The Rib Masters : The All-American Meal


Even if you’ve been barbecuing all winter, there’s something special about Memorial Day weekend that makes you look at it with new inspiration. Summer food is the order of the day. And barbecued ribs immediately come to mind.

As straightforward as ribs appear to be, they take careful handling. You want them grilled to perfect tenderness without being burned, just nicely bronzed. Preliminary simmering not only makes them juicy, but also removes all the fat before they are grilled. Carolyn Buster, a formidable chef and former co-owner of the Cottage Restaurant near Chicago, has an herbed beer simmer that does more--it gives the ribs great flavor. Drained and still warm, the ribs are generously brushed with honey. The good news is that they can then be refrigerated overnight and finished off the next day on the grill.

The rest of the menu takes care of itself. Oven country “fries” with garlic and Parmesan cheese work well with the sweet and spicy ribs and the barbecue sauce that stands in for the usual ketchup. And raspberry-strawberry shortcake with sesame buttermilk biscuits clinches the summer feel of the meal.



Perfectly flavored in an herbed beer simmer, the ribs are also tender and lower in fat. Once the honey has been brushed on the ribs (while they are still warm so that the honey permeates the meat), they can be refrigerated overnight and finished up the next day. If fish sauce (which adds an interesting salt dimension) is not readily available, it can be omitted. Just add salt to taste. The barbecue sauce is best made a day ahead so that the flavors meld together.

CAROLYN’S SWEET AND SPICY RIBS 1 cup bottled barbecue sauce 1/3 cup Dijon mustard 1/4 cup packed dark-brown sugar 2 teaspoons soy sauce 2 teaspoons fish sauce 1 teaspoon chile paste or hot sauce to taste 6 racks baby back ribs, about 1 1/4 pounds each 4 (12-ounce) cans light beer Water 2 large onions, sliced 8 large cloves garlic, cut in half 1 teaspoon dried thyme 1 teaspoon dried rosemary 1 teaspoon dried basil 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 2 bay leaves 3 cloves 1 cup honey

Combine barbecue sauce, mustard, brown sugar, soy sauce, fish sauce and chili paste to taste in 1-quart bowl. Refrigerate at least overnight or up to 3 days. Before using, mix well and adjust seasonings to taste. Sauce should be spicy enough for ribs but also compatible with fries.

Place racks meaty-side down in small roasting pan (cut in half as necessary). Add beer and enough water to just cover ribs. Add onions, garlic, thyme, rosemary, basil, salt, pepper, bay leaves and cloves. Combine well. Bring to boil. Gently simmer, covered, until very tender, about 1 hour.

Use tongs to transfer ribs to heavy-duty foil. Lightly blot with paper towels. Immediately brush both sides with honey. Reapply honey that drips onto foil. Can be made day ahead and refrigerated, covered airtight.

Let ribs and sauce come to room temperature. Prepare medium-hot barbecue fire with few chunks mesquite wood. Brush both sides of ribs generously with sauce. Place meaty-side down on hot grill. Grill until heated through and bronzed (not burned), 5 to 10 minutes, depending on fire. Use tongs to turn. Brush more sauce on grilled side. Grill until underside is browned, about 5 minutes more. Brush more sauce on both sides. Transfer to serving platter. Serve hot. Pass remaining sauce separately. Makes 6 servings


Note: Fish sauce and chile paste are available in Asian markets.

Each serving contains about: 916 calories; 1,340 mg sodium; 156 mg cholesterol; 48 grams fat; 69 grams carbohydrates; 37 grams protein; 0.66 gram fiber.


These potatoes are double-”fried.” First, they are seared stovetop. Fortunately, this can be done several hours in advance. About a half hour before dinner, pop them into a hot oven. At the last minute of baking, they are tossed with garlic and cheese (mince the garlic, red pepper flakes and cheese in the processor for an ideally fine texture) so that the cheese melts and the garlic is fragrant. Easy enough.

