Did you remember to set your clocks back? I did (well, my dear wife did). While that extra hour of sleep was great, it doesn’t make up for the lack of sunlight in the evening. Soon it’ll get cold and I’ll be trudging back and forth to work in the dark, on foot, with snow on the ground, uphill both ways…
It’s joyous thoughts like that that make me yearn for warmer climes. To try and break my funk, I made up a rack of baby back ribs that packed a sweet heat reminiscent of jerk dishes I’ve had in the Caribbean.
1 rack baby back ribs
1 large shallot
4 to 6 Habanero or Scotch Bonnet peppers (4 were plenty for me)
4 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon dark rum
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon ground thyme
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Wearing gloves, seed and devein the peppers. Put the salt, shallot, and garlic in a food processor and pulse until the garlic and shallot are minced. Add the peppers, soy sauce, oil, vinegar, sugar, rum, lime juice, thyme, black pepper, allspice, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg and give them a whirl until they are well-combined. Makes about 3/4 cup.
Reserve 1/4 cup of the marinade for the barbecue sauce. Prep the ribs by removing the membrane on the bone side and trimming off any scraps of meat or excess fat. Put the ribs into a zip-top bag. Pour the remaining 1/2 cup of the marinade over the ribs, turning to coat. Squeeze the air out of the bag, seal it, and stash in the fridge overnight.
The Barbecue Sauce
1 (11.3 ounce can) mango nectar
1/2 cup raw or brown sugar (divided)
1/4 cup marinade
1/4 cup tamarind concentrate
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the mango nectar and 1/4 of the raw sugar. Bring to a boil and cook until the mixture has reduced to about 3/4 cup – about 10 minutes or until the mixture is thick enough that it starts to spit at you.
Reduce heat to medium and add the remaining raw sugar, reserved marinade, tamarind, and cider vinegar. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook until all the sugar has dissolved and the sauce starts to thicken a little bit (about five minutes). Bottle and store in the fridge until you are ready to use it.
Set your grill up for a raised direct cook at 300°F. I didn’t use anything between the ribs and the fire to diffuse the heat, but did use a Woo2 extender to raise the cooking grid up about 4 inches further from the heat.
When the grill is up to temp, add your smoking wood (guava in this case), and when the smoke changes from white (bad) to blue (good), put the ribs on bone side down for an hour.
Flip the ribs bone side up and let them go for another hour. Flip the ribs back to bone side down and start checking signs of being done – the slab cracks when you pick up one end with a pair of tongs and the meat has started to pull back from the bones.
This rack started looking done at the 3 hour mark, so I slathered both sides with some of the barbecue sauce and put them back on bone side down for another 15 minutes. I slathered the meat side again and let them go another 15 minutes. I gave the meat one last coating of sauce and moved the rack off the grill to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
This was one fine rack of ribs – all the heat and spice of traditional jerk but with a sweet and fruity base. It was one of those eat, sweat, wipe brow, swig adult beverage, repeat, kind of meals.
Next time I would use about 2 cups of the thicker mango nectar you can buy in refrigerated boxes in most mercados. This was the thinner Jumex canned version, and it just didn’t have oomph.
Ribs still won’t ever be diet food – 460 calories for 8 ounces of meat (4 to 6 bones worth) and 12 Weight Watchers points. But they were sure the cure for the gray blahs.