recipe + photography BILLY DOUKAS

Grilled BBQ Baby Back Ribs with
Tropical Fruit Marinade
and Local Beer + Iced Tea Pairings

Few cooking topics arouse more passion than barbecuing ribs. Spare rib connoisseurs have detailed recipes, techniques and flavor blends that should satisfy any barbecue aficionado. Special equipment is not necessary, however, a basic propane grill will facilitate the preparation of this tender and bold-tasting dish.

There are numerous market barbecue sauces, which are always an option, but creating your own is not difficult and gives the cook opportunities to tweak the flavor profile to specific palates as well as keep ingredients relatively natural. This recipe features sweet, spicy and tropical flavor notes, which begin with a fruit marinade that serves as a meat tenderizer a day or so before grilling. A dry rub is applied to the ribs, which are then baked in the oven, re-soaked in barbecue sauce and finally slow-cooked on an outdoor propane grill. The meat will fall off the bone, without overcooking, as well as allowing the pork flavor to remain substantial.

Serves 6
Total time: ½ hour prep + 4 hours a day or two later

Tenderizing marinade and baby back pork ribs
2 racks baby back pork ribs with each rack about 1½ pounds
2 cups fresh ripe pineapple, cut and puréed
2 fresh ripe mangos, peeled, cut and puréed

A day or 2 prior to grilling, rinse, pat dry and place ribs bone side up on a cutting board. Slip a knife under the corner of the membrane and grip tightly with fingers using a paper towel. Steadily pull the membrane up and back along the length of the rack. Blend the fruits together. It is important to use mango and pineapple that are ripe. Place full rib racks in bags, add puréed fruit, remove air, seal and manipulate to assure meat is in contact with this natural tenderizer. (A food saver system is ideal for this.) Refrigerate until day of grilling.

Dry rub
3 tablespoons salt
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons ground coffee
3 tablespoons onion powder
3 tablespoons garlic powder
3 tablespoons mustard powder
3 teaspoons smoky paprika
3 teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoon sriracha seasoning (powder). Be careful with this potent ingredient.

Preheat indoor oven to 225°F, remove rib racks from bags, shake gently over the sink to remove excess fruit purée, and place bone side up on large baking sheet. Combine the dry rub ingredients and mix well in a bowl. Using a spoon or shaker, apply dry rub on each side of rib racks. Let this sit for about 40 minutes, at room temperature, allowing the sugar and coffee to melt and infuse into the meat.

Bake rib racks for 1 hour, starting with bone side down and turning over halfway through cooking. Remove from oven and generously spoon and brush barbecue sauce (see below) on each side and allow about 30 minutes to marinate.

Barbecue sauce
4 cups fresh ripe pineapple, cut and puréed
2 cups fresh ripe mango, cut and puréed
½ cup molasses
½ cup honey
1 cup cider vinegar
6 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoon brown sugar
3 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons smoky paprika.
1 teaspoon sriracha seasoning (powder). Be careful with this potent ingredient.

Prepare barbecue sauce by combining the above ingredients in a blender. Mix and place in 2 bowls: 1 for soaking/basting ribs and second container for folks to add while dining.

Preheat grill to 225–250°F with the cover closed. It is significantly advantageous to have a built-in temperature gauge on your grill. On a 3-burner grill this target temperature is best reached by turning the 2 outside burners on the lowest heat position, while the middle remains off (cover closed). If the gauge reads too high, you can shut off the outside burners and run the middle burner slightly above the lowest position. Some grills may have the option of indirect heat (such as metal “tents” placed over burners), which is preferred for this recipe.

Place the rib racks, bone side down, on the grill and close the cover. Total grill time is approximately 90 minutes. Turn and lightly baste the ribs every 20 minutes. Toward the final ⅓ of grill time, a rib or 2 may be cut off and tasted (by the cook) to prevent overcooking. Final basting should be generous.

Remove ribs from heat and place bone side up on clean cutting board. Using a sharp knife, position the blade between each rib bone and cut through the cooked rack. Transfer portions to serving platters along with individual side dishes of barbecue sauce set aside earlier.

This recipe also may be used for the meatier, although less tender, St. Louis–style pork ribs with possibly a little more grill time. This rib recipe screams for the complementary slightly bitter flavor of cooked greens such as dandelion, mustard or collard varieties, which will add soul and spirit to a feast.

. . .

Beer Pairings

Choosing local Maine beer has become more complex. I've included five carefully evaluated beer pairings: one double IPA, a fruity beer, two ales and a pilsner, all currently available at their respective breweries.

Flume: Imperial/Double IPA, from Battery Steele Brewing, Portland. A blend of traditional English malts combined with loads of wheat and oats intensely hopped with Citra and Mosaic, creating strong notes of tropical fruit, citrus and pine. $16 / 4 pack 16-ounce cans

Mango Treetops: Sour fruited beer, from Mast Landing Brewing Co., Westbrook. This beer utilizes citrus-forward hops on top of a good dose of mango, creating a refreshing, well-balanced experience of sweetness and tartness. $16.39 / 4 pack of 16-ounce cans

Black: Belgian Strong Dark Ale, from Allagash Brewing Company, Portland. A truly unique beer with chocolate and coffee notes that flow throughout this silky stout. $11.70 / 4 pack of 12-ounce bottles

Luppola: Italian-style Pilsner, from Oxbow Brewing Company, Newcastle. An unfiltered dry-hopped pilsner brewed with European malts and hops. $14.69 / 4 pack of 16-ounce cans

Curieux: My first choice as a pairing with BBQ Baby Back Ribs is a Belgian-style tripel, from Allagash Brewing Company, Portland. This balanced golden beer has notes of bourbon and vanilla, accentuated by a hint of coconut, and was Allagash Brewery’s initial foray into barrel aging. $17 / 4 pack of 12-ounce bottles

Sweet iced tea pairings

And what would summer be without iced tea? Matthew Ferrel at Zen Bear Honey Tea suggests two easy and healthy summer classics.

Qi-Chai (honey, black tea, black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, ginger): This will pair really well with the mango and pineapple, as well as complement the richness of the ribs.

Enlighten-Mint (honey, green tea, spearmint): The mint is mildly assertive, just enough to refresh the palate. The green tea is calming and a little tannic. The mellow honey brings the sweetness and sunshine.

For my favorite sweet iced tea, I use the Qi-Chai and shake it up using a cocktail shaker for a frothy sweet honey foam top. Make a simple syrup out of the Qi-Chai (1:1 Q-Chai and hot water). This will keep in the fridge for up to a month. Pour about 2 ounces over ice, add 6 ounces water. At this point it can be served, but I love that cold honey foam so I shake it, shake it, shake it to make it foamy, then pour over fresh ice.

Variation 1: Squeeze some lime or other favorite citrus in there. The sharp tangy fruit juice complements the sweet aromatic honey for a truly refreshing summer cooler.

Variation 2: Add 2–3 ounces liquor (rum works well) and citrus.

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