Dry Rubbed Glazed Ribs and Asparagus Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette: Bring on Memorial Day! By Jen Sommerness

Memorial Day is fast approaching, and if you are like me, it is the season opener for grilling! Nothing is better than al fresco dining, a casual evening spent outside with good company, good wine and a gentle breeze…all made better with a dish that is delicious and easy to prepare.

For me, that means ribs. This recipe is one that is tried and true. It is not a fussy one with mopping of a sauce, or putzy marinades, just a plain and simple dry rub that turns into a glaze as you cook them nice and slowly on the grill, or finish them in the oven. 

I love the picture taken for this post, as it was minutes before we actually dove into the meal. I was tempted to take another picture shortly after this one, with the bowl of rib bones picked clean, the empty baked potato skins that remained, and the not-so-white-anymore napkins showing the sign of an awesome rib meal being had. It was a beautiful thing!

The original recipe for these is found in Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc At Home cookbook, which I highly recommend. Unlike his other cookbooks which have recipes that are more difficult to prepare, this one is purposely unfussy and approachable, has many tips and techniques explained throughout, with recipes that elevate the basic ingredients he uses to an extremely tasty level.
I paired the ribs with an asparagus salad with lemon vinaigrette, from Suvir Saran’s American Masala cookbook. As much as I love Suvir’s first cookbook (Indian Home Cooking), American Masala remains a go-to cookbook for me when wanting dishes that are familiar, with an interesting Indian twist. He is a genius in the kitchen, and I have had many wonderful opportunities of spending time with him there, his cookbooks are almost as good as spending time with him in person….almost. 

The lemon vinaigrette is the perfect thing to accompany the ribs, the brightness cuts through the luxurious pork fat. For the ribs, I added a bit of chipotle chile powder to my dry rub, as I discovered that I had only one teaspoon of smoked paprika left in my pantry when mixing the ingredients. I really liked the hint of spice and smokiness it brought to the dish. Feel free to substitute a teaspoon of chipotle chile powder and a teaspoon of smoked paprika in the recipe, where it calls for two teaspoons of smoked paprika.

I made my ribs on a gas grill, which is very easy to regulate the temperature. If you don’t have a gas grill, or find it difficult to regulate your temperature, you can sear the ribs (making those gorgeous grill marks), and place them into a Dutch oven to finish cooking in your oven. 
Here is to the coming of summer! Happy Memorial Day! 

Dry Rubbed Glazed Ribs 
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 Tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons Spanish smoked paprika (or one teaspoon chipotle chile powder, one teaspoon smoked paprika)
2 teaspoons cayenne
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 slabs pork spareribs (each about 3 pounds), cut in half

Method:
Combine all of the rub ingredients in a bowl. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Rub the spareribs on all sides, coating them with the rub. Place on the baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Put into the refrigerator for 2-6 hours (the rub will help tenderize the meat as well as develop flavors, so if you can wait for 6 hours – all the better!).

Prepare your grill for direct cooking followed by indirect cooking (if a gas grill, you will simply turn off burners to regulate temperature, if charcoal – you will need to place the coals on one end of your grill). Once your grill is hot, sear the ribs, meat-side down, for 2 minutes, until grill marks appear. (If you have a small grill, work in batches, to not overcrowd the ribs). Turn the ribs 90 degrees to create a crosshatch pattern and cook for another 2 minutes, or until well-marked. 
If using a gas grill, turn off at least one burner, and place ribs over that part of the grill. Turn down the flame to low on the farthest burner in your grill. (For example, place ribs all the way to the left, turn off flame on left and middle sections, only leaving the burner on the far right lit to low). Close the lid and cook until tender, about 2 hours. You should move the ribs around at about one hour, so as to cook evenly.

You want to keep the temperature consistently at 250 degrees (or close to it) the entire time. If your grill does not have a thermometer, use an oven thermometer placed closely to the meat. Turn your gas flame up or down depending on the temperature, or add more coals if necessary.

**Alternatively, it works just as well to sear the ribs on a hot grill, to make the beautiful grill marks, and then place them in a Dutch oven. Cover them and cook them at 250 degrees for about 2 hours. 

Cut the spareribs into individual ribs, and arrange on a serving platter. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc At Home, 2009.

Asparagus Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
2 pounds thick-stalked asparagus, though ends removed and stalks peeled
3 Tablespoons canola oil or tea oil
2 Tablespoons white wine, champagne, or citrus vinegar
1 lemon, zested and half of it juiced, the other half cut into wedges for serving
¼ teaspoon of kosher salt, plus 1 Tablespoon for blanching
 ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 spring onions, or 8 green onions (white part only), thinly sliced on a diagonal
1 tomato, cored, halved, seeded and thinly sliced

Method:
Place the asparagus in a baking dish and cover with cold water. Let it stand for an hour. While it soaks, bring a large pot of water with the 1 tablespoon of kosher salt added to a boil. Prepare an ice water bath and set it next to the sink. 

Whisk the oil with the vinegar, lemon zest and juice, ¼ teaspoon salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Add the onions and toss to coat in the vinaigrette.

Drain the asparagus and blanch in the boiling water for 3 to 5 minutes, or until it is al dente. Drain and transfer it to the ice water bath to cool. Drain again and thickly slice the asparagus on a diagonal into 2 inch pieces. Add the asparagus to the vinaigrette along with the sliced tomato, and toss to coat. Taste for seasoning and serve with lemon wedges.

Recipe from Suvir Saran’s American Masala, 2007.

Wine Pairing, By Jim Schwabe

What to drink with ribs at summer cook out depends a lot on the weather where you live. If it’s a hot, humid day, an ice-cold beer is hard to beat. We are experiencing a resurgence of craft breweries in the USA that sell mostly in local markets. Not since before prohibition has there been so many flavorful pilsners, ales, stouts and many more. Try an IPA (India Pale Ale) or a Czech-style Pilsner. Alternatively, a dry, chilled Rosé will be refreshing and pair well with our glazed ribs on a hot day. 

Fortunately, where we live in Northern California, it cools down every evening and we can pair one of our favorite red wines with these delicious ribs, potatoes, and asparagus salad. A full-bodied, spicy Zinfandel complements the dry rub and delicious juices of the ribs. Of course, our Baccarossa Cabernet Sauvignon is a winner with any high protein, rich meat, and these ribs are no exception. 

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