I like ribs, but never loved them (I can hear you gasping). Of all the different pork cuts, I never found ribs to be tender enough, instead, I always found them kind of chewy, a cut of meat that was too much bone and not enough meat. In Valencia I had them mostly in rice dishes, like in hearty baked rice, arroz al horno. I love hearty baked rice, it’s one of my favorite rice dishes, but I would eat the chorizo, blood sausage, vegetables and rice before I ate the ribs (sometimes I even pushed them aside). So much so that I don’t even add pork ribs to my hearty baked rice recipe (find it here), even though they’re part of it.
Then I moved to America, where ribs are in a food category all by themselves. Americans love ribs, and there are even festivals that revolve around ribs (one here in Fort Wayne, in fact). Most of the ribs I’ve had here are grilled, in whole racks of them, basted in barbecue sauce of one type or another. In my years here I’ve had some good ones, actually many very good ones, but still, ribs were not my thing. That is, until I tried my friend Betsy’s slow baked ribs. Fall-off-the-bone meat. Mostly dry rub, my favorite (I’m not very much into sticky, slurpy, barbecue saucy ribs). I started to experiment with different cooking methods for ribs, introducing variations to recipes, changing cooking times and temperatures, until I eventually found one that I loved. I’ve been making this recipe with different rubs, but always maintaining the cooking time and temperature, and it’s my go-to recipe for ribs.
When I received a batch of custom blend spices from The Spanish Tin, I knew their No. 1 Pinchito blend would be perfect for my slow baked ribs. No. 1 is a balanced blend of turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns, nutmeg, cardamon, cayenne, ginger, ground chilies, coriander and saffron, many of which I already used in my original recipe. The added spices in this blend impart a very interesting flavor to the meat, and I used them both in the rub and in the basting sauce. Follow the directions in the recipe for fall-off-the-bone ribs that you can make in your oven.
As a side to go with the ribs, I knew I wanted to make corn. Don’t ask me why, but somehow I associate ribs with corn. We are a divided house when it comes to corn, some of us like it grilled and some like it boiled. For this recipe I decided to grill it in its husk, and there were no complaints. I wonder if that was due to the fact that I made an allioli to go with it. It wasn’t my regular traditional allioli (find the recipe here). The Spanish Tin had sent me a small batch of ground ñora peppers. Ñora peppers! I had never been able to find them in the US, and now I know where to go for them. Ñora is a pepper that grows in the region of Murcia, just south of the Comunidad Valenciana, where I come from. To know that I can now source them through The Spanish Tin makes me very happy.
Our slow baked baby back ribs and grilled corn with ñora pepper allioli was a success, and I will be making it very often.
Note 2: Special thanks to my friend Shelby for being my model today —the little piggies love her 🙂
SLOW BAKED BABY BACK RIBS
Costillas de Cerdo al Horno con Especias
2 baby back pork rib racks
1 Tbs The Spanish Tin No.1 Pinchito spices (a balanced mix of turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns, nutmeg, cardamon, cayenne, ginger, ground chilies, coriander and saffron)
For the sauce:
1 Tbs olive oil
1/4 cup finely minced onion
3 Tbs brown sugar
1 tsp mustard
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
2/3 cup water
Prepare the sauce:
Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat and sauté the onion until translucent, about 6 minutes. Add in the remaining ingredients, stir, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until reduced and thickened, about 20 minutes. Reserve.
Prepare the ribs:
Preheat the oven to 225ºF.
Cut the ribs into 2 rib sections. Rub them on all sides with the Pinchito spice mix.
Line an oven tray with aluminum foil and lay the ribs, meat side down. Cover with aluminum foil, closing tightly, and bake for 2.5 hours.
Remove the tray from the oven and carefully drain off the drippings (you can open one corner of the foil to do this). Baste the ribs with some of the sauce. Using tongs, carefully flip the ribs (they may be very tender at this point). Baste the meat side of the the ribs with some more of the sauce (you may have used about 2/3 of the sauce at this point). Return the tray to the oven and bake, uncovered, for another 20 minutes.
Remove from the oven and serve alongside the remaining sauce.
Note: The sauce can be prepared even a few days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.
GRILLED CORN WITH ÑORA ALLIOLI
Mazorcas con All i Oli de ñora (Valencian) or Ajoaceite de ñora (Castilian Spanish)
6 cloves of garlic
1 egg yolk
1 pinch salt
1 Tbs juice of a lemon
1/2 tsp ground Ñora pepper, or The Spanish Tin No. 3 Nora Chilies
About 1 cup olive oil
The traditional way of making aioli is with a mortar and pestle, but as much as I like using them, this is one of those recipes where I prefer to use a hand blender.
To reduce the pungent flavor of the garlic, I treat the cloves in this manner: 1 small clove will remain raw; the remaining garlic cloves will be caramelized: cook them in 1/4 cup olive oil over low heat, turning them every 2 minutes or so, until soft and almost translucent. Remove the sauté pan from the heat source and let the garlic cloves cool in the oil. After removing the caramelized garlic cloves, save this very aromatic garlic-infused olive oil to use in other recipes.
In a blending cup, or in a tall container not much wider than the width of the head of the immersion blender, add all the garlic cloves, a pinch of salt, the lemon juice, and the ground ñora. Immerse a hand blender and blend until smooth. Add the egg yolk and blend again until very smooth and well blended. Slowly add the oil in a very slow stream, incorporating it into the sauce without stopping the blender. Use an up-and-down hand motion, while maintaining the running blades always in contact with the sauce. The aioli should reach a consistency just slightly thicker than that of mayonnaise.
If using a mortar and pestle: Add the first four ingredients in the same order as if you were using the immersion blender. Always stirring with the pestle in the same direction, add the olive oil in a very slow stream until completely incorporated.
When the right consistency is reached, pour into a bowl and refrigerate, covered, until ready to use. Allioli should be consumed within 2 days, and never be left outside of the fridge longer than the duration of the meal when it will be consumed.
This ñora allioli marries well with fish, as well as with potatoes, corn, and other vegetables, and also simply by itself on grilled slices of bread. It is very versatile, and I’m sure you’ll find many more uses for it.
For the corn:
Open leaves of corn without tearing them off and remove the “hairs”. Gather the leaves and tie them around the stem with kitchen twine.
Turn the grill on high and place the ears of corn on the crate, turning every few minutes, until charred on all sides.
Serve the warm corn alongside the ñora pepper allioli, spreading some on the kernels.