Drunken Ribs

This week had an unusual discussions at work about cooking and I am prepping for a party tomorrow where we will be serving Drunken Ribs and the Coke Smoked Chicken. I just realized that I have not posted the recipe for Drunken Ribs which is a family get together staple.

The recipe will seem like heresy to some southerners and folks from KC . However as we have traveled around the country, my family still likes these the best. Simple, repeatable, fall off the bone tender and leaner than most. We have been making these for close to 30 years.  Weather has been everything from 100F and humid in the summer to -20F snow blowing sideways in the winter (and that IS my cut off) .

The secret is braising then grilling low and slow. It is also a great way to use up that light or sweet beer that is left over from the last family visit or party. Save the “good stuff” for drinking. Too much hop flavor actually ruins this  (and other beer braises).  Depending on the flavor level you want everything from Coors Light (nearly water), Leinie’s Honey Weiss, or a nut brown will all work .

The braise is done in a stock pot that just fits the ribs. Not too big. Sometimes when making a big batch (9 racks), then we need 2 pots.  We use baby back ribs. Choose carefully  as you want the really meaty ones, not the skinny “on sale” family packs that have almost no meat covering the bones. Most often we get the cryo packs of 3 racks of baby back pork ribs from Costco.  Pork or beef spare ribs also work but the baby back pork ribs have been the year in – year out favorite.

Quantities are not critical. Ratios at play. Make as big or small of a batch as you wish. Normally we do 3 meaty racks and that is what the recipe is normalized to.

3 meaty racks of ribs

3 medium onions  sliced 1/4″ thick

1/2 -2/3 cup chili powder

3 cans and 1 TBsp beer

Slice the racks of ribs into “rib pairs”. At the end you may end up with a 3 rib end piece and that is Ok.

Cover on all sides with chili powder. It takes nearly 1/2 cup for 3 racks.   We generally use Tones but you can step it up and use Penzey’s.

Take a medium to large stock pot. Put the ribs in on edge packing them in tightly.  Now put the slices of onions between the ribs. As you finish, it should be hard to add more onions, but persevere.

Depending on the size of your pot you may need to add another layer of ribs and onion. The goal is to have tightly packed layers. Otherwise you need a lot of beer and the flavor gets diluted.

Cover and place in  a 300F oven for 3 hours .    Note that you can braise the ribs a day or 2 before and then put them in the fridge ready for grilling. After being cooked in this manner, most of the fat has floated off and the meat is very tender, but is too soft. Grilling firms up the meat, removes most of the rest of the fat and caramelizes the sugars.

Pre heat the grill on high and reduce to low heat before adding the ribs.

Place ribs meaty side down on the grill. Based the top and sides with barbeque sauce. We use Sweet Baby Rays. If you make your own, all the better. Close the grill and cook for 20 min . At the end the meat should be browning nicely and bubbling and the sauce will be starting to thicken and caramelize .

Flip the ribs and again baste liberally with BBQ sauce on top and sides.  Cook for 20 min more. Sauce on top should be thick and caramelized. Bottoms should be dark but not burnt.

Serve and enjoy. These will be nice and tender and with less fat remaining on than most other recipes.

The juice left over from braising the ribs also makes a darn good base for home made baked beans after skimming off the fat.