Regular readers will note that, as a general rule, my SO and I rarely cook large hunks of meat for meals. Our primary exceptions to this are pieces of good fish, roasted whole poultry, and country-style pork ribs. Country-style pork ribs are thick cuts of meat (2"x2"x8" or so) that are marbled with extensive amounts of fat (see pictures on Google). Their high fat content makes them an excellent choice for long, slow cooking; after a few hours in the oven they're exceptionally moist and falling-off-the-bone tender.
For a long time we made Joy of Cooking's country-style pork rib recipe, which calls for cooking the ribs in a mixture of barbecue sauce and orange juice for three hours. While they're excellent, they end up very sweet, and so a few months ago my SO and I started hunting for a less sweet (and more spicy) recipe for pork ribs. We found this recipe for a dry spice rub, which is a mix of hot (cayenne, mustard, and black pepper) and flavorful (paprika, cumin, and garlic) spices. We quickly fell in love with these ribs, and since then we've made them for multiple folks (including my mom), and everyone who has tasted them has raved about them (translation: they're mom-approved!). Since this is our new standard method of cooking country-style pork ribs, they're this week's end-of-the-week recipe blogging post.
Note: this recipe must be started the night before you want to eat it, and then takes three hours to cook on the day it's made, so plan ahead. That said, this is an extremely easy recipe to make: it probably takes less than 20 minutes total preparation time across both days, and needs absolutely no tending once it's been put in the oven.
5 pounds country-style pork ribs, rinsed and patted dry
5 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced or pressed with a garlic press
1/4 cup paprika
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons black pepper
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
The day before you eat the ribs:
1. Mix the spices together in a bowl.
2. Rub the spices and minced garlic over the meat, attempting to cover all the sides. We do this after we've lined up the ribs in a 9x13" glass baking dish, but you could do it before. Your hands will get covered in spices; they wash off easily.
3. Arrange the ribs in a baking dish, tightly cover with foil, and refrigerate overnight.
The day you eat the ribs:
0. Preheat your oven to 325F.
1. Remove the pan from the fridge and pour in 1/2 cup water.
2. Re-cover the pan with foil, and bake for 2 1/2 hours at 325F.
3. Remove the ribs from the oven and let cool for ~10 minutes before serving.
Normally we eat these right out of the oven, but you can also briefly cook the ribs on a barbecue after removing them from the oven. We tried this last week, and it crisps the fat still left on the meat, making the fat extremely tasty (normally we simply remove the fat from the meat as we eat it).
There will probably be a lot of fat in the pan after the ribs are baked; this is perfectly normal. What you may not notice, however, is that hidden underneath all that fat is a layer of meat drippings and spices. This juicy goodness can be turned into a sauce by pouring all the liquid contents of the pan into a fat separator (a glass or clear measuring cup would also work), letting it sit for a minute so that the fat separates out, removing the fat1, and then putting the remaining liquid into a small pot or saucepan. Simmer the drippings for a few minutes to slightly thicken them, and then serve alongside the meat as a dipping sauce. Creating this sauce is entirely optional; the ribs are delicious without it.
Country-style pork ribs can come either boneless or bone-in; it really doesn't matter which you get, as the meat falls off the bone after cooking anyway.
1 If you're using a glass or clear measuring cup, you should be able to simply spoon off most of the fat.
This is based on a recipe from desurfer at ratebeer.com.
Desurfer. "Hot & Spicy Country-Style Ribs" http://www.ratebeer.com/Recipe.asp?RecipeID=102. Accessed sometime in 2007.
[Update: Commenter Mikey-Mike reports that Desurfer likely got this recipe from Steven Raichlen's book "The Barbeque Bible."]