Bourbon-spiked barbecue sauce elevates grilled ribs
Whichever ribs you cook, be sure to set the grill up for indirect cooking
Throughout the year I turn to other cuisines to spice up my everyday cooking.
Korean gojuchang chili paste enlivens fish fillets, Provencal olive tapenade augments Italian pasta, Spanish smoked paprika and Middle Eastern za’atar spice spark boring chicken.
But sometimes, I pay homage to my favourite domestic ingredients employing Kentucky bourbon and tomato ketchup in a sweet and smoky sauce destined for ribs on a grill powered with hickory wood. Sorghum molasses adds sweetness while imported chipotle chilies and Dijon mustard imbue the smoky, tangy layers of flavour we crave.
Kentucky bourbon likewise adds power to black tea for a cocktail we happily sip all day long. Fresh lemon and slices of local cucumber add cooling elements.
As for the pork ribs, the young people in our crowd prefer baby back ribs mostly for the pleasure of gnawing on the bones. Back ribs originate from the blade and centre section of the pork loin, and are smaller and less fatty than spareribs. A rack weighs about 1½ pounds and serves two to three people. I’m partial to country-style pork ribs, cut from the sirloin or rib end of the pork loin, with generous meatiness and rich flavour. You’ll need a knife and fork to enjoy them.
Baby back ribs cost considerably more than country ribs and take twice the time to cook, so plan accordingly.
Whichever ribs you choose to cook, be sure to set the grill up for indirect cooking — that is, no heat source directly under the meat. This allows you to use the grill somewhat like an oven with heat swirling all around, but with little chance of charring.
Bourbon Barbecue Sauce
No need to cook this sauce: the heat of the grill finishes the flavour of the sauce as it’s slathered onto the ribs or other meats or poultry. Double the recipe so you can have a jarful in the fridge. It lasts several weeks.
MAKES ABOUT 2 CUPS
1 cup tomato ketchup, preferably organic ¼ cup bourbon ¼ cup sorghum or light molasses 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce 1 tbsp Dijon mustard or your favourite mustard 1 to 2 tbsp puréed chipotle in adobo
Preparation: 5 minutes Mix all ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake well. Refrigerate up to several weeks.
Per serving: 18 calories, 0 grams fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 milligrams cholesterol, 5 g carbohydrates, 0 g protein, 104 mg sodium, 0 g fibre
Bourbon Grilled Ribs MAKES 6 SERVINGS
2 large slabs baby back pork ribs (3 pounds total) or 3 pounds bone-in country style pork ribs Salt, freshly ground pepper Hickory or mesquite wood chunks 2 cups bourbon barbecue sauce, or as needed, see recipe
Prep: 20 minutes; cook: 40 minutes to 1 hour, 15 minutes
1. Pat ribs dry. Season generously on all sides with salt and pepper. Refrigerate uncovered for up to two days. Remove from refrigerator while you prepare the grill so the ribs start to come to room temperature. Soak wood chips in water to cover for at least 30 minutes.
2. Prepare a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to high. When the coals are covered with a grey ash, arrange them on two sides of the grill leaving the centre empty. Place a drip pan on the bottom of the grill and place the cooking grate on top. If using a gas grill, turn off the burners in the centre of the grill and turn the other burners to medium.
3. Just before you put the meat on the grill, nestle a few wood chunks among the hot coals. Put ribs on grill over the drip pan (not directly over the heat). Cover grill and cook, turning once, until forktender and juices run clear, about 40 minutes for the country-style ribs or 1¼ hours for the baby back ribs.
4. Generously baste all sides of the ribs with the barbecue sauce. Grill covered until meat is nicely glazed, 10 to 15 minutes more. Remove from grill; let rest five minutes before serving.
Per serving: 438 calories, 33 grams fat, 10 g saturated fat, 113 milligrams cholesterol, 12 g carbohydrates, 23 g protein, 375 mg sodium, 0 g fibre
Coconut Panna Cotta with Honeyed Berries MAKES 6 SERVINGS
2 teaspoons (1 small envelope) plain powdered gelatin 2 cups skim milk ½ cup sugar (coconut sugar is delicious here) 1 can (5.4 ounces) coconut cream or 2/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk Pinch salt 1 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt Honeyed berries, see recipe Sprigs of fresh mint
Prep: 20 minutes; cook: 2 minutes; chill: several hours
1. Sprinkle gelatin over 2 tablespoons cold water in a small bowl. Let stand until softened, about three minutes.
2. Heat skim milk and sugar in large microwave-safe bowl on high, stirring once or twice, until sugar dissolves (rub a little between your fingers), about two minutes. Stir in softened gelatin until dissolved. Stir in coconut milk and salt until smooth. Cool to room temperature.
3. Use a whisk to blend yogurt into cooled milk mixture. Divide the mixture among six squat jelly jars or glasses. Cover and refrigerate until set, two to three hours. (Or up to three days.)
4. Serve topped with a generous spoonful of the honeyed berries. Garnish with mint.
Per serving: 238 calories, 4 grams fat, 4 g saturated fat, 4 milligrams cholesterol, 42 g carbohydrates, 8 g protein, 91 mg sodium, 2 g fibre
Honeyed Berries MAKES ABOUT 2 CUPS
1 pint fresh blueberries, stemmed, rinsed 1 quart small ripe strawberries, hulled, quartered 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice Light honey to taste
Prep: 10 minutes; chill: 20 minutes Put blueberries into a bowl and use a potato masher or large fork to roughly crush them. Add strawberries and crush them a little. Stir in lime juice and honey to taste. Refrigerate 20 minutes or so.
Per tablespoon: 14 calories, 0 grams fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 milligrams cholesterol, 3 g carbohydrates, 0 g protein, 0 mg sodium, 1 g fibre
Slow-grilled ribs are coated at the end with a sweet and smoky sauce spiked with bourbon.
Bourbon panna cotta is a cool, creamy ending to a rich meal.
The bourbon barbecue sauce mixes up in about five minutes. You’ll want to make extra to keep on hand in the fridge all summer long.