Tuesday, October 26, 2010

If You Need Cooking Lessons - Just Phone

A few weeks ago, a good friend of mine asked me if I'd teach him how to "make" spareribs. Seems he and his wife were having some people to their house for dinner, and he wanted to show off his barbecuing/grilling skills. Significant Eater and I were invited, but were unfortunately unable to attend.

As a side note, this lovely couple has a "country house" in a little town upstate, somewhere near New Paltz, NY. They had been inviting us up for a weekend all summer, but due to our travels to and from DC, it hasn't happened yet. Of course, they think it's because I hate the "country," but c'mon, really, who hates the "country?" I mean, I don't like mosquitoes or flies or bears or the sun or any of that stuff that you find in the country, but we have a few of those things in the city too, don't we?

Where was I? Oh yeah, cooking lessons. The spareribs. And there was a catch. You see, my buddy was going to be upstate cooking these ribs, and I was going to be down (state), right here in my sunny, bug and bear free NYC apartment. So these cooking lessons were being given - you guessed it - over the phone.

Now one of the cool things about this lesson was that my buddy was able to take pix during the event (who doesn't love an I-Phone) and send them to me virtually simultaneously. Excellent. So here's how it went.

We started with the dry rub - which we actually made here, in my bug-free NYC apartment. Any good dry rub will work - this one had salt, brown sugar, black pepper, paprika, chile powder, a bit of cayenne and maybe even a little garlic powder thrown in for good measure. (Don't use too much garlic powder - the stuff is vile - but in a dry rub a tiny bit can't hurt.) Once my bud was upstate, dry rub in hand, he purchased a couple of racks of spareribs - St. Louis style. I had him remove the fell, the membrane covering the underside of the ribs, as I think it makes for a better end product and allows the ribs to absorb more of the rub flavor. And then he massaged the dry rub in, and put the ribs in the fridge overnight to rest.

Of course there are as many ways to cook ribs as there are barbecuers who swear by their versions. Trust me, I love smoking ribs, low and slow, for hours on a Weber or other smoker device, but since the upstate grill was a gas one, these were going to be bastardized bbq - first cooked in the oven and then finished on the grill to get all crusty. The nice thing about this is that the ribs can be cooked ahead of time and then finished in like 15 minutes, giving the hosts plenty of time for other things - like hanging out with their guests, sweating and swatting flies.

As the oven preheated to around 275 F, the ribs were laid onto a couple of baking sheets, to which about a cup of white wine with a bit of melted honey and worcestershire were added, and covered tightly. And into the oven they went for about 2.5 hours. When uncovered, they looked like this…

Set those ribs aside. Wrap 'em up in foil and refrigerate them even. But save all the yummy liquid from the baking sheets - that gets reduced way down for the glaze, which you can do now.

About 45 minutes before dinner, crank the grill up - let it preheat good and hot, and anyone that tells you your oven or grill is done preheating in 10 minutes is kidding you - it's not. I like to give everything, oven and grill, at least 1/2 an hour - it gets the heat all evened out and you'll get better results that way. You can cut the ribs into smaller slabs to make them easier to handle on the grill.

Brush the ribs with the glaze and put 'em on the grill. Turn them every five minutes or so, and brush them some more. In about 15 minutes, your ribs will look like this. And your guests will be eating them up.

Now sit back, crack open a beer and admire your handiwork. Watch your guests as they can't stop eating. After all, you've just learned how to cook spareribs - on the phone.

Note: If you don't have a grill, if it's too hot or cold outside, if you live in an NYC apartment, the final step can be done under a hot broiler.

Phoned-In Spareribs
2 slabs spareribs, St. Louis style, membrane removed

Dry Rub

2 T kosher salt
2 T brown sugar
1 T chili powder
1 T paprika (sweet or medium, or even smoked)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
.5 tsp cayenne

Braising Liquid

1 cup white wine (almost anything works here)
1 T honey or brown sugar
2 T worcestershire (in a pinch - soy)

Technique above.


  1. I once saw Mitch outside of a city. Really. And he was reasonably happy.

  2. But that's because I was in Italy, jude!

  3. he breaks out in hives when he is outside of urbania. i have seen it, at my home, in Marin County