Ribs: they’re such a weekend, laid-back, backyard barbecue sort of thing, aren’t they? I mean, they roast all day long, then you coat them in a sticky glaze, fire them up, and wash them down with warm cornbread, cold beer, and more than a few clean napkins. Still, it’s hard to think of a better reason for ribs-on-a-Tuesday than 70 degrees in March, no? You might just have to do it. And if you suddenly (cough, cough) are feeling just a wee bit feverish (sniff, sniff) and feel like maybe you should call in sick to work: well, your secret is safe with me.
This recipe sprang to being on the backs of generous friends. Our friend Jordana gave us a Penzey’s spice pack over the Christmas holidays, and I decided to take the oh-so-easy route of popping one of the little jars open and emptying it liberally onto the ribs for a dry spice rub. While they were roasting, I was rooting about in the pantry looking for something interesting to use as a glaze, and I spied the jar of espresso jam that our friend Nadine had brought us from Hawaii after a trip last Fall. While it’s not something I would spread on toast (the texture is very firm and a bit gritty), a few tablespoons worked perfectly to add some sweetness and a touch of coffee flavor to a pan-sauce reduction.
This recipe is more of an outline, a basic concept, as I’m guessing you don’t all have friends who gift you with Penzey’s spice rubs and jars of espresso jam (I did do a search for the jam online, but Maui Grown doesn’t seem to carry it in their store, and I didn’t find it anywhere else). And I have to tell you: these ribs were gorgeous. Fall-off-the-bone tender, spicy but not overly so, nicely crispy on the outside and silky smooth on the inside, with just a hint of sweetness balanced by lightly bitter coffee in the glaze. Brilliant. But the recipe is really quite adaptable: use your favorite spice rub, slow-roast the ribs in the oven or in a Crock-Pot; finish them under the broiler or on the grill; glaze them with sweet jam, smoky barbecue sauce, or not at all. (If you do finish under the broiler, keep an eagle eye on those ribs: you can see that I let them go just a minute too long and they got a bit too blackened; still tasty, though!). Mostly, make sure you make extra: you’ll want to sit back and enjoy them with friends!
Roasting method adapted from Teddi’s Grandpop’s Ribs recipe that came with my Galena St Rib Rub from Penzey’s
- 2 and 1/2 lbs pork spare ribs (I get mine from Flying Pigs Farm)
- 1/4 cup Galena St Rib Rub, or your favorite pork dry spice rub
- 1/4 cup espresso jam (or try 1 tbsp finely ground espresso powder + enough sugar or honey to thicken the glaze)
- Preheat oven to 220 degrees F. Rinse pork well and pat dry. Cut into serving-size pieces: about 4 ribs per piece. Liberally coat both sides of each piece in rib rub, rubbing into the flesh. Stack rib pieces on top of one another in a 9″ x 13″ baking dish; cover tightly with tinfoil and roast at 220 degrees for 4 hours.
- Remove the tinfoil (reserve), place all of the rib pieces meat-side up (they should fit in a single layer now, or overlap slightly), and roast for another 1 – 2 hours, until the meat is falling-apart tender and you can pull out a rib bone with ease. Remove from the oven, cover once again with tinfoil, and allow to rest for 20 minutes or longer.
- Preheat your oven’s broiler. Remove tinfoil from the spare ribs and lay it flat on a rimmed baking sheet (broiler-safe). Lay the ribs, meat side up, on the tinfoil in a single layer. Set aside. Alternatively, you could light up a charcoal or gas grill for this step. If so, brush the glaze sparingly on both sides of ribs and cook on the grill about 2-3 minutes per side.
- Pour the accumulated pork juices into a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then stir in espresso jam. Boil, stirring frequently, until thickened and syrupy, 3 – 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. Pour glaze over ribs, then place under broiler, watching carefully until the pork is crisped and just starting to blacken at the edges, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately, with any remaining glaze on the side.
- The same basic technique could be used for baby back ribs or beef short ribs.
- I imagine the roasting portion could be done easily in a Crock-Pot (on low for about 8 hours, I would guess), cooking away while you are at work, and ready to simply be fired under the broiler, or on the grill, when you get home.
- I kind of womder why the Maui Grown folks made espresso jam, rather than espresso jelly. I’m intrigued by the possibilities of fixing the textural issues by making a jelly of a strong, cold-brewed espresso. Or, try adding a very strong espresso shot to a basic simple syrup for the espresso glaze.
Refrigerated for up to 5 days.