July 6, 2003
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Ribs

The core problem in barbecuing ribs (spin not, O ancestors!) is cooking them enough. If you leave them on the grill for enough time to render out the fat, they end up burnt. This is bad.

My rehearsal dinner was held at the Golden Dome Hickory Pit, as I mentioned once before. You had to say the magic words there, to get the right ribs. The magic words were "extra crispy, basted in hot sauce, with hot sauce on the side."

My former approach involved parboiling the ribs in a rich spice mixture. This reduces the fat. But you have two problems. First, you need a lot of water to parboil a rack of ribs, which means you need a LOT of chili and paprika to season the water, and spices are not cheap. This is bad. And, after you take the ribs out, you have boiled meat. This is bad, too.

New approach: slather the ribs with your secret sauce. Then wrap them tightly in tinfoil. Wrap them like you're going to poach them in the dishwasher. (Yes, my mother taught me to poach fish in the dishwasher,) I mean wrap, not loosely cover. OK?

Now, toss them on a baking sheet or whatever, and pop them into a warm (325F) oven for 90 minutes. Yes, I said 90.

Take the ribs out. Open the package (careful -- live steam!). Remove ribs. Discard the copious quantities of hot fat (careful -- the color it's extracted from the paprika is a really effective oil pigment that will turn anything orangish. Permanently. Trust me; I'm a chemist; I've done the experiment.)

Now, put the ribs on the grill. (We're barbecuing, remember -- not grilling. Indirect heat) Baste them with secret sauce from time to time. Wait 30 minutes. Turn them over. Wait another 30 minutes. Yes -- a whole hour more.

Astonishingly, the ribs were not burnt. But they were as lean as ribs can be. Very, very nice. (Thanks, Sally Schneider, A New Way To Cook, for the basic approach)