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Ribs Without the Heat and Mess


Before the microwave, grilling pork spareribs was a slow process. It meant grilling the meat over low coals for up to two hours after you had prepared the coals, which sometimes took half an hour or more. To speed grilling and prevent drying out, many people precooked the ribs by parboiling or prebaking, but these were hot and messy.

With the microwave, you can synchronize the precooking of the meat with the preparation of the coals and come up with a procedure that's time-saving and easy. As a bonus, the kitchen stays cool.

Up to 3 1/2 pounds of ribs, to serve three to four people, precook in about 20 minutes while the coals are burning to the gray-ash stage. When the coals are ready, the ribs go onto the grill to finish for about half an hour. With this procedure, you have all the smoky flavor and crisp texture of long-cooked ribs, in half the time or less.

Cut Before Precooking

Cut the pork into two-rib pieces before precooking them, and arrange in a two- to three-quart oblong, microwave-safe dish. After half of the precooking step, rearrange the pieces so the lesser-done ribs toward the center of the dish can be placed at the edges, to even the cooking. The lesser-done pieces are still reddish, so it is easy to tell how to rearrange.

Even after you partially cook the ribs and drain the fat, there will still be some fat dripping over the coals, which causes flare-ups. Be sure to drain the ribs well and be sure the coals are low. Also, have a water spray bottle handy for flare-ups.

To prevent flare-ups entirely, finish ribs over indirect heat on a covered grill. Fashion an oblong foil drip pan and place in the center of the grill. With long-handled tongs, arrange hot coals to either side of the long edges of the drip pan. Place ribs on the grate over the drip pan, cover and finish.

Last Few Minutes

During the last few minutes of cooking, add a few ears of precooked corn on the cob to absorb some of the smoky taste.

Or instead of the corn, microwave a casserole of potato wedges seasoned with mild paprika and flecked with cilantro. If desired, you can finish these with Cheddar cheese.

While the coals are hot, cook a second batch of ribs to enjoy as leftovers for another meal. They are wonderful reheated in the microwave. MICRO-BARBECUED SPARERIBS

3 to 3 1/2 pounds pork spareribs, cut into 2-rib portions

1 cup catsup

1/2 cup water

1 tablespoon oil

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon liquid smoke

1/2 cup chopped onion

Arrange rib portions in 12x8-inch or 13x9-inch baking dish. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, turning back 1 corner to vent. Microwave on HIGH 18 to 22 minutes, rearranging pieces after 10 minutes, until all pieces are slightly brown and about 1 inch of drippings has collected in dish.

Drain ribs well and place on grate over single layer of hot coals. Grill about 25 to 35 minutes until no pink remains in meaty areas.

Meanwhile, in 2-quart microwave-safe batter bowl or casserole, stir together catsup, water, oil, brown sugar, salt, Worcestershire, paprika, pepper, liquid smoke and onion. Microwave on HIGH 3 to 5 minutes until very hot and onion is cooked. Brush sauce on ribs during last 5 to 10 minutes grilling time. Makes about 3 to 4 servings. MICRO-BARBECUED CORN ON COB

Select 4 to 5 ears of corn, in husk if possible. Pull back, but do not disconnect, husks and remove silk from each ear. Replace husks around each ear to cover kernels. Place ears in dish of water to moisten husk thoroughly (this keeps husks from burning when placed over fire). Or, if husks have been removed from corn, wrap each cob in wax paper.

Microwave ears on HIGH 12 to 18 minutes, about 3 minutes per ear, rotating and turning ears over after half of total cooking time. Remove wax paper, if necessary, before placing on grill. Set on grill during last 5 minutes of cooking ribs, turning over after about 2 to 3 minutes. Uncovered ears should be just slightly flecked with golden brown spots from grill. Makes 3 to 4 servings. POTATO WEDGES WITH CILANTRO

3 long slender white potatoes

1/4 cup oil

1 teaspoon paprika

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

Salt, pepper

3 to 4 thinly sliced green onions

1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese, optional

Wash and dry, but do not peel, potatoes. Cut each lengthwise into 4 to 6 wedges, depending on size of potato. Place oil in 12x8-inch dish. Add potato wedges and roll each piece to coat evenly with oil. Sprinkle with paprika, cilantro and salt and pepper to taste. Roll pieces again to distribute seasonings.

Cover with wax paper. Microwave on HIGH 9 to 12 minutes or until tender, turning pieces every 3 minutes. Sprinkle with green onions and cheese. Let potatoes stand until cheese is melted. Makes 3 to 4 servings.

Note: Prepare potatoes shortly before serving to keep the potatoes from turning brown.

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