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The Quintessential Rib

October 20, 1994|MARION CUNNINGHAM

Last weekend my daughter and I decided to make authentic barbecued pork ribs. With lots of enthusiasm and no experience we read several trustworthy guides; to tell the truth, we studied the subject in some depth. Alan Richman's definition of Southern barbecue, "meat slowly cooked over wood smoke," sounded simple. We made dry rubs (a mixture of herbs and spices rubbed on the ribs before barbecuing) and marinades. We spent about $70 on everything, including charcoal and hickory chips.

We followed the instructions to a "T" We rubbed; we painted; we adjusted the distance from the smoke endlessly. And what did we end up with? Blackened pork jerky, and the decision that we would leave the rituals of true Southern barbecuing to those born to it and go back to cooking pork ribs the way James Beard taught us many years ago.

"Succulent and versatile as they are, in the last few years, good spare ribs have been ruined by too many sweet-and-sour sauces intended to make them taste glamorous or Oriental or some such thing," he wrote. "To be quite frank, I think there is nothing as good as simple roasted spareribs seasoned merely with salt and pepper."


We are going to stick to what we know best: roasted spareribs, bean stew with raw onions, and L.A. slaw.


Beard knew what he was talking about. Trust him and try his sparerib method. His ribs are moist and flavorful and show off pork at its best.


2 (4-pound) sides spareribs

Coarse (kosher) salt

Freshly ground pepper

Put ribs on rack in shallow roasting pan and roast at 350 degrees 30 minutes. Season ribs generously with salt and pepper to taste on both sides. Continue roasting another 30 minutes.

After 1 hour, ribs should be nicely browned and fairly crisp on outside. Roast another 15 to 20 minutes if you like meat very well done.

Remove ribs to carving board and cut between ribs into small sections. Heap ribs on hot platter and serve. Makes 4 servings.

Each serving contains about:

389 calories; 177 mg sodium; 106 mg cholesterol; 32 grams fat; 0 carbohydrates; 23 grams protein; 0 fiber.


Bean stew with raw onions is an ideal side dish. Adding the fresh chopped raw onions to the beans just before serving boosts the taste and texture. Cooked beans benefit by being made in advance, so if you have the time, make these a day or two before needed. It is also easy to double this recipe and freeze half for later.


6 slices bacon

1 1/4 cups dried red or pinto beans, soaked overnight and drained

2 quarts water

2 1/2 cups chopped onions

3 stalks celery, chopped

1 cup chopped parsley

1/3 cup yellow cornmeal

2 cups cabbage, chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons ground sage

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Dice all but 1 slice bacon. In 5-quart soup pot, cover beans and diced bacon with water. Bring to boil and cook over low heat 30 minutes.

In skillet cook remaining bacon slice until crisp. Remove from pan, crumble and set aside. Add 1 cup chopped onion, celery and parsley to bacon drippings. Cook over medium heat until tender, about 5 minutes.

Add cornmeal to beans and stir to mix. Add onion mixture, cabbage, sage and salt. Stir. Cover and cook 30 minutes more.

Just before serving, stir in remaining 1 1/2 cups chopped onions, or sprinkle onions on top of individual servings with crumbled bacon. Serve hot. Makes 4 servings.

Each serving contains about:

493 calories; 1,180 mg sodium; 23 mg cholesterol; 21 grams fat; 60 grams carbohydrates; 19 grams protein; 5.03 grams fiber.


L.A. slaw is based on curtido, a Salvadoran side-dish that often accompanies the national snack--pupusas. The slaw is a lively addition to most summer foods, and like all slaws it keeps well and travels nicely.


3/4 cup white vinegar

6 tablespoons oil

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped and mixed with 1/3 cup ice water

1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce, or to taste

1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder

1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste

1 head green savoy cabbage, chopped into small pieces

In large mixing bowl combine vinegar, oil, garlic, ice water, hot pepper sauce, chili powder and salt. Mix well. Add cabbage and toss. Stir until well coated with dressing. Cover and chill. Adjust seasonings to taste. Makes 6 servings.

Each serving contains about:

169 calories; 640 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 15 grams fat; 11 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams protein; 1.66 grams fiber.

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