Urban Tavern's spice-braised pork ribs

  (Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times)


Dear SOS: Will the Urban Tavern Restaurant in the Hilton Union Square, San Francisco share with you and all of us? We had "braised baby back ribs" served over a large-grain type of couscous. The ribs have interesting spices, like allspice, and were so tender we were able to eat them with a fork! I would love to know more about the grain they used too. It was tasty, and just the right accompaniment for the ribs.

Lucia Arias


Dear Lucia: We loved these tender, braised ribs, richly flavored yet bright with notes of fennel, coriander, ginger and nutmeg and slow-cooked over a bed of diced apple and celery hearts. The restaurant uses St. Louis-style pork ribs, spare ribs that have been trimmed to give them a clean, mock baby back look. We tested the recipe using whole spare ribs and St. Louis-style racks and loved it both ways (be aware that you will need a very large roasting pan to fit two whole racks of spare ribs).

The restaurant serves their ribs with fregola, a large couscous-type pasta from Sardinia, and seasonal vegetables. Fregola is available at select gourmet and cooking stores; it is readily available online.

Urban Tavern's spice-braised pork ribs

Total time: 4 1/2 hours, plus overnight refrigeration and cooling times

Servings: 6 to 8

Note: Adapted from Urban Tavern. For St. Louis-style (or mock baby back) ribs, take a rack of spare ribs and trim the skirt meat along the underside of the rack, then remove the rib tips at the joint before removing the silverskin from the underside of the rack and trimming the edges to clean. Alternatively, ask your butcher to prepare the racks for you. The restaurant serves the ribs with fregola and seasonal vegetables.

Spice rub

1/2 cup fennel seeds

1/2 cup coriander seeds

2 tablespoons ginger powder

2 tablespoons ground nutmeg

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder