As someone who spends a large portion of her working hours writing about (and a large portion of her waking hours thinking about) food, I always feel some intense potluck pressure.
This weekend was no exception, as I prepared for a Saturday evening get together. I had two racks of Country Time Farm baby back ribs (I actually bought them weeks ago at the Fair Food Farmstand for another event, but then decided to go a different direction), and zero experience in how to cook them.
After some time scouring the interweb for guidance, I was able to glean enough knowledge to put my own twist on indoor ribs. My major inspiration was this Alton Brown recipe that calls for both a dry rub and a small amount of braising liquid. I liked the idea, but didn't have most of the ingredients required. What's that expression again? "Laziness is the mother of invention"? Sounds about right.
I improvised a dry rub—brown sugar, paprika, chili powder, mustard powder, garlic powder, salt, cracked black pepper—and, for the braising liquid, mixed equal parts Country Time Farm "Mango Tango" barbecue sauce* (a token from Paul Crivellaro, given when I visited the farm—I figured the man should know what tastes good on his pork) and beer. To keep things local, I went with Weyerbacher Hops Infusion IPA.
The ribs were wrapped in foil and cooked for 2 1/2 hours at 250 degrees. From there, I followed Brown's lead, removing and reducing the braising liquid, basting, and throwing them back under the broiler to caramelize.
The end result? These ribs were tremendous. A hit. The aroma alone had a vegetarian friend considering conversion. The IPA really was the key—it added an intriguing booziness and imbued the meat with a mysterious, delicious, "can't quite place it" flavor.
My potato salad (spruced up with loads of fresh dill and sweet peas from the farmers' market) wasn't too shabby either. Potluck victory!
*Also sold at the Fair Food Farmstand