Saturday, June 16, 2012

Summer Delights: BBQ Ribs, Roasted Corn, Blackberry Crumble

Summer is in full swing here in Chicago and with it come the many foods we associate with the season.  If you follow me on Facebook you know that I've been spending quite a bit of time in my gardens and what could be better than finishing off the day with dinner outdoors as well.  With temperatures now regularly in the upper 80's during the day, it is the perfect time for a one-grill meal that is easy to prepare with some advance preparation.

Julian's Rose Garden
After a days work in the garden I don't won't to prepare a complicated meal.  I want a dinner that I can put together quickly and easily using just the grill.  To make this happen, I did some 'prep' work a couple days prior.  So when the time came for dinner, I could just time adding the items to the grill and be assured that dinner would be ready shortly while I enjoyed a glass of wine while viewing my days handywork and keeping a watchful eye on the Webber.

Ribs:  Several days in advance I select a nice rack of baby back ribs.  Baby back ribs (sometimes also called loin ribs, back ribs, or Canadian back ribs) are taken from the top of the rib cage between the spine and the spare ribs, below the loin muscle. The designation "baby" indicates the cuts are from market weight hogs, rather than sows. They have meat between the bones and on top of the bones, and are shorter, curved, and meatier than spare ribs. In my opinion they are the best ribs for grilling having smaller bones than beef ribs and are certainly more tender and less fatty.

With that said, they take a good bit of cooking time so I prefer to do most of the preparation in advance.  I know some folks advocate simply pre-boiling the ribs for 10 minutes before grilling, but I  really feel you lose so much flavor in the process it is not worth the time you save.  Rather on a weeknight up to a week in advance, I roast the ribs in the oven covered in foil.  Once cool they can be refrigerated and stored and awaiting your final grilling.  Of course you can go right to the grill if you like and below I provide you with my detailed recipe.  Feel free to substitute the homemade BBQ sauce for your favorite bottled variety.  There are so many good options for sauces, you needn't feel guilty about making this choice to speed up your dinner.

Crushed Almond Cookie Topping
Berry Crumble:  As the ribs have been pre-cooked they don't take much time to finish on the grill.  So for this dinner, I start first with my dessert, the blackberry crumble. Start by heating the grill.  During the 10 minutes or so that takes, simply wash the blackberries, toss them with some flour and sugar and place them into individual oven-safe ramikins.  Sprinkle the top with some crushed almond cookies or your favorite crumb topping.  With the grill now heated and at an approximate temperature of 350F, place the ramikins on the upper grill rack, keeping the main grill grate free for your other food.  Bake the crumble in your grill with the lid closed.  The crumble will take about 45 minutes in all, so now we are counting backwards to ensure the meal is done at the same time.

Julian's Slaw with Bacon Pieces
If you haven't prepared cole slaw in advance, now's a good time to do it as both the ribs and the corn take only about 15-20 minutes on the grill.  Then clean and oil the corn.

Corn:  Sweet corn is not yet in season here in Chicago, but our local produce shop has been getting some nice, sweet ears in already.  Give the corn at your store the test by pushing a fingernail into a kernel.  It should pop with juice quite easily.  If it does not, it is old and dry and should be avoided. Always remember that sweet corn immediately begins to convert its sugars into starch after it is picked.  As such, you need the freshest corn possible.  I always try and cook it within a day of purchasing it for this reason.  If you've let yours sit for too long, you might want to sprinkle the ears with a little sugar and instead of dry grilling, wrap it in foil to help retain moisture.  It won't have those nice brown grill marks, but it will taste better.

Extra BBQ Sauce on the Side
Bringing it Together:  Now it's time to slap those ribs on the grill and get them warmed up.  They are already fully cooked so getting them good and hot is all that's required. (Remember to remove them from the foil before grilling.  The grill should be medium-hot and not on high to avoid flare ups.)  Getting them hot only takes about 10 minutes, with a turn half way through.  Add the corn to the grill and apply the BBQ sauce to the ribs and let them cook turning once and rebasting with the sauce halfway through.  Turn the corn and the ribs at about the same time, but cook with the grill closed as much as possible.

Now we simply turn off the grill and sever the dinner.  The dessert can cool while you are enjoying this quick to prepare summer feast.  And later when you are ready for something a little sweet, enjoy the berry crumble, perhaps with a small scoop of icecream on top.  Mmmmm!  Finger lickn' good!

BBQ Baby Back Pork Ribs
  • 2 (2 pound) slabs baby back pork ribs
  • 1/2 cup table salt
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ground red chili pepper


  • 2 1/4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons liquid smoke flavoring
  • 2 teaspoons whiskey
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon dark molasses
  • 1 tablespoon ground red chili pepper

    1. Cut each full rack of ribs in half, so that you have 4 half racks. Using 1/2 cup of table salt and 1/2 cup of white sugar, mix with 4 cups of water and stir to dissolve. Place the ribs in a large zip locked back or a pan. Cover with the brine mixture and refrigerate for one hour.
    2. Preheat oven to 275F degrees.Remove ribs from brine and pat dry with paper towels. 
    3.  Sprinkle salt and pepper and 1 tablespoon red chili pepper over meat. Wrap each half rack in aluminum foil. Bake for 3 1/2 hours  (cool and refrigerate for later use, or transfer to the grill after they come to room temperature.)
    4. As the y cook, make the sauce.
    5. Sauce: Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook and stir the onions in oil for 5 minutes. Stir in water, tomato paste, vinegar, brown sugar, honey, and Worcestershire sauce. Season with 2 teaspoons salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, liquid smoke, whiskey, garlic powder, paprika, onion powder, dark molasses, and 1/2 tablespoon ground chili pepper. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat. Simmer for 1 1/4 hours, uncovered, or until sauce thickens. Remove from heat, and set sauce aside.
    6. Preheat your outdoor grill.   Oil the grill grates.
    7. Remove the ribs from the foil wrapping, and place on the grill. Grill the ribs for 5 minutes on each side until heated through. Then brush sauce on the ribs while they're grilling for another 10 minutes watching the ribs to ensure they do not burn.               

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