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Asian Tea-Smoked Barbecued Ribs

ribsSmall.jpgI was gone all week at the Greenbrier Professional Food Writer’s Symposium, and when I got home, there wasn’t much in the refrigerator except for a Cyrovac-ed bag of baby back ribs that I had forgotten about.  Working quickly to use them before the expiration, I threw these incredible ribs together for dinner with friends.  Sticky, sweet, salty, meaty—they have everything that I ask for from ribs, except for low fat content. 

Asian Tea-Smoked Baby Back Ribs

Makes 6    servings

It was Robert Dahni’s great article in Fine Cooking that gave me the inspiration for these ribs.  I have been doing classic American hickory-smoked ribs all summer long, so it was time for a change.  His technique of foil-wrapping the smoking ingredients of rice, brown sugar, tea, and aromatics is much better than the typical method of tossing them on the fire (you couldn’t do that with a gas grill, anyway.) This is three-tier recipe: Marinate the ribs, grill them with the smoke, and then glaze.  All of these flavor applications combine to create extraordinary ribs.  And many of the ingredients are used over and over, so don’t be daunted by the recipe length. 

Marinade
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce or soy sauce
2 scallions, white and green parts, minced
1 tablespoons shredded fresh ginger
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon five-spice powder or ground star anise
½ teaspoon crushed hot red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

7 pounds baby back ribs, cut into 6 slabs

Smoking Packet
¼ cup loose black tea leaves (I used Laapsang Souchong for additional smokiness, but any black tea will do)
¼ cup uncooked white rice
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
Zest of ½ large orange, removed in strips with a vegetable peeler
3 star anise

Sauce
1/3 cup Thai sweet chili sauce
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce or soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey or brown sugar
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic or dark Chinese vinegar
 1 tablespoon shredded fresh ginger
Sriracha or other hot red chili sauce


1.  To make the marinade, whisk all of the ingredients together, except the salt and black pepper, in a large bowl with 2 tablespoons water (or if you have some brewed black tea, use that.)  Using a rubber spatula, spread the mixture over both sides of the ribs.  Place the ribs and any marinade in a jumbo zip-top plastic bag, close the bag, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.  (Or place the ribs and marinade in a large Pyrex baking dish, cover, and refrigerate. But I love jumbo plastic bags!)  Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour before grilling.

2.  For the smoking packet, wrap the ingredients into a packet of heavy-duty aluminum foil (or use a double thickness of regular foil.)  Pierce a hole in the top of the packet and open it up to reveal the ingredients.  Set aside. 

3.  Build a grill for low indirect heat (300° to 350°F.)  Place a disposable aluminum foil pan on the empty side of the grill, and fill it with about 1/2 inch of water.  Place a rib rack (or meat rack from a roasting pan) on the cooking rack over the pan. 

4.  Remove the ribs from the marinade, letting any of the marinade ingredients cling to the meat.  Season lightly with salt and pepper.  Stand the ribs in the rack.  Cover and grill for 1 ¼ hours.  (For a charcoal grill, add about 10 unlighted briquets or small charcoal chunks after 30 minutes or so to maintain the heat.)

5.  Place the smoking packet directly on the source of heat (the coals in a charcoal grill, or the heating elements of a gas grill).  Smoke the ribs until the smoke gives out, about 20 minutes.  Check the ribs for doneness—if the meat has shrunk to expose the end of the bones, and the meat is tender, they are done.  If not, continue grilling until done.  The exact cooking time depends on the heat of the grill.  Transfer the ribs to a platter.  (The ribs can be prepared up to 8 hours ahead.  Cool, cover, and refrigerate until ready to finish.) 

6.  Meanwhile, for the sauce, mix all of the ingredients together, except the hot chili sauce, in a small saucepan, and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring often.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes to blend the flavors.  Let cool completely.  Season with the hot chili sauce. 

7.  Return the ribs to the grill at medium direct heat (350° to 450°F.)  (If you have a charcoal grill, you will have to build a fresh fire, and let it burn down for about 20 minutes after white ash forms, or the fire will be too hot and burn the ribs.)  Cover and grill until barely sizzling, turning occasionally, about 6 minutes.  Brush with the sauce, cover, and grill, turning occasionally, until glazed, about 6 minutes more.  Transfer to a cutting board.  Let the ribs stand for 5 minutes, then cut between the bones and serve hot, with any remaining sauce passed on the side. 

 

Photo by John Peacock, www.istock.com 
 


Tags: grilling , pork , smoking , spareribs , tea

Categories: Pork

4
Heather  | September 19, 2010 5:28 PM

These sound incredible. I do not know how you could possibly make ribs even better! Will have to try the recipe and get back to you. Any short-cuts you can recommend for a busy cook?

Sarabeth Levine  | September 21, 2010 8:08 AM

Rick, this looks like another one of your stellar recipes add to my weekend grilling menu. Look forward to "firing" these up. Can I substitute some meaty short ribs for the back ribs?

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