OVEN COUNTRY ‘FRIES’ WITH PARMESAN CHEESE AND GARLIC 5 large russet potatoes Water 2 1/2 tablespoons light-tasting olive (not extra-virgin) oil 1/3 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese 3 large cloves garlic, finely minced 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes Salt

Peel and quarter potatoes lengthwise and place in cold water to cover until ready to cook. Drain potatoes and blot dry with paper towels.

Heat oil in shallow roasting pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add potatoes in single layer without crowding. Brown, turn and brown other side, about 9 minutes total. Remove from heat. Can be made to this point several hours in advance and kept at room temperature.

Bake potatoes at 325 degrees until tender, about 25 minutes. Use tongs to turn once midway. Just before removing from oven, sprinkle with cheese, garlic and pepper flakes. Bake 1 minute longer or until cheese melts. Transfer to serving dish. Season to taste with salt. Serve immediately. Makes 6 servings.


Each serving contains about: 171 calories; 136 mg sodium; 3 mg cholesterol; 7 grams fat; 24 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams protein; 0.41 gram fiber.


Shortcake should be overflowing with berries and juices. The biscuits are best served warm. They can be gently reheated in two batches--at 300 degrees for 10 minutes or in the microwave oven at the lowest setting for about 10 seconds.

STRAWBERRY-RASPBERRY SHORTCAKE WITH SESAME-BUTTERMILK BISCUITS 2 pints strawberries, washed, blotted dry, hulled, halved or quartered lengthwise, depending on size 1 (10-ounce) package frozen raspberries in light syrup, thawed, pureed and strained Sugar Sesame-Buttermilk Biscuits 1/2 pint fresh raspberries Lightly sweetened whipped cream or creme fraiche, optional

Combine strawberries and pureed raspberry sauce in 3-quart bowl. Add sugar to taste. Refrigerate 3 hours. Let stand briefly at room temperature to remove chill.

To serve, use serrated knife to split warm Sesame-Buttermilk Biscuits. Place bottom halves on dessert plates. Spoon strawberry mixture over each, dividing evenly. Sprinkle raspberries over each, dividing evenly. Top with remaining biscuit half. Serve immediately. Pass cream or creme fraiche separately. Makes 6 servings.

Sesame-Buttermilk Biscuits 2 cups flour 1 tablespoon baking powder 1/4 cup sugar 3/4 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon minced orange zest, removed with grater or zester 5 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine, slightly chilled, cut into small pieces 3/4 cup buttermilk 1 large egg 2 teaspoons sesame seeds, lightly toasted


Combine flour, baking powder, 3 tablespoons sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt and zest in processor work bowl or mixing bowl. Use metal blade or pastry blender to cut butter pieces into flour mixture until consistency of coarse meal. Add buttermilk. Mix until dough just clumps together. Do not overmix. Dough will be very moist.

Transfer clumps of dough to floured board. Knead dough into smooth mass, about 8 seconds. Roll dough until about 2/3-inch thick. Cut 3-inch rounds, piecing dough together as necessary to make 6 biscuits. Arrange biscuits on greased baking sheet, spacing about 1 inch apart.

Use fork to froth egg and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt in small dish. Lightly brush egg glaze over tops of biscuits. (Remaining glaze will keep up to 1 week refrigerated, excellent for glazing breads, cookies and cream puffs.) Sprinkle remaining 1 tablespoon sugar over biscuits, then sesame seeds.

Bake at 400 degrees until just golden, 16 to 18 minutes. Do not overbake. Transfer to cooling rack. Biscuits can be served immediately or kept at room temperature several hours and gently reheated. Makes 6 servings.

Each serving contains about: 381 calories; 554 mg sodium; 62 mg cholesterol; 12 grams fat; 62 grams carbohydrates; 8 grams protein; 2.53 grams fiber.

Note : To lightly toast sesame seeds, arrange on baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees until golden, about 12 minutes.