We grill all the time, all year, all kinds of weather, all kinds of food, but there is something special to the first bbq of the season. So, how did we get there? I had to go to my office this morning, and realized that it was almost noon and I hadn’t defrosted anything for dinner, so I went to Giant and wandered the store till I figured out what I wanted. I wanted kababs, so I went to the butcher and asked for a small leg of lamb to cut up and marinate. Nope — they sold out at Passover/Easter and didn’t have any. Then I asked for thick cut sirloin steaks. Nope — they had it, but it was going on sale tomorrow for 1/2 price, so why didn’t I wait? I couldn’t disagree but had to regroup. As I turned to check out chops, I saw they had St. Louis style pork ribs on sale, so I bought two racks of ribs. Then I had to rethink my sides, so I decided to make my own slaw and some corn on the cob. Ta-da! That’s how our menu developed.
THE RIBS: I make ribs in a three step process. It ensures tasty, fall off the bone tender, delicious ribs. It also means steps 1 and 2 can be done in advance. The ribs can then be refrigerated or frozen, then defrosted, and finished in the oven or on the grill, when you’re ready to serve your family or company.
STEP 1: THE DRY RUB (Makes enough for 4 racks of ribs and will keep for about 6 weeks in a tightly closed container
- 1 tsp. dried rosemary, crushed finely in a mortar and pestle (you could also use thyme or oregano, but rosemary gives it layer of flavor that is just outstanding)
- 1/4 C brown sugar, packed
- 1/4 C table sugar, preferably white or raw
- 2 Tbsp. Sweet Paprika (Smoked paprika will alter the flavor)
- 1 Tsp. Garlic Powder (not garlic salt)
- 1 Tsp. Cayenne Pepper
- 1 Tsp. Ground Ginger
- 1 Tbsp. Kosher Salt
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, making sure the brown sugar is broken up and well blended. Don’t skimp on the sugar — it’s what makes the outside crunchy and delicious when they are done.
Step 2: Putting the Dry Rub on the Racks of Ribs. Rinse the ribs and dry them very well with paper towels. Place them on a cookie rack with edges, and a very large piece of heavy duty foil, long enough that you’ll be able to wrap them into a pouch.
You can cook them immediately, or, leave them wrapped in the foil in the fridge as long as 24 hours.
Put the racks on the foil bone side up. Use 1 tbsp. of the dry rub on each rack and using your hands, spread it around and rub it in well. Turn the racks over and use about 1 1/2 Tbsps. of the rub on each rack. This will leave you about 1/2 of what you made to be saved for use at a later date.
If you are going to cook them immediately, pre-heat your oven to 325. After you’ve applied the rub, fold up the foil and make a large pouch pocket. This will do two things. It will keep your pan clean and it will steam the ribs in their own juices. Put the racks into the middle of the pre-heated oven, close the door, and ignore it for the next 2 1/2 hours. When they come out of the oven, you can decide what you want to do next. If you are serving them the same day, take them off the foil and put them on clean foil, taking them out of the fat that’s cooked off. You can finish them either as an entire rack, or as we prefer, cut into 2 and 3 rib pieces. If you are premaking them for a big bbq, wrap them tightly in fresh foil and freeze immediately. Defrost them in the fridge the night before, baste them in BBQ sauce and finished them on the grill, as described below.
Step 3: FINISHING THE RIBS. The ribs can be eaten just like this. They are fully cooked, but, if you like BBQ sauce, it’s time for the last step. I don’t use plain bottled sauce. We find it’s usually too sweet, so I “doctor” it as my mother called it. Here’s my version. You can make as much or as little as you want, but keep the proportions. It makes a slightly sweet, slightly tangy bbq sauce.
- 1 C Sweet Baby Rays Original
- 2 Tbsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 Tbsp. Gulden’s Brown Mustard
You can brush this on and bbq them, or, if you prefer, you can do it my way, also known as the easy way. Put the pieces in the sauce and turn them over, coating them on all sides. Then heat your gas grill to high and cook them closed for about 3 minutes on each side. They will turn out delicious, crunchy on the outside and sweet and tender on the inside.
Paula’s Summer Slaw: This was a slaw I made on a whim. I wanted something a little out of the ordinary, but still light and refreshing.
- 14 OZ. Bag of pre-cut slaw
- 12 OZ. Bag of brussels sprouts, cleaned, quartered and shredded (I used my Cuisinart)
- 1 Red Pepper, diced
- 1/4 Red onion, sliced very thinly
- 1 Granny Smith Apple, skin on, diced into 1/2″ pieces
- 1 Serrano Chili
- Zest of 1 lemon
Cut up all the veggies and put in a large mixing bowl.
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2 Tbsp. Hellman’s Light Mayo
- 1 Tbsp. Gulden’s Mustard
- 1/4 C Olive Oil
- 1/2 Tsp. Salt (more or less, to taste)
- 1/4 Tsp. Pepper (more or less to taste)
Pour the dressing over the cabbage/brussels slaw and mix well. Refrigerate at least 2 hours to let the flavors meld. Stir again right before serving.
Finally, the Corn on the Cob:
I have found an easy and delicious way to make corn on the cob. Make sure you have a pot large enough to hold the corn without boiling over. Bring to a boil, water, 1 C of milk and 1 stick of sweet, unsalted butter. Put the corn in, turn it down and cover, and cook for 10 minutes.
If you forget to turn it down, because of the milk and butter, it will boil up and over and make a royal mess on the stove (Yes, I learned this the hard way.) It will come out buttery and sweet, so all you’ll need at the table is some salt and pepper, or chili powder and parmesan, or any other toppings you’d like.
So, if you’re thinking of something special for Memorial Day, you won’t be disappointed with this menu. Enjoy.