Last Days of Summer Ribs & Potatoes

I tend to wax poetically on and on about Labor Day, the coming of Fall and the last hoorah of Summer. In reality, we have many, many days of beautiful weather in front of us. Today is a gorgeous sunny 75F day, for example. But, there’s still something symbolic about saying your goodbyes to summer, especially when you can do it with barbecue ribs and grilled potatoes. So, that’s what we did. Cam grilled up a whole slew of back ribs, and we filled the table with caramelized roasted potatoes, green beans and onions, sweet corn, and a salad of garden fresh cherry tomatoes and avocado, and sat back to enjoy the last bits of the evening sun. For a moment there, I thought we had fallen into the set of a Sunset Magazine article.

The secret recipe to this unbelievably good meal once again comes from Cameron’s father, Bryan. First, the ribs. They are so good, that they’ve really ruined any other ribs for me. You know that you scale is out of whack when you go to the hole in the wall rib place in St. Louis and you think, yeah, these are ok. Bryan’s ribs end up amazingly tender and juicy on the inside, and just slide off the bone. At the same time, they develop the perfect crispness mingled in with plenty of sauce. The secret? It’s not about the sauce. It’s about the tenderness of the meat. And the trick to that is boiling. Before these ribs ever touch the grill, they spend an hour and a half simmering away in a bit pot in seasoning. This tenderizes the meat beautifully. Then, it’s just a quick grill on very high heat to sear all those juices into the meat. It’s fantastic and nearly foolproof. (There’s also another trick, since I’ve called these foolproof. You do need to use good meat. Preferably pork back ribs. Preferably pork back ribs from an organic, local and humane farm. Our first attempt used the tougher spare ribs and they just didn’t have the same juicy tenderness that the back ribs had. Country style ribs work well, but there’s almost no bone so they aren’t exactly ribs.)

The other new technique I’ve learned is this little trick for grilling potatoes. In the past, I’ve just diced potatoes, wrapped them up in foil with some seasoning and fat, and thrown them on the grill for about 30 to 40 minutes. They are always good, but nothing to write home about. Bryan’s potatoes, on the other hand, are bliss. Now it doesn’t hurt to start with Prince Edward Island potatoes… but I’ve found that I get good results with just about any new potato I’ve tried. The key is in the slicing. Cut each potato in half, through the shortside. Then, make little slices into the potato every 1/4 inch like you would if you were making scalloped potatoes but don’t go all the way through. Place the potatoes, cut side down, on foil, and then top with your desired seasonings. I like to use a mixture of olive oil and butter, plus some coarse sea salt, rosemary and freshly crushed garlic.

Wrap the whole thing up well and cook on the grill (the top rack if you have one, or on the cooler part of the grill) for at least an hour. Mmm. Luscious potato goodness.

Melt Off the Bone Ribs
(serves 2)

2lb back ribs (pre-cook weight)
2 small onion, quartered
2 strip of celery, halved
1 t basil
1 t oregano
1 t rosemary
garlic powder
black pepper
BBQ sauce of your choice

Cut the rack of ribs into strips, about 2 bones each. Sprinkle with the garlic powder and black pepper, and place in a large, heavy bottomed pot. Cover with water, and add onions, celery and remaining herbs. Bring to a rolling boil and then reduce heat slightly to keep it at a low boil for and hour and a half. Drain, and place the ribs on the barbecue and heat until they brown and start to crisp. Then, brush with barbecue sauce and reduce heat (if possible). Cook on one side for about two minutes or until the sauce starts to dry, then turn the ribs over and brush sauce on the other side.

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