of molasses and brown sugar rubs and fiery jalapenos almost did me in. My mouth was watering and I went a little weak in the knees. It was all my mother could do to drag me past the friendly proprietor handing out menus to stock up for our Christmas meal.
Not that I needed barbecue. At this point in my trip, I was a card-carrying member of the greasy Chinese food, tamale and turtle pretzel diet. But a craving is a craving and there is generally little rhyme or reason to them. I was desperate for ribs to the point that I hung on my mother whining But Why? Why can’t we have ribs for Christmas dinner? Give me one good reason!! She didn’t have to say why. Her look said everything – If you want to convince your stepfather to abandon his plans for his twenty pounds of incredibly pricy Costa Rican lobster in place of a down home pork product for Christmas, be my guest.
Still, something must have resonated with her, because several days after Christmas she brought home six pounds of the most beautiful, meaty, baby pink pork I have ever seen from the market. She passed through the kitchen nonchalantly as I was cruising through my new cookbooks and, while piling groceries into the fridge, dropped a line to the effect of, There are baby back ribs in the outdoor fridge, just so you know.
These are not the type of ribs you can limit yourself to eating just one or two (For example, I ate eight in one sitting. Did I just say that? Whoops…) if, say, you were hoping to stay on that diet. Mom and I kept walking around the kitchen, obnoxiously gnawing on pork bones, repeatedly declaring These are the best ribs we´ve ever made. Absolutely, positively, just the BEST!! And just so you think I am not the meanest person in the entire world, tempting you with countless high-calorie recipes all through January, may I redeem myself by saying my last two or three recipes were pretty healthy, I have a fish dish from the new SK cookbook coming, and I am currently sleeping with this veg-only masterpiece under my pillow.
So again, I am sorry. Please forgive me for these, because they are not health food, diet-friendly or anything else remotely close to all of the things January food should be to counteract the pounds of butter and meat and cream and cheese and Chinese food (maybe that’s just me) consumed over Christmas. Fear not, dear reader. I will soon be back on the healthy eating track. But for now, here’s hoping your post-December eating regimen includes a cheat day. Enjoy!
Falling Off the Bone, Not-So-January Friendly Barbecue Baby Back Ribs
Active time: 20 minutes, Total time: 2 1/2 – 3 1/2 hours, plus overnight. Serves 6. Adapted quite generously from Bon Appetit, 2012
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
6 pounds baby back pork ribs or St. Louis-style spareribs
1 1/2 cups store-bought or homemade barbecue sauce plus more
Combine first 7 ingredients in a small bowl. Rub spice mixture all over ribs. Place in a non-reactive glass dish and set in the refrigerator over night.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Wrap racks individually in foil and divide between 2 baking sheets. Bake ribs until very tender but not falling apart, about 2 hours for baby backs and 3 hours for spareribs. Carefully unwrap ribs; pour any juices from foil into a 4-cup heatproof measuring cup; reserve juices for late use. Let ribs cool completely.
DO AHEAD: Ribs can be baked up to 3 days ahead (the flavor will be more developed, and the cold ribs will hold together better on the grill as they heat through). Cover and chill juices. Rewrap ribs in foil and chill.
Build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill, or heat a gas grill to high.
Grill ribs, basting with barbecue sauce mixture and turning frequently, until lacquered and charred in places and heated through, 7-10 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board; cut between ribs to separate. Transfer to a platter and serve with additional barbecue sauce